I have been to events in Africa where an organisation would donate truck loads of food to a refugee camp in front of cameras and journalists, only to pack it up later and leave again. I have seen people who think charity means to take a few pictures of themselves playing soccer with African kids.
Africa is a place of opportunity and a place that tests your resolve. We have learned over the years that sometimes it might be helpful to donate food and operate soup kitchens and most of the time it is better to walk a road with a person in need, helping them to become employable and look after themselves. Pictured here is a refugee camp at the Zimbabwean border where we provided food for hundreds of people.
I am more of a quiet, steady type. Without much publicity we have been helping to feed many refugees and help people find more sustainable ways of supporting themselves.
Also, our project to supply the local magistrate courts with boxes aiding children who have to testify, has been going strong over the years without me finding the time to write about it. With help from friends of our local church I am able to year after year fill boxes with goodies that assist the children and their mediators at court.
The boxes contain a new stuffed toy, which helps in comforting the child and also assisting the child in demonstrating where and how the perpetrator touched them.
Furthermore we add cookies and juice, some sweets and chips for energy during the often long wait at court.
The box also contains paper and crayons to help with communication during the trial and a coloring book to keep little hands busy during waiting periods.
The project has helped the court personal working with the child abuse survivors to establish an environment in which testimonies are being given with greater confidence.
Of course that is just one tiny step in helping people leave the cycle of abuse.
Newly released statistics from rural clinics outside of Thohoyandou show that children as young as nine are falling pregnant or acquiring HIV infections.
This was revealed by Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba as she commented on the spiralling HIV infections and teenage pregnancies in rural schools in Dididi village, saying the country is being taken backward in its fight for an HIV-free generation.
Ramathuba recently held a teenage pregnancy awareness campaign in the area, after the shocking statistics were released.
According to the Department of Health, Mukhwantheli Secondary School in Dididi village has a record number of 36 pregnant learners.
Another 31 learners aged between nine and 19 from both primary and secondary schools in the same area have been infected with HIV, putting a strain on the department’s fight against the spread of HIV among the youth.
“We are worried as a department when learners between nine and 14 are being found to be HIV positive and both their parents are negative. It tells us that most children in this age group could be involved in sexual activities,” said Ramathuba.
“Life is about choices and if you choose to engage in early sexual activity you will regret it when you grow older. Why should you break your virginity in the bushes when you can read books and be educated and successful in life to a point where you can choose any hotel in the world where you can then engage yourself in sexual activity as an adult?”
Ramathuba also reminded people not to be fooled by fake prophets who tell them they are cured of HIV and should stop taking their ARVs.
She said the high rate of alcohol consumption and lack of extra mural activities after school have been identified by the community as the driving forces behind the high rate of teenage pregnancies and the HIV infection rate.
Ndamulelo Liphadzi (23), a grade 12 learner at Mukhwantheli Secondary and mother of a three-month-old son, said she regrets not listening to the elders when they warned her about boys and engaging herself in early sexual intercourse. She now struggles to raise her son and keep up with her studies.
“I wish I had listened. I am now learning the hard way that raising a child is not an easy job, especially when you’re still at school. My message to others is to abstain from sexual activities so that you don’t end up having to do what I am doing at the moment.
“It is hard to focus on your studies while your child is crying and needs your attention,” she said.
Das alles stand auf ihr und war die Welt
und stand auf ihr mit allem, Angst und Gnade,
wie Bäume stehen, wachsend und gerade,
ganz Bild und bildlos wie die Bundeslade
und feierlich, wie auf ein Volk gestellt.
Und sie ertrug es; trug bis obenhin
das Fliegende, Entfliehende, Entfernte,
das Ungeheuere, noch Unerlernte
gelassen wie die Wasserträgerin
den vollen Krug. Bis mitten unterm Spiel,
verwandelnd und auf andres vorbereitend,
der erste weiße Schleier, leise gleitend,
über das aufgetane Antlitz fiel
fast undurchsichtig und sich nie mehr hebend
und irgendwie auf alle Fragen ihr
nur eine Antwort vage wiedergebend:
In dir, du Kindgewesene, in dir.
