Who is Betsy Blake?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day Four: Mfuleni

Mfuleni (Thursday’s Trip)
The setting for this centre is in the Cape Town area.  The landscape is largely sand, thus the land must be carefully and diligently cultivated with nutrients and water to grow the vegetation needed to feed its community.  Leaders at MaAfrika Tikkun have said the efforts to get the community to grow gardens has been a struggle due to the cost of the soil nutrients which must be mixed with the sand, and the cost of the seeds.  We learned that spinach grows well in these sandy conditions; this was good news.

We were met my Lisel and Lungi, and many others who were pleased to meet us and to show us the good works being accomplished
 This visit had us walking into the community for home visits.  Many of the homes within this shanty town were nothing more than corrugated metal  “walls”  fashioned into a home with 1-2 rooms; others were made of cement block and/or stucco materials with a kitchen, living area, bedroom, and plumbing.  Electricity was available to some, refuse is collected on Thursdays.
The first home visit was to a family who currently has no home.  They have a sandy plot for a future structure, but the family of five lives right now in a 6 x 12 foot metal shack until the home is built.  The family had mother, 15 year old son, twin five year old boys, and a 2 year old boy.  Clearly the boys loved the weekly MaAfrika Tikkun women, who come with educational toys, puzzles, songs and lots of praise and smiles for paying attention and learning!  Our “session” took place on a blanket in the sand, on the plot where their future home will be constructed.  Neighboring children, while not registered in the program, sat nearby and participated as well.  When the visit concluded, it felt terrible to pack up the modest toys we’d brought and take them away from these children who have NOTHING for toys. 
The next home we visited was quite a sad visit initially…while the home itself was very neat, with appliances and several rooms, approaching the home we could hear a continuous cyring/moaning noise.  As we entered the home, we saw that it was the 2 ½ year old girl; we were told after brief introductions  that her Daddy had been hit by a car a few days prior, and had passed away.  She was “daddy’s girl”, and could not understand the separation.  The girl’s mother and family friend were attempting to console her, but she was just miserable.  The ladies from MaAfrika Tikkun and I soon provided a distraction, and within a few minutes, she was beginning to look interested in the toys, and smiling.  We proceeded to practice counting, naming colors, and then got out the paints.
Before beginning the picture, we spend several minutes searching the house for a pencil to draw a picture to then paint…when the one pencil in the house was found,  it was sharpened with a kitchen knife.  I thought of the junk drawer in my house filled with extra pens/pencils and wished (for the 100th time) that I could  run to my house and gather up the many things that are really not necessary, to share with this family, and others.
By the end of our visit, our little girl had proudly hung a sheet of her painted masterpiece on the refrigerator and was headed outside to find her friend to show her the artwork.  The MaAfrika Tikkun women encouraged the mother to keep her daughter active and distracted with other things so that she did not fall into the despair again.
We went back to the center, and helped in the computer room, and then in the kitchen.

 We helped to distribute dinners through the kitchen's window/serving sill, to many, many children.  After dinner, there was a large crowd of children and lots of laughter outside the kitchen window...below, see Brian DiMasi entertaining the kids by taking their picture, and then stretching the photo or widening the picture, to distort the was a BIG hit! 
Sad to say goodbye, again, to the great people we met during this visit.  The angels living on earth...

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