An Amazing Week in Siyathuthka

We have spent an amazing week in the township of Mufambiza, working at the Siyathuthka community center that was set up by Hands at Work. The kids have been planting a garden about the size of half a football field, painting the community center, hosting a party for the volunteers and 300 orphans from the community and finishing the week by spliting up and spending the night in five different orphan lead homes. I figured the best way for the readers of this blog to get a feel it had on the students was to hear it directly from the kids. From the mouths of babes… 

Taylor – New day, new week, new experiences, and new everything! This week Dustin’s Greenhouse finally got to start on the garden in Siyathuthka! Not one person that was in the van felt tired or weighed down. It was quite the opposite really! There was an air of anticipation and fear in the van on the first day we all drove there. The ride there was something else! You wouldn’t even know that the places we rode through were imagined in the mind to be sad and depressing; it wasn’t! Not even close! It was unbelievable. So this is how the week so far went for the Globetrotters:

Monday: We all got to Siyathuthuka at the early hour of 8am and got to meet the women and men of the community that volunteered their time to be there with us. There are up to 13 women and 3 men in all with us, very hard working and dedicated men and women. The women are always smiling and there is not one day they are not! We all couldn’t help but laugh and have a blast with them. After a morning prayer, slowly we all came together and started the first committed day of many to come on the garden. Everyone had a station that worked well with them and worked like worker bees. Monday we got half of the garden done.

Tuesday: The globetrotters split up, the boys were with Marty, they were the first to leave for the garden so that they could get an early start. The girls went to Masoyi were they met with a group of young African mothers who are in a program called “The Young Mothers of Masoyi”. These young women are taught to sew and knit so that they may one day make a living. We heard some of the young mother’s stories and later on some of us shared our own stories and understandings with them. Really something else! After that, the young mothers had a different look in their eyes for us, it was truly inspiring. We passed out give-a-gallon bags to the women and they all had glowing smiles on their faces!

The boys also had a story of their own that we all still think is hilarious! After the boys left, they stopped at a gas station where two globetrotters, got out to use the bathroom. They start asking around for where the bathroom may be and they kept on getting directed the wrong way. After the third time of being messed with, they finally got directed the right way and after doing their business, they came out to find that the workers had locked them in the bathroom!!

Something interesting in Africa is you pay a fee to use the public bathroom and to get in, there may be a revolving door. When they came out, the door was locked and the workers are laughing at them! They put two-and-two together and realize that the workers aren’t letting them out any time soon and are too busy laughing. They asked the counter lady, who was with the workers, to unlock the door and she told them that the key was “lost” and they were locked in, that is when panic started to set in. On the other side of the store, two other globetrotters were leaving when they heard the commotion and came to help. Eventually everything sorta worked out and they had a laugh at the experience. “Sorta” being that security was called over by the commotion also! The boys eventually got to Siyathuthuka and instead of working in the garden they spent the rest of the day painting the little community center where the Siyathuthuka Home Base Care was based. They did an amazing job on it to! We got another half done on the garden Tuesday as the girls came back and helped. Later that night Hands at Work got a snake exhibition here at the compound, mambas, spitting cobras and a boomslang.

Gaby and Lexx – After the orphan party at Siyathuthuka we all sort of stood against the fence and laid around on our twin size sleeping mats waiting for the bus to come that would drop us off at the home of our assigned families. Any worries or anxiety was long gone by then and was replaced with anticipation and lots of excitement with hopes and prayers that our family would like us and welcome us in.

When we first arrived to our home we were given a tour of the small concrete home with three bedrooms, a kitchen, and an outhouse. Our family had two sisters (one with a baby named Pendulo), and two brothers. The older brother we weren’t able to meet until the next morning because he was working. Marty, thought we could cook them dinner, but we ended up mistaking flour for porridge. So we started cooking “porridge” and eventually noticed that it was looking a bit off and discovered we’d actually made them flour water. After that minor set back we got help from one of the sisters and her friend and were able to cook a meal with porridge and chicken stew with vegetables.

When dinner was over and we’d all gotten to know each other a little better we watched a South African soap called Generation, and then watched and American show called The Game. Thandazile, our “sister”, taught me how to do Shakira’s Waka Waka dance, and then later her and her friend Maudy and Maudy’s little brother sang and danced for us while we recorded and attempted to learn the dance. Once we’d exhausted our energy the boys all went to bed in a separate room with Lexx and Marty on mats in front of our little brother’s bed. I slept in a bed with Thandazile and Maudy but before bed we put on a movie with intentions of watching it, but we never actually got around to seeing past the first five minutes because our girl talked kicked in as it normally does at sleepovers and we weren’t able to stop until late after the movie was over.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and right away began cleaning the house in detail. Marty and our younger brother took the task of gardening and weeding outside. Afterwards we made peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast and then did dishes. We finally met our older brother and got to know him a bit and then were then prompted to go to the stream by a very excited Maudy who kept repeating it was “Maudy River”.

We went down to the stream and hopped around from side to side trying to get to Khaleel and Deshawn’s homestay from there. When we finally arrived we watched the brave boys gag down S’more sandwiches and laughed at everyone’s attempts to dance to more music (people really love to dance here). We hung out with Khaleel, Deshawn, and Silo (their “brother”) for a bit and then invited them back to our place to show them around. When we arrived they were quickly submerged in a game of cards and Maudy stole us off to her home to show us around. She gave us cold drinks and provided Lexx with toilet paper when we had an unexpected nosebleed.