All this stood upon her and was the world and stood upon her with all its fear and grace as trees stand, growing straight up, imageless yet wholly image, like the Ark of God, and solemn, as if imposed upon a race.
As she endured it all: bore up under the swift-as-flight, the fleeting, the far-gone, the inconceivably vast, the still-to-learn, serenely as a woman carrying water moves with a full jug. Till in the midst of play, transfiguring and preparing for the future, the first white veil descended, gliding softly
over her opened face, almost opaque there, never to be lifted off again, and somehow giving to all her questions just one answer: In you, who were a child once-in you.
Rainer Maria Rilke, 19.7.1907, Paris
After successfully completing my Suzuki violin teacher training with SASA I began teaching the violin in Limpopo, South Africa.
How exciting. In our little rural South African town where there is no theatre, not much culture actually happens. I really miss classical music and playing together with like minded people.
So I decided if there aren’t any colleagues around, I should train some up myself.
By now I have quite the little violin ensemble of enthusiastic young musicians, all of which are new beginners.
In order to keep ourselves motivated we should have the opportunity to perform, I reasoned. That is why on Saturday, July 1st, we are going to have a wonderful winter music concert. I am teaming up with a young lady teaching the piano, so her and my students will be performing at the best of their abilities.
And of course, I will be playing some much loved classics to entertain our audience as well.
Most of my students are boys, so we are going to play some rock music as well and some Orcs and Goblins. Its definitely not going to be boring.
Yesterday I took some time to make a Lebkuchenhaus with my little boys.
We have summer holidays here in South Africa. Nevertheless I want them to grow up with some of the German Christmas traditions I so cherish.
While the English do have something they call gingerbread it is not even close to true Lebkuchen. And we don’t really enjoy that burning ginger taste. Lebkuchen dough is made with honey and many spices and has to rest a few days before baking.
So yesterday we took the dough I prepared earlier from the fridge and started baking, decorating and assembling this little house.
While I go through length to preserve some true German Christmas tradition, Germany this year shocked me with throwing out these reminders of Christ in order to not offend Muslim migrants. Schools and Kindergartens were asked to refrain from singing Christmas carols and some Christmas markets were renamed into Winter market.
Cutting out the house shapes
Icing the roof.
Can we eat it now? Please?
Last night there was an attack on a German Christmas market. 12 people were killed and 48 injured.
Why is Christmas, the story of a little baby boy being born as Gods promise for the salvation of mankind, so offensive to some? Why are Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere persecuted and killed for their faith?
Why do a nations leaders opt to repurpose Christmas instead of sharing this story of Gods humble decision to dwell amongst us as a child?
The forces of darkness can’t tolerate the messengers of light. Christmas always came at a price. We can ignore the persecution of Christians in the middle east until persecution is at our own doorstep or chose to help answer protest.
While Muslim nations forbid Christmas celebrations, German officials have congratulated Muslim immigrants to their religious holidays and then proceeded to repurpose Christmas markets as oriental bazaars and winter markets. Instead of teaching immigrants about Christianity and the values that made the European countries so attractive to migrants in the first place, German kids had to endure compulsory visits to mosques this year. There was very little resistance from churches, in fact leaders of state financed churches rose up to claim Allah and the God of the bible are the same. Christian refugees who often flee serious persecution in Muslim nations are being assaulted in Germany, the country they came to for safety. By Muslims, who are treated with utter cultural sensibility.
Jesus came as a baby in the middle of persecution. Romans where pressing His people hard for taxes, the religious clergy had no answers, the Edomite king Herod slaughtered thousands of babies trying to kill Jesus and only angelic visitations provided Joseph with the necessary insight to bring his family into safety.
Since then, Christians have always been on the receiving end of persecution for what they believe. Although the message is one of love.
His kingdom is not one of Earthly power and manipulation. Those who seek earthly fame will always hate those who proclaim eternal life.
