I remember being at home and receiving numerous requests for money to help the “starving children in Africa.” Although those requests always tugged at my heart I never knew whether the money would actually help anyone. Well now we know some of the struggling, and possibly starving, children here. We hear the stories, meet the people, and try to determine how to help. Unfortunately we can’t help everyone.
Some of you have asked how you could help from where you are. While we are still in Africa I would like to give you the opportunity to boost up some of the people and ministries we have gotten to know the best.
I have mentioned Precious and her 11 year old daughter Phumla several times. Precious is an amazing Christian woman who has persevered through a difficult childhood and is committed to giving her daughter opportunities she never had. Right now she lives in the converted garage of the house we are living in working as a maid and nanny. She moved here to work for the owners of this house, hopefully in a classroom. But that never happened. She is realizing that her future can no longer be tied to them since they are pursuing plans to leave the area and possibly the country. If they were not here to provide housing she and Phumla could not afford to live on the low wages she earns. Back in her hometown Precious has been working to build a small house. This is her insurance policy. If she finds herself without housing or a job she would return home and find work there. She has big dreams of opening a creche or starting an AIDS project there since her township has neither. She has been paying for the building of the small two room house for years, one window at a time. She thinks she needs less than $500 to complete it, but that is a significant chunk of what she earns in a year.
Thembi and Rabson left Zimbabwe last year so he could attend seminary here. Unfortunately the exorbitant cost of passports to leave their country resulted in them leaving their daughter Anesuishe, now 7, behind with relatives. For reasons not understood by me, although Thembi has been teaching here since January, she still has not been paid. This is apparently not unusual, but rather inconvenient, and could easily continue until August. As a result, they have been unable to even visit their daughter. However, we want to help them travel to their home during the school break in July and bring their daughter back. The cost to renew Thembi’s expiring passport, apply for Anesuishe’s passport, and pay for bus fare for all of them will cost approximately $1000.
I have recently been introduced to a great program “Ethembeni,” started by a church almost 10 years ago. They saw a need and have boldly stepped out to help. The AIDS epidemic here is astounding. From what I can tell, the overall adult rate of infection in the country is almost 19%. This means the rate in townships is even more staggering, often over 50%. The ripple effect is incredible and children are often the ones who suffer most. This program has three parts – first, a four bed hospice and respite. Second, home visitation. Volunteer Christian counselors are paired with a paid worker (often someone previously helped by the program) who lives within the community and the team invests themselves in the lives of eight families affected by HIV. When I went with a team on four visits they were helping with everything from providing food and clothing, to counseling, to assisting with medical aid paperwork. There are currently 48 families receiving this help with a significant waiting list. The third part of the program is a family center for the numerous child-led families left after parents have died from AIDS. The center cares for 50-60 young children each day so the older siblings can attend school. Then after school they provide homework help and an evening meal.
A 6 year old orphan in the AIDS hospice. His health has greatly improved since arriving two weeks ago.
Josh and Jamie Quarandillo are Americans who have been living in Pietermartizburg with their four children since 2005. They began a program “Enable Now” in a local township (“Ward 34”) that uses soccer and personal relationships with children to address spiritual, leadership, and economic development. The community that they serve in is plagued with ancestral worship, HIV/AIDS, TB, rape, murder, substance abuse, crime, violence, unemployment, and lack of education. They have begun a business with the boys turning local agricultural waste into charcoal that they hope to start selling to a larger market soon. Many of the children on their soccer team are orphans, and one lives in a shack he built for himself at age 12. Providing structure, productive activities, love, support and encouragement has given hope to some of those who previously had none. Josh and Jamie have adopted one boy and another currently lives with them. To find out more about the lives of some of the boys in Ward 34, visit the Enable Now Participant Profiles.
The home of one of the boys
You may be wondering why I have not mentioned my friend Zanele and her family. Well, that is because we have committed to help them ourselves. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, even public education is not free here. There are annual fees and uniform costs for anyone who attends. Like private schools back home, each child must apply to a school and their acceptance is based not only on their academic ability, but also their ability to pay. Zanele’s daughter is in kindergarten (Grade R) now at a township school. Because we think a good education could help her whole family, we are going to sponsor her at a school she would never be able to afford. We have been visiting, applying, and interviewing at potential schools, and are praying for acceptance at the best school for her.
Aphile's first ever ride on a merry-go-round when we took them to the fair
Would you be interested in helping a child attend school? Bonginkosi Preschool needs sponsors for scholarships. Whether it is Thando, Noxolo, or one of the other 50 children, please know all of them are in difficult situations and desperately need the food, love, and teaching they receive there.
If you would like to help with one of these needs you may send a check to us, and you can be sure that all of the money will be used to help real people with real needs. Siyabonga (we thank you)!
P.O. Box 2712
Harrisonburg, VA 22801