Friday, August 10, 2012

South Africa - The First Days

A couple of volunteers live in that building. This is the view looking left from Giana's porch.

When I arrived in South Africa on Monday morning I was ready to go to work. That's what I was there for, after all.  Giana insisted I just relax a bit and get the lay of the land.

Refilwe is an amazing place. What images come to mind when I say the word, "orphanage"?  You probably see rows of cribs filled with babies and toddlers with severely overworked nurses and nannies watching over the little ones.  We've all seen those images on the evening news or the tear-jerking television specials. I had an up close and personal experience with just such a place when I was in Malawi, Africa a few years ago.

Refilwe is different.  Refilwe Community Project began in 1991 and has grown from a small healthcare clinic to a 40+ acre facility housing a school, community center, community garden, homes for abandoned children, and more.

The purpose of this beautiful place is to give orphaned or at-risk children a real home, complete with siblings, parents, education, and a yard to play in. Foster-parents (known as "godparents") live on the property and children are placed in their homes. The godparents commit to caring for and raising the children until they're grown - thus insuring they don't get passed around from facility to facility. It's a fabulous environment.

Giana has been there since August 2011 and has worked in the daycare, the office, the kitchen, and teaches a couple of tap dance classes each week. She also nannies and helps with after-school homework.

It's winter in South Africa right now, and it was cold when I arrived.  The daytime temps were actually comfortable - especially considering the 110 degrees I left behind in California. The nights were freezing.  I slept great that first night in Giana's cozy home and then was thrilled to wake up to icicles on the plants, and ice on the small lake and lawn.  It was a perfect morning.


I spent that first Tuesday working with other volunteers to empty rooms in the baby house so that prep for painting could begin.  Refilwe will be working with another organization near Johannesburg called, "Door of Hope", which takes in newborns and small babies and cares for them until they can find god-parents for the child. The beautiful, large house on the Refilwe property is in much need of repair and love, but it will eventually serve as home for abandoned babies until they can be placed with families.

The work was hard, but so satisfying and rewarding. I love hard work and manual labor and it's even better when you're laughing, sharing, and working alongside people with the same heart and goal.


After. Hey, who puts a light fixture in the middle of a wall?  Hmmm...


Northside Christian Church
Attn:  Giana Stoeckel-Africa
2709 E. Nees Ave.
Clovis, CA  93611

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