God is just. I pray that Germany will reach out and preach the gospel to all those seeking shelter and refuge from the pain they tried to escape. I also pray that the country will not throw its pearls down the drain but conserve their Christian heritage and not tolerate persecution of Christianity within their borders.
‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?” Acts 7:49
Prepare your heart as a dwelling place for the Lord.
“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you’” (1 Kings 3:5 NIV).
Living in South Africa has at times been a paper war nightmare. As it is with a couple from two nationalities there is always more documentation, visas, and passports to constantly keep updated. This year I finally got my permanent residency permit. It took 6 years to get there. The home affairs offices changed procedure so many times, losing our applications when they moved office, sent it to the wrong place. At one occasion we had to type everything ourselves into the home affairs computer because the lady didn’t know how to operate a PC, then photograph the screenshot and email it to the Pretoria office!
In the process we became so knowledgeable in this area that we have been able to help quite a number of binational couples with their paper work.
On one of these visa occasions, we submitted the application for my South African visa and were waiting for it to be issued. After a couple of visits to the local Home Affairs office, it was just a matter of waiting for the visa to arrive. We were told we westerners are just too impatient! Two weeks before the expiry of the current visa the officer assured us that there would be no problem—we should just remain patient, which we were. The week the visa expired, we went back to the department to find that all the staff was on a training course in a different city placing them out of office for at least three weeks! This posed to be quite a problem for us, because the immigration department in our region was very strict and we knew this would mean trouble or even deportation as in the case of many other people in similar situations.
The long and short of the matter was that the immigration department advised us to go through a border and come back, and they would give us an automatic three-month extension. This sounded like a plan. We decided to go through to Botswana, pass through the border, and come back and get the three-month extension. We packed and left the next morning. After traveling for about two and a half hours, we reached the border post. We had entered through it, but to our amazement, the immigration officer refused to allow me back into the country because of my expired visa! We were stuck in Botswana and had to make another plan. We prayed and felt we should go to another border post, which was very far. We had no Botswana currency and little to drink, and it was an extremely hot day. There was no shop at the border post and no town or settlement nearby.
We traveled very far to the other border post only to receive the same bad news when we arrived. This border post was literally in the middle of nowhere; apart from some chickens and a few men with machine guns there was nothing. It was so dry the ground was burned; there were a few dusty bushes and a shack, but nothing else.
Here are some pictures I took that day. They cant possibly capture the heat, the dust, the thirst and the feeling of totally depending on God to get out of that.
As we stood behind the counter and wondered what to do next, the immigration officer did a double take and called us over. He asked me who I was and explained that he had dreamt about me the previous night. In the dream, he continued, I spoke Afrikaans to him. So although I had been in South Africa for just 6 months, thinking on my feet, I quickly switched to speaking Afrikaans with him and it made him obviously very happy. (I had watched some Afrikaans TV shows just to help me learn the language). He was so happy about it that he gave me a one-year extension on the visa, which is quite an extraordinary thing on its own, and he helped us through. We just praised the Lord as we came through!
Overjoyed that we would be able to come home, we also experienced God’s provision in regards to fuel. The BMW we drove at the time gave us on average about 650 km per tank of fuel. Well, that day we drove 1,280km on one tank and unbelievably pulled into the gas station on the last fumes. Hallelujah! God is good!
“Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad” (Gen. 31:24 NIV).
This and many more testimonies of adventures with the Lord you find in our book
As 2016 comes to a close, I want to delight you with our very own South African version of the classical children’s ballet Peter and the Wolf. My 4 and 5 year olds at preschool practiced very hard to perform it for you. My own little Samuel, 4 yrs, wanted to be a cat, and Steven, 7, helped out with light effects. Enjoy and comment if you like.
Our oldest started grade 1 this year! How exciting, and how challenging at the same time.
Finding my feet and my place in the “mom collective” at our son’s school hasn’t been easy. I grew up and studied in Germany, the South African way of doing school is absolutely different from what I knew as school. Even the things 1st graders do here are different!
Plus, although I do my best mastering the Afrikaans language, it does happen that my son comes home from school with a word I have never ever heard of before. Enter social media. It is super nice to be able to quickly WhatsApp the teacher a picture of the word in question and get a prompt reply.
