Family of 7 Phake
Maria and her 3 childrens’ home
The back of Maria’s home
Hi and dumela my friends!
My name is Clare and I was born in Eshowe, Zululand, many years ago. I lived in South Africa for the first 10 years of my life and have always felt a strong connection to Africa. I am currently between jobs and thought it was an ideal time to do something I have thought about for years, and never got around to doing, and that is volunteer work. I am here for a month, happy to do anything to help and hope that no matter how small the contribution is from me to the work at Tumelong it will make a difference to someone’s life.
I am lucky enough to have friends that live in Pretoria who I am staying with for the time I am at Tumelong, they are Iain and Bettie Smith and their three children Jayden, Kaylie and Luhane and they have made me feel like home from home (oh yes and not forgetting their 3 cats).
What an interesting and different week I have just had here at Tumelong, it is a big change from life in London!
My first day I found my way with the help of a sat nav to St Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria, for a meeting with Bishop Jo Seoka, he was very welcoming and wanted to ensure I had a good experience during my time in South Africa.
I headed back to the head office on Frederick Street and as it was the first Monday of the month there was an all staff meeting which was perfect for me to meet everyone I would be working with in the coming weeks. The rest of the day I spent sharing the office with George Mahlaela (the acting Director) and finding out more about the work of Tumelong and what I would be doing and how I could be of most help to the organisation. Lucas Mthemba heads up the care and relief section and we worked on a daily plan for the month.
Day 2 was spent on the panel interviewing for the new post of Director of Tumelong, with George, Puthi (from the Governing body), Father Mishak and Keba (the former Director). The final 2 names were given to the Bishop and it will be his decision who will take up the post starting in January.
One area I felt I could help with was updating the website, when I am in the office I am going to try and spend some time (internet connection permitting !!) uploading some current and hopefully interesting information to the blog page, which is the only page at present I can make changes to.
There is also other admin work to be done and a small project from the Bishop to type up the History of the Mother’s Union, a 40 page document some pages typed and some hand written, by the end there will be nothing I do not know about the M.U. (from what I have typed already it is a great organisation and the history has been very interesting)
Days 4 and 5 I spent with Lucas travelling out into the field to Pankop and then to Ga-Rankuwa. Before leaving we went to 3 Churches in Pretoria (St Francis, Waterkloof, St Anne’s, Equestria and Holy Trinity, Lynnwood) to collect the food parcels, there were a total of around 80 to be distributed over the next couple of days to those in extreme need. When we were going through St Francis Church in Waterkloof I saw a picture of my Dad on the wall from his time as the priest back in the 50’s, it was completely unexpected and exciting to see the photo from so many years ago.
Pankop was around 2 hours from Pretoria and very rural the people there receiving the food parcels were in dire need, a granny with 7 orphans and many other stories of poverty in the community. Another drop off was to a mother Maria Mashata with 3 children who lived in a one room shack that was falling apart and any rain flooded her space. The food parcels are a welcome relief but as we all know it is not the answer to the long term plan to eradicate poverty. To me it looked like everyone could do with a food parcel, even if we went with 1000’s it would not have been enough. Not all were delivered to individuals most were left at schools or care centres for collection, only the most extreme cases were delivered individually. Tshego Moname is working for Tumelong in the Phake area and doing an amazing job helping with those who are in need, but it is not easy work and there are constant requests for more aid every day. It is almost impossible to decide who should and should not receive help.
In Ga-Rankuwa I met the lovely Tshego Medupe , with her volunteer helpers, on Friday it was Orateng (who helps every day), Mosa the dance teacher, Tebogo the drama teacher and Emily who teaches Bible study and other subjects (more about all of them on their own page). They provide after school care for orphan and vulnerable children from age 2 – 18, this consists of a cup of hot tea (made with powdered milk not fresh) and 1 sandwich each, either peanut butter, butter or jam and once a week they get a hot meal. Because the urn for hot water broke Tshego has to keep boiling the kettle to make enough tea for the children, this takes a lot of time while she is also trying to make the sandwiches and organise the children. There can be up to 50-60 a day. It was my lucky day as Mosa was preparing all his dance groups for a dance competition at the weekend so I got to see the final rehearsals, it was amazing to watch the children, all looking so happy and smiling and dancing their little socks off, what rhythm and movement!! As it was my niece Meryems’ Birthday all of the children sang a wonderful Happy Birthday to her, it was very touching to see how much enthusiasm they all showed and how beautifully they sang! We also found 3 kittens hiding behind a mattress, they looked very young and frightened, we gave them some water and a few small pieces of bread and peanut butter (that was all that was available) I am hoping when I return next week they will still be there and I will take some milk and kitten food, who knows they could become pets for the children to enjoy and bond with.
Saturday morning I met Lucas in Hammanskraal for a radio interview with DJ Wickey on Moretele Community Radio, once we found each other outside the right Pick n Pay, I was at one and Lucas was outside a different one, we went off to the studio. DJ Wickey was a real character and was happy to announce “Clare Wood is in da house” which made me laugh. He had SP and Maureen co presenting with him and it was a lot of fun, as well as getting the Tumelong message across.
As my first week drew to an end it was a time to look back on all the places I had visited and people I had met, the warmth from everyone is tangible with friendly greetings, handshakes of all different kinds and plenty of hugs and contact, all very different to London, I like the African way!
Clare and Tshego with sandwiches and tea
What’s in a food parcel?