Well, the past three weeks since we returned from a wonderfully refreshing holiday down at the coast (thanks to 2 special friends!) have been very interesting firstly in terms of relationship building and secondly, in getting our volunteer flat ready to be used.
In the first week, 10 -16 September, we successfully tried out the Hillbrow clinic with 2 of our kids, and had 3 significant visits from people coming to see what we were up to. The first was from some church leaders from Fourways and Durban, with whom we did a bit of a Hillbrow walkabout, meeting and praying for a group of car guards and municipal workers, as well as telling the story of our move. The second was by one of Nigel's great inspirations in the area of juvenile justice, Advocate Ann Skelton and her delightful husband, Peter, who visited us on a rather cold Saturday for lunch and tea. Peter will be giving us perspective on lighting in both flats. (Peter, 69, is planning his golden wedding anniversary when he will be 90 years old, and aims to play a few more musical instruments by then too! - love his enthusiasm for life!) And finally, a 3rd very brief visit that week was from a lady working at the Constitutional Court who googled the words "Hillbrow" and "volunteer" and found us! She plans to help us with some afternoon volunteering with the kids from our block, and wants to encourage all her friends and work colleagues to do the same!
In our second week back, 17 -23 Sept, we began a very sweet if tender relationship with a school close-by who needed some support following the death of one of their Grade 1 pupils. This culminated with us and a group of visiting church friends joining them at their memorial service held at the school on Tuesday 18 September. This was a very meaningful experience for all present. We look forward to future partnerships and projects with them. On this same day our group of friends from Nccb came over to our building to help move in a number of furniture items and kitchenware into our downstairs volunteer flat. This immediately transformed it from an empty (though beautiful) white shell into a place where volunteers can come and stay for any length of time, and where school students can come and get help with various subjects.
So this last week, 24 - 30 Sept, started off with a Heritage Day braai hosted by Let's Go Jozi on top of their building in Harrison street, where we met many people from all walks of life interested in developing Joburg's inner city in some way. (A few of them recognised us from our Carte Blanche story the night before.) We spoke to a young man who heads up a basketball team which also shares its skills with inner city youngsters. He promised to come and train the kids in our group of buildings managed by Connaught Properties. We also viewed Let's Go Jozi's sewing project downstairs, where they are training people to make clothes, a very exciting initiative. On Tuesday a friend came and delivered a big bookshelf for the proposed library downstairs and on Wednesday we received our first donation of books towards the same library in the volunteers' flat, and almost immediately some enthusiastic kids started reading through them. Thank you Sonja and Mark! Then yesterday, Friday, Jethro, one of our first friends in the inner city area, went to see one of our first Nccb friends from Bryanston, Dr Pierre Vercueil, at his rooms at the Sandton Eye Clinic for a free assessment.
It is exciting to realise that most of these stories I have just summarised are about a meeting between rich and poor, the "haves and the have nots" so that "those who had much did not have too much, and those who had little, did not have too little"! (2 Cor 8) Looking forward to so much more of these...
Roselind reads the first book!
Hannah, our 11 year old daughter often tells me how much she loves looking out from the balcony at the people walking by. She says it reminds her of the reason she is here... the people.
It reminds me of Jesus in Matthew 9 vs 36 where it says "when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them". Often in life we need to look at the crowds around us, and as we look we catch a glimpse of the individuals in the crowds and a glimpse of their story. It is then as we pause to look and see people going about life, something begins to happen in our hearts... we develop compassion and it is this compassion that is the seedbed of love. Compassionate love is the motivation for sacrifice, and sacrifice rooted in this love brings about change.
I am thankful that God looked upon the world, saw the crowds, looked at individuals like me in the crowds and as a result developed compassion, which resulted in the loving sacrifice of his son, Jesus.
Well Carte Blanche has aired the story about our move to Hillbrow...
Here is a link to the show
Here is the press release from Carte Blanche about the Show
Nigel’s Hillbrow - crime and grime have seen the more affluent seek sanctuary in the suburbs. So what made Nigel and Trish and their five young children want to leave leafy suburbia for this concrete melting pot?