How wonderful to quickly be able to google the recipe and do my part to fundraise for new toys and playground equipment. I probably baked 200 of those…
As far as blogging goes, between running a preschool, teaching our churches children’s church, giving violin lessons and playing in our worship band, blogging sure takes a back seat. But I definitely daily take the time to check the news and stay current. And this can be done really, really easy using twitter.
In talking with several wonderful friends recently I found that many people do not know how to really take advantage of the social networking microblogging service.
There are gazillions of Christians out there with twitter accounts of about 36 followers, and since there is never anything cool to read, they often haven’t been on twitter for month or even years.
And of course you get those who follow 7199 people and the content on their timeline is so confusing that it would take quite long to find out what’s current and important.
Apart from the search function in twitter that lets you see the currently trending #hashtags (anything that is moving people in that moment in the country you chose to search there is another way to curate your twitter content.
You can sort accounts that have a specific contend into lists.
A list is a curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others.
That means you do not even have to follow all of the celebrities you like to stay in the loop with. Just create a list called Celebs and add anyone you are a fan of into that list. Later, if you want some celebrity news, just open that specific list.
Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the accounts on that list.
That’s how I can see all important international news at a glance without having to scroll through a thousand people’s interesting but more trivial comments first.
Here are a view examples of lists I compiled.
At the end of this blog I will teach you how to create your own lists.
If you don’t have to take the time to create a lot of lists, you could simply subscribe to already compiled lists like my NEWS list:
and so on. You are welcome to subscribe to any of my list to save you time.
As a rule of thumb, I follow people who follow me, people who have interesting content and are willing to interact. And then I list those that are too high and mighty to follow back but who are important enough to be of interest.
This way, it takes only 3 min to scan through anything newsworthy, helping this busy mom to stay in the loop!
Select a name for your list, and a short description of the list. The default setting for your list is public (anyone can subscribe to the list). To make the list only accessible to you, slide the switch next to Private to on.
To create a list on Twitter for Android:
In the top menu, you will either see a navigation menu icon or your profile icon. Tap whichever icon you have, then select Lists.
Tap the plus iconto create a new list.
Select a name for your list, and a short description of the list. The default setting for your list is public (anyone can subscribe to the list). To make the list only accessible to you, tap the checkbox next to Keep private.
I hope this helped you a little! See you on twitter!
Time to be thankful. Steven is now 6 years old and a healthy, happy boy. Do you know that we almost never had him?
In the video you see him as a healthy 3 month old baby. Which is amazing, considering the fact that he was a preemie born 7 weeks early.
With a 3 kg fibroid I was told I would have to have a hysterectomy.
We so much wanted kids. I was already 28 years old when we got married, considering that my now husband worked in South Africa and I held a job in Stuttgart, Germany, we took our time to pray about that big decision. When I hit 32 and we still had not fallen pregnant (I never used any contraception my entire life) we decided to consult a specialist.
The doctors here in South Africa saw no chance for that. We had made a 5 hour journey from rural South Africa to Pretoria to consult with fertility specialists at the Femina clinic. They were very concerned and wanted to immediately schedule a removal of my womb since I had this huge fibroid.
Taking a moment in the park at the Union buildings in Pretoria, we were very devastated at the news. But I knew God’s command to be fruitful. This couldn’t be the end of the road. Instead I felt we should immediately go to a christian book store and get something that would motivate us in this sad moment.
I picked up the book supernatural childbirth by Jackie Mize and began reading and believing. I read it out loud to my husband all the way back to Louis Trichardt. All those scripture verses about God’s promises of offspring really lifted our faith. So we tried again and within 2 month we fell pregnant.
My gynae told me not to get excited at all, she predicted the pregnancy would not go full term. At 12 weeks I began bleeding. At 14 weeks there was heavy leakage, I was hospitalized and told to terminate as there was visibly on sonar no more fluid left in the womb.
