We have already written a short post about what we got up to in the morning in our time in South Africa. However we also had the opportunity we had to serve practically in the afternoons. Our time was split over two places, Southernwood, a social housing area and Greensleeves, a place of safety for children.
Our first trip out into the community, where Steven had already built good relationships, was to Southernwood. This social housing complex contains 249 units and many of the children who lived there were already signed up to come to Holiday Bible Club. We were asked if we could paint a mural on one side of the perimeter wall. While the youth spent an afternoon with their host families on the first weekend Steven, Courtney and the leaders went to do the base coat and turn the grey wall white ready to paint on. As you can see on the right we had to do a good job because we were being kept in check by one of the local children who wouldn’t hesitate to tell you if you missed a spot!
The next time we visited Southernwood was on Wednesday afternoon. We had split into two groups with Matthew, Peter and Steven taking a group to continue on working in Greensleeves and Courtney and Hannah returning with a group to Southernwood. We did a second coat of white paint and thanks to the warm weather by the time we got to one end the other had dried and we were able to start putting the local children’s handprints on the bottom three panels as they had been asking all week at holiday club when they would get a chance to paint the wall. When we announced they could get in a line to get their hands painted they were all so enthusiastic that we had to quickly split as a team into hand painting, wall watch, the wash bucket and hand drying stations to try and keep as many clothes paint free as possible!
On Thursday we split again in the afternoon, and as Courtney’s visit to East London had ended, Pete and Hannah took some of the team back to Southernwood to start painting on the remaining panels of the wall. Despite no one really classifying themselves as an artist, Anna, Lucy Rachel, Rebecca and Amy and Pete did a great job of painting trees, rainbows a sun the moon and stars on the wall. Hannah made an attempt at painting designs but found her forte was better keeping far away from the wall, mixing the red green and blue paint we had to get the rest of the colours for the rainbow. Of course while all of this was going on we were entertaining the kids as well who were always ready to play. In the end both the kids and local adults seemed really happy with the results of our work, well that or they are all just really polite.
The other area we had the privilege of spending time in was Greensleeves place of safety for children. Steven had recently made a connection with Di and had identified two areas that we could help out with. One area was the large vegetable tunnel that was overgrown with weeds that needed cut down and removed. The other job was an out building that needed the wooden walls knocked down cleared out and rebuilt.
The first day (Monday) we split into three groups. One group tackled cutting down all the weeds in the tunnel. Another group was to knock out the wooden panels on the out building remove the nails and clear out the wood left in the middle of the structure. The final group was in charge of playing with the children, some of whom we had met for the first time at Holiday Club that morning, and keeping them out of the way of any tools or equipment because, although they were eager to help, we didn’t want them getting in harms way. The second day we also split into a groups to continue clearing out the weeds in the tunnel and removing the rest of the wood from the old out building structure to another pile out of the way. On the days that we split between Southernwood and Greensleeves, the boys (Joh, Jack, Andrew and Ben) led by Steven and Matthew were putting up some wooden panels to create the new walls for the building and Morgan and Charlotte were helping to put the primer onto them.
We were not at Greensleeves on the Friday afternoon as it was the last day of Holiday Club one of the South African young people volunteering had invited us round to their house for a Braai so we spent the afternoon there singing along to musical tracks and throwing each other in the pool, despite us all being fully clothed and it was raining. However, some people had seen it coming and managed to get their shoe’s and jacket off in time.
However on the Saturday morning we returned to Greensleeves, thankful for the rain the night before. Not something us from Northern Ireland often say, but it meant that the ground had softened enough in the vegetable tunnel for us to be able to turn it over ready for planting. So while Matthew and Steven (who had also sourced the materials for the build along with one of the church elders) took a group to continue painting the new walls and installing some windows. Peter and Hannah took a group down to the tunnel armed with forks and spades to turnover the ground which thanks to the softer ground we were able to do in a couple of hours and leave it ready for planting. The out building is also nearly complete, all that needs done is a roof fitted which Steven and a couple of members from Stirling Presby hope to finish in the near future.
Our last day at Greensleeves was on our last Monday in South Africa, we didn’t do any work but took some time to say bye to the kids and buy some of the jewellery and woodcraft that they paint. It was an emotional affair for many of the young people for many reasons. We felt that we had connected with the children and ultimately would just miss seeing them the way we had done for 10 days. However we are very thankful that through Steven we will be able to keep up to date with them.
Once again we would just like to thanks everyone who invested in our team prayerfully, financially and with words of support and encouragement. We fully appreciate the support of everyone at home and from the kind families in Stirling who hosted us.