After we sat around on the couch and watched TV for awhile we walked back to our own home to spend our last hour together and pack up our things. When we were done getting our things together we said goodbye with many hugs and pictures. It was a fulfilling and significant experience for all three of us.

Askia, Madelyn and Lauren – Our night started with 20 people crammed in a 14 person van, so we got to know each other very quickly. The head of the house was a twenty year old guy named Richard. He was friendly but quiet as his English was not too good. His siblings: Ness, who was 21, and her daughter, Landumiso (“Faith” in English) who was seven months old, Sandeli who was 14, Innocent who was 16, Freedom who was 24, her daughter Cierra who was 5 months, and Treasure who was 4, lived with him.

Their cousins lived very close where Lou, Melissa and Taylor stayed a couple houses down. We watched a soap opera called Generation in Swasi. Ness seemed very surprised when we told her we did not have the show in America. We ate dinner—pop, porridge, and chicken, no forks and spoons here, meals are eaten with your fingers. Sandeli and her cousin, Gift, played with Madelyn and Lauren’s hair. Gift said it was the first time he touched a white person’s hair and that it was “slippery”. We went to sleep with the light and the TV on. In the morning we cleaned up the three room house, sweeping the floor and cleaning up our bedrolls. Freedom made us butter sandwiches and sweet, hot tea with milk. Lou, Melissa, and Taylor, along with the family they were staying with, came over and we made S’mores on a fire outside.

Then we walked down to the community well that had been contaminated because of a hole in the well that allowed dirty water to seep in. Several families were washing their clothes with the water and taking jugs back to their homes. Later we walked to a store that was also a rec-center with a pool table.

They sold their soda in glass bottles by the liter and we all agreed it was the best coca-cola we’d ever tasted. We walked back to the house, Martin played them in pool (and yes Brad he is leaving Africa 6-0 a perfect score)  Richard brought out a stereo set-up and blared, “Waka, Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira; we all danced, much to the delight of the townspeople who came out and watched us.

The neighborhood Go-Gos (Grandmothers) joined us, decked out in traditional Swasi costumes,.which meant beaded skirts and necklaces, and no tops. When the van finally came to pick us up, we did not want to leave. They were such incredibly gracious, open hearted people and it was an honor to spend even one day with them. It was an incredible experience we will never forget.

Khaleel and Deshawn – We have had the honor of meeting Silo Donald Ngoben. Silo is a nineteen year old young man currently in grade eleven living in a one room house with no income, and no one to assist him with his school needs. Silo’s mother struggled with sickness from TB, HIV, and cancer which later took her life in March of 2008, and his father has been absent for the majority of his life. From then on Silo has been totally dependent on himself for school, food, and the basic necessities of life. The only support he receives is that of the volunteers of Siyathathuka home based care, church members, and occasionally his aunt.

Words can’t describe the emotion dispersed throughout Silo’s house last night. After reading his bio we were reluctant in how to connect to someone that had gone through so much pain. It was an experience neither of us prepared ourselves for, but subconsciously we wanted to make sure that we didn’t leave without having a positive influence on his humble life. We also wanted to embrace the influence he would have on our lives by making sure we share his life story with everyone. Immediately we were greeted by a warm presence within his one bedroom house. With Barry White’s “Practice What You Preach” playing in the background we soon found that music was the one thing that connected our lifestyles together.

Though his house only consisted of two beds, one couch, a small television, a dvd player that didn’t always work, a refrigerator, and a small propane stove we felt as if we were home. Silo seemed as if he was very soft spoken but that soon changed as we began exchanging our aspirations for the future. He says he wants to become either a “American Superstar” featured in movies or a “Powerful Preacher”, which we saw as total opposites. We shared many laughs and shed few tears after hearing about his mother passing away. Silo gave us a piece of himself in many different ways by sharing information with us he had never shared with anyone else, not even his closest friends. His relationship with God was most significant to us. Throughout all of his trials and tribulations, his faith remains strong, and he continues to thank God for every day he has on earth. This was more than just a home stay with an orphan for a night. This was a chance for us to get outside of ourselves to truly see our world in a completely different dimension. Silo is the strongest person we have ever met. In the “world” we live in, it is sometimes easy to seek support from others. Often we look for tangible things to substitute what we feel, but staying with Silo for a night showed us to appreciate the things we can not physically touch. Last night has changed our lives forever, Silo has inspired us to keep strong faith no matter the situation and to value the opportunities we have been blessed with. Now we live our lives knowing that we hold a piece of him and he holds a piece of us. We can truly say we have a new found brother in the village of Mufambiza that we will never forget.

Sorry to give the parents some bad news but Lou and I have decided to keep your kids! They are awesome!!!

Sorry no pics but it is 3am in the morning and I am beat after an incredible night, day in Mufambiza, shopping, cooking and having a braii with 24 brits here at Hands at Work, I will try to fill you in more in the next day or two. We are headed to Kruger tomorrow and we are all  sad that we will lose Mr. Gadget (Marty).