I talked to my unborn child and told Steven to hold on and promised him he would be able to swim a lot later. I prayed 2 days non stop. The doctors tried to convince me to terminate, saying his lungs and kidneys and brain might be too damaged. But of course that would be a decision that a mother cannot take. I was at peace, if this baby couldn’t hold on he would go and be with Jesus, fine. But I would fight for his life!
After 48 hrs the water had come back and a specialized gynae said she could see how there is scar tissue on my placenta where it could have been torn. At 30 weeks I went into labour, with the help of Adalat the doctors tried to stall contractions for one more week while I received steroids to strenghten babies lungs.
At 31 weeks Steven was born via C-section, 2 days later we had to go home since we couldn’t pay further medical costs. South Africa is really tough that way.
Steven was breathing and nursing perfectly and overcame a slight jaundice rather quick and today he is a happy healthy child.
I had the fibroid removed by the only doctor we could find in South Africa who would do it on a 3kg sized growth, everyone else wanted to perform a hysterectomy. 1 year later I fell pregnant and delivered a healthy baby at 38 weeks. Wow thank you Jesus!
Thanks for your interest in not only the easy and beautiful but also the trying and plain sad realities of life.
I trust that we were able to bring relief to a lot of suffering children here in South Africa and to be of encouragement to every one who is using their life to bring encouragement and add love and hope to others.
Have a great time “between the years” as we say in Germany.
PS If you are interested in learning more about my spiritual background and want to read some 60+ amazing testimonies of God’s supernatural interference in our life I recommend you get a copy of our ebook or paperback on amazon.com. This would also support us for future projects as we are always operating on a very tight budget and the needs greatly exceed the available funds – as everyone experiences who wants to make a difference! :-)))
in between moving classes and preparing for next year’s new students and publishing a new book we managed to get some Christmas activities going.
Although it’s very very hot and humid right now in South Africa and we constantly had power cuts we had fun baking German Christmas cookies and making fudge. I never made fudge before and just loved it! I simply followed the instructions of a great blogger at http://www.wineandglue.com/2014/02/mint-chocolate-fudge.html that someone had posted on facebook and voila, here is my own home made mint and chocolate fudge:
I changed the recipe slightly and crushed some dinner mints (those that moms have hand bags full of) in a plastic bag and slightly melted them then added them to the white chocolate mix. Yumm!
It is just so amazing! The dream becoming finally a printed reality, a few days before my husband’s birthday.
Lots and lots of work and more than 2 decades of full-time ministry experience in the pastoral and prophetic went into this practical handbook on how to learn to pick up the things God wants to communicate to His people. This book covers dreams, vision, angels and so much more. Just so happy it became a reality. How boring is Christianity when there is only a one-way talk happening: the church talks to God and does not know how to listen for an answer … enjoy! Available on amazon as paperback or kindle version. Yippeh!!!!
A must-have handbook on how to tune into the voice of God!
Yippeh! I am sooo happy that in between raising two young and very busy sons, pastoring a church, managing a preschool and doing various charity work, my husband and I were finally able to complete our first book together!
This book is born out of the amazing things we have experienced in our daily walk with God in a nation that has many challenges. With so much crime and no real social security, we need to hear God’s voice so much more.
God talks, wants to warn and advise and encourage you! Dreams, visions, the bible, prophetic insight popping up in your spirit when you pray, we talk about how you can fine tune into God’s voice.
This book contains more than 60 exciting stories and events in our lives where God spoke things we couldn’t possibly know through human understanding alone, and how God uses a sensitive believer to impact the lives of others. Your personal faith will be built up, we will make you rush back to your bible to see if God really does all we quote from the book of books, and you will be so motivated to listen to Him with a new expectancy of getting answers. Thanks for buying our book, you are supporting our work in Southern Africa.
Since amazon has different platforms for different nations, you are welcome to browse on your respective amazon site for our names or book title and download the book onto your kindle or kindle app from there! Look for “The Powerful Impact of a Spirit Led Life”or Andries van Heerden or Christiane van Heerden.
In the meantime we have also published a compilation of prophetic words for 2015 available here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QW3A252 check it out! Especially inspiring for South African entrepreneurs and educators.
