Saturday, August 8, 2009

Africa Day Three...Refilwe

After waking up cold and wondering how to get dressed for the day without getting out of my sleeping bag, I finally got moving. We had plans for an early departure (8:15ish) and with jet lag setting in, none of us were moving very quickly. We were excited though, today was our first "real" day of work on the field!

We all piled into two vans for the roughly 30 minute drive to Refilwe. It was the first chance we'd had to see the landscape of South Africa (it was way dark on our ride in from the airport). I can honestly say I was surprised. I don't really know what I was expecting but other than driving on the other side of the road, South Africa looked just like the US. There are homes off to either side, beautiful mountain views and crazy drivers. I was definitely glad I wasn't driving. Right hand turns are freaky!!

We pulled into Refilwe not really sure what to expect. We all pile out and look to Steve and Teresa for directions. They indicate we should follow them and we head out. Their son Alfie (the cutest kid EVER) was quick to yell "poop!" so we could avoid stepping in chicken poop. Yes, there were chickens roaming (ducks too!). We crossed this beautiful brook

and began to hear singing in African voices. Little did we know the voices were from our healthcare workers that we would be spending the week with. Their voices were lifted in praise to our King! What a way to start the morning. We helped pull chairs out and sat in the sunshine. We made basic introductions and then separated out into groups of three to five. It was here that Keri Mason, Rachel Linderman and I met Elizabeth and Elyse. These are two of the most precious women, they have a love and concern for their families and work in the most primitive of conditions to care for the residents of Joe Slovo. Here is a picture of our two workers:

After we had an hour or so to meet, Steve took us on a tour of Refilwe. I am truly amazed at all this organization accomplishes. In addition to the home healthcare program, they offer schooling, foster care, daycare, skilled work training and more. Here are some pictures from the tour:

Creche at Refilwe

Refilwe headquarters

Children at Refilwe daycare

Skills Development Center

During our tour, Steve explained that the Skills Development Center taught marketable skills for community members so they can obtain employment. He also introduced us to the Refilwe sustainability project, earthworm farming! It appears that earthworms are a relatively cheap source of high-quality compost that can be sold to outside nurseries. Earthworm farms run about $8000 to start and the farm will reproduce itself everyone 48 days, making it a great investment opportunity. What an ingenious way to use God's creation to sustain community work.

The tour ended and as we were headed to lunch, Steve took us past one of the informal settlements (squatter's camps), Malachi. Here is what our first look at the extreme poverty showed:

What struck me so about Malachi is that literally across the street from this no running water, limited electricity, poverty-stricken area there was an airport with flights taking off multiple times daily. This dichotomy struck me over and over throughout the week. How does the government explain it? Why do people agree to it? Where is the Church in South Africa?

As we drove away from Malachi, we headed to lunch at the "chicken pie place." It was not like our chicken pie, it was basically a calzone type outside with chicken and mushrooms inside. I don't really care what they called it, it was wonderful!! We were able to sit and visit as a team and enjoy the scenery outside. We kept commenting that it looked like Ohio or TN outside, not like what we expected South Africa to look. Who knows what our American stereotypical minds thought we would see?!

After lunch, we headed back to Alabanza and separated out for showers, dinner and debriefing. We had a wonderful first day meeting new friends and getting a glimpse of the work we would do. Tomorrow would promise to be interesting as we would be turned out into the informal settlements to work.

More later...

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