Trustee Emily Hogge spent 16 months on the ground in South Africa. She provided monthly despatches exploring the impact our work was having on local communities in KwaZulu Natal and Cape Town. Her previous reports can be found here.
It was during a long Sunday evening phone call in June 2016 that my mum first put the idea into my head. She was trying to convince me to write a diary of my time in Ingwavuma teaching at Khethani and supporting our Zoe Trust children.
A year later, these monthly diaries, often typed onto my phone lying in the long grass, have become a book that I hope provides an insight into life in rural South Africa. I wanted to create an honest picture of the highs and lows without trying to justify or explain away the issues. I hope the book gives a glimpse into my Ingwavuma adventure and possibly even inspires others to take a step towards their own adventure.
Here follows two extracts about our children and the difficulties they face.
Parsa is one of our Zoe Trust children, he is fourteen and lives in a very rural home. He was probably the first big challenge I faced with my Zoe Trust hat on. During the first three weeks of me being in Ingwavuma, two of his family members died. This was tough on the whole family and everyone started to break apart. As a result his mum was away a lot attending funerals in addition to the one week per month that she normally worked away from home. As a result Parsa was left at home on his own with his older brother, a relationship that was tense without a mother figure to mediate. Some of the hardest moments of my time in Ingwavuma were dropping him off in the pitch black knowing that he was going home to an empty house with no food, no electricity, no security and no warmth. It was painful and horrible to be so powerless. My natural instinct was to take him home with me and provide him with food and love or phone his mum and arrange for him to stay at her work. This took a lot of time and countless trips backwards and forwards from his house, often in the dark, when he phoned me distressed and anxious. However with the guidance of Mr Fritz I learnt that this was unsustainable and to really help him I had to give him the power to control his situation. I learnt that the sustainable option was not having him stay at our house or at his mum’s work, but giving him the tools to control his fears of being alone. We spent time talking and praying and creating strategies for him to deal with being at home. Slowly with time and age this helped and he was able to feel comfortable at home alone. We also arranged family counselling to help the family deal with the loss of their loved ones and they all slowly grew closer together. A powerful lesson in the importance of long term sustainability over short term happiness.
It was around this time that two of the girls in my class, both Zoe Trust children, went through two shocking events that left them vulnerable and hurting. The older of the two was living with her mum and dad on the edge of the mountain overlooking Swaziland. Her dad was an alcoholic and could be violent at times causing the mum and children to spend time away from home. Although the police had been involved, they hadn’t been able to do much except tell the dad to stay away from the house when he was drunk, advice he didn’t follow. One night the dad got so angry that he tried to burn the house down with the children and mother inside. As you can imagine, this was a terrifying experience for everyone and although they were thankfully all okay, their house was damaged and they were left traumatised. The dad was arrested and spent time in jail allowing the family to re-group, repair the damaged house and start to move forward. The young girl was amazingly resilient and stayed strong continuing to work hard and stay happy at school. It was only six months later, whilst the family were receiving counselling that her dad began to appear in stories as she started to process what had happened.
For the other child, it was slightly different, her dad was her sole care giver and she lived alone with him. Her mum had never been interested, providing no form of care or love, however this all changed when she turned 7. Her mother now saw her as an asset able to wash up, clean and cook and demanded that the child come to live with her. The child hated the move, having to sleep with drunken grandparents, being shouted at and made to do lots of jobs. In class she turned into a quiet, distracted and sad child unwilling to speak and unable to work. We fought hard to have her removed from her mother but the social workers were busy and influenced by the stereotype they believed that it was safer for a child to be with a mother than a single father. The dad fought hard, turning up at school to see the child, bringing her lunch when the mother forgot and pleading with us to help. In the end the child took control of her own fate; repeatedly missing the transport home to her mother’s house and walking home to her father. Finally her mother gave up and allowed the child to return to her father.
The full book will be available at the Zoe Trust celebration on 8th July or can be purchased in paperback or kindle here http://amzn.eu/4Tvi6be