Andries and Christiane van Heerden are senior pastors of Emmanuel Church in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, South Africa. Besides impacting their own community in areas of ministry, education and charity work they travel to nations around the globe to inspire believers to really listen to God’s voice for a more effective impact into their communities. They enjoy raising their two sons, Steven and Samuel. For more information on their church and ministry check http://www.emmanuellife.org/
So you have some time with the kids over this Easter weekend and would love to do some baking, but grandma already did the Easter egg cookies?
I have something fun for you. An edible dough to shape Easter eggs from and dip them in melted chocolate for a wonderful taste feast.
(Inspiration hit me when dipping my teaspoon in a bit of Nutella and some peanut butter and enjoying the taste together.)
If you love Reese’s peanutbutter cups, these special chocolate Easter eggs are perfect for you!
I made them yesterday with my preschool class, and everyone had a lot of fun.
The peanut butter – Nutella dough is easy to make:
To make that super elastic and delicious dough, put equal measures of peanut butter, Nutella and mini marshmallows into a plastic bowl. It renders a lot of dough, so work with 2 Tbs each in the beginning to see how far that gets you.
Microwave on high for no longer than 3 seconds. The marshmallows will crack if they are overcooked, which will give you lovely little, chewy candy pieces in the dough, but you will add and warm more marshmallows to get the softness into your dough. Take it out of the microwave, stir vigorously. Add the same amount of icing sugar as used per ingredient.
Microwave a few marshmallows for about 10 seconds if you like crispy-chewy candy pieces in your chocolate egg: immediately incorporate into the dough while still warm, they will break up and form delicious crispyness for your soft chocolate eggs.
Knead till all ingredients are incorporated beautifully and the dough is soft and supple. Add more icing sugar if needed. Process into any shape you like, coat with chocolate, yumm.
Today I went to the Magistrate Court in Sibasa delivering 40 care boxes.
The boxes contain high quality toys, stickers, activity books, snacks and a high quality fruit juice. Many children have not had breakfast when they come to testify in court and often they wait for a long period of time.
I had been talking to a friend about the plight of the children in Limpopo, with child abuse rates soaring so high. I had asked if there is anything we as a community could do to make testifying easier for victims of child abuse. After obtaining permission by the head of department, I started making of these boxes to help the children bridge the uncomfortable time at court. The boxes will be used in rural courts such as Sibasa, Waterval and Musina.
This has also come up as a topic with the Guardian Angels, our local High Schools care group, who helped me with the collection of boxes while we informed them about their own responsibility to step in and step up when they see abuse happen.
How an individual responds to unpleasant events in their life is crucial for their future.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
To assist a child and young woman or young man in overcoming the trauma of abuse is a call we all need to take up in this nation.
To end this, there are many different steps needed. We as a church are going into schools, training learners how to prevent abuse, how to interfere when you know a peer faces abuse, how to report abuse. We train parents. We try to get the community involved.
It is very important that abuse cases to go to court and the perpetrators get sentenced.
The stress is very high. A case can only be processed when the judge finds the child capable of making a statement. For that, the child must show an understanding of truth, understanding of consequences of lying. Since most children only understand tribal languages, the have to be able to communicate via a translator and intermediary.
The judge says that unfortunately often children stress so much, they tense up and refuse all communication. The case can not go to trial then.
The comfort boxes will be handed to the child by the intermediary. This will give them a positive start in their communication. The child will be more positive about the experience and also have juice and a snack. They often come to court without having had breakfast and without a lunch box. These comfort boxes cover all that.
When you live in South Africa, chances are that you are barely making it through your month.
That’s why at month end the supermarkets are overcrowded with people who received their pay and can buy some food again. I was not used to this from my former life in Germany. I now earn a fraction of what I brought home monthly in Germany. Medical costs are high – my son needed his teeth fixed and it actually cost more than what I get in a month.
As pastors of a big community church in the poorest of all SA provinces, we deal with so many crises that it sometimes seems like climbing a never ending mountain. We had to bury a lot of young people recently due to crime and traffic accidents.