Today a team from the New Covenant Church Bryanston (NCCB) office came out with some furniture for our volunteer flat and also joined us for the memorial service for a little 6 year old child who died when he fell from the 10th floor. It was a memorable day full of fun, joy, laughter and also some very touching moments. Here are some pics...
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Today for Science we learned all about recycling, compliments of the new Spur magazine (Well Done, Spur!) which had dedicated 2 pages to making a ship and a car out of a milk carton and a coke can respectively, to fit in with their travel theme.
When brainstorming the subject, the kids came up with so many great ideas and ways to introduce more recycling to our area, including recycling workshops and craft days in our new volunteers' flat! (Incidentally, the flat may be ready as soon as the end of next week, so get ready, people!) Jordan made the amazing ship with very little help, and Hannah and Rachel both made decoratively-painted bird feeders, plant pots, and patterned cups and bowls, all out of 2 litre plastic coke bottles! And with so many brightly coloured poster paints, Daniel and Sarah could join in and make something too!
The last week has seen our family make use of the nearby Hillbrow Clinic on two separate occasions:
Friday 7 Sept:
Rachel had some kind of painful gum infection it seemed and so, having heard of up to 5 hour waits anywhere inside the Clinic, we nervously sat down at 7.10am at the back of a queue numbering about 25 people who were waiting in the Dental section. At about 7.45am things started moving as one by one new files were made for each person sitting down. This took a respectable 30 - 45 minutes. Then at about 8.45am people started to be called through to one of 3 dentists for their individual consultations. By the time we were at the front all the 30 seats behind us had filled up again! We went through to see the dentist at about 9.45am and as Rachel's gum infection was nothing more than her permanent molars coming out, we were finished by 10am, armed with 3 bottles of medicine to treat the minor condition! Quite a pleasant surprise, given that we had brought a blanket (for the cold - except it wasn't...) and some rather chunky reading material to get us through to at least 12am!
Mon 10 Sept:
Today it was Daniel and Hannah's turn for treatment at the dreaded general medical section. Dreaded because there are long queues in at least six different areas on the large ground floor. Arriving again at about 7am, we were ushered through to a queue of about 30 chairs full of sick adults and a very few kids. At 7.40am, 2 staff came to their desks and started the process of opening new files for all the people seated at that stage. One rather gruff man, employed elsewhere in the clinic, had made it his job to ensure people in this area were doing the right thing and that they understood the process from here on. He kindly spoke in English instead of Zulu so that I could follow too. Somewhere between 8.30 and 9am we had our two new files in hand and made our way to the weighing and temperature-taking section, where we waited for about 30 minutes while various sick babies and young children had excess clothing removed for these two processes. Sadly (and this was our only negative experience) an older nurse was being rather rude to all the mothers because they weren't responding quick enough to her instructions. A little love and understanding later and she was smiling and relaxed again, her previous mood maybe having been caused by the up to 30 patients she may have told the same thing to in these first two hours! The next queue was the processing one, where each patient was assigned to a different place in the clinic according to their condition. This was the shortest queue of only about 10 people and we were allocated to our doctor in about 15 minutes. So at about 9.30am we were finally led through to a bench outside the room of a very nice lady Dr McIvy, who spent a fair time examining both Hannah and Daniel for their coughs and splutters and gave us our medication then and there. Out by 9.50am...! Very impressive! Once we all have our own files, this could be a much shorter and even quite pleasant process.
Incidentally, one lady told me people start queueing at this clinic from 6am or before to receive their treatment.
One rather amusing moment was in the processing queue where Daniel started singing the national anthem...
We are back from a wonderful holiday today and got this supprise at our door... a card for Hannah and Rachel from their friend Martha. It read "Hey guys... We missed you guys, just 10 days gone and missed you. We can't wait to see you. I am excited that you guys are comming back, from Martha."
As a Dad, I am just loving watching my children's friendships developing here. This really is beginning to feel more and more like home.