Working for a church means to be the crisis center of a community. And a church in a poor community in the poorest province has very limited funds, so you end up paying a lot out of your own pocket. A new T-shirt for your child or some shoes for a needy sister? I hope some of you can relate when I write that one becomes a little hesitant to get involved in new things. I am not one of the south Africans driving around with a flashy car spending my mornings in gyms and glitzy malls. Wouldn’t mind, but there is real life happening to real people and i don’t want to play the violin while the titanic is busy sinking. I’d rather be tossing more people onto the life boats, if you know what i mean.
In Africa it goes like this: if you have once helped, you will be always responsible to help. Somehow helping creates the impression you have got a money making donkey in your backyard somewhere. We had many people who we helped, showing up again and again demanding more and more things, not understanding that my sons also must eat.
But the Lord Jesus challenges us to never close our hearts, we need to trust Him to replenish what was given.
Out of that call to love, we dared once more to go and check out people who might be in need. You know, when it comes to children, you just have to throw caution into the wind and get ready to help.
So today I have been on the road to Thohoyandou, the former capital of Venda in the Limpopo province.
Africa runs at a very different pace (hurry up and wait).
This Special Needs School has been all the time on my mind though, and after being in contact with the headmaster and some people who wanted to help, I was pushing my husband and finally today we got to go!
I want to share some impressions and pictures with you.
I pray and hope my words can reach your heart and those of some people able to support.
The school was founded under the old Afrikaans regime, a huge complex with great facilities – in theory.
It is immediately evident upon arriving at the school that the gardens are landscaped and the offices comfortable.
Apart from the front, the back buildings are starting to show signs of neglect and disrepair.
At the moment, the TSS is home to 360 visually and hearing impaired children as well as physically disabled children and children with various degrees of mental disabilities who are schooled in 3 separate complexes at the school.
The Principal, Mr. Maluma, received us sitting at his desk.
He informed us that this is a government school. The government build the school in the 1970s. The different buildings on the vast complex are big and solid. But it is obvious that for a long time no repairs have been done.
The Deputy Principle of TSS Mr. Msrabu was so kind to lead us around the school premises.
This is the main building where the staff offices are.
Please read my report carefully. It is easy to come in, judge and criticize. I really do not want to do that. I am sure the staff of such an institution is really weary of people with a camera throwing some bags of cookies around and thinking they are saving the world.
It is hard to serve at any place and not get accustomed to all the wrongs over the years so much so that you get comfortable and stop saving the world, though.
The way leading to the teaching and housing area of the visually impaired. You are looking at classrooms.
Classrooms around a courtyard.
Dorm room for 7-12 year old girls. Everything was clean except for a strong smell of urine due to the bedwetting problems of many children.
Mr. Maluma kept stressing the fact that they need waterproof mattresses.
I really wish the government would provide the funds to renovate the dorm rooms and add some cheer and deco to them.
Another dorm room.
Stairway to the first floor where there are more bedrooms. I was sad to notice the total absence of decorations.
The cafeteria for the blind.
The facilities were all very neat and clean. Although to me the bedrooms are totally drab and sad, I am aware that many learners are from backgrounds where they probably never even had a bed of their own and also not three meals a day. That is much, and it is too little at the same time.
Roof of the kitchen
The government pays the school R17 (about 2 USD) per child per day for food. The parents pay a fee of 1400 ZAR, about 160 USD, per year as a school fee.
As I said it is a government school, the principal and staff are paid by the government. There is no extra initiative to repair the school and purchase any extras out of the private pocket. The government seems to have no funding available to upgrade the cafeteria. The chairs and tables are so worn. I pray we will meet somebody with enough funds and a hart to change this!
The library and resource room. The materials where basically 20 years old or older.
Kids are between grade K (in South Africa it is called grade R) and grade 7.
The severity of their disability differs greatly.
A great number of Albino children (lacking normal pigmentation) whose eyesight is usually seriously impaired, often up to 80%, but who are otherwise fine, are in these special needs classes. To me it was astonishing that they were not wearing any glasses. I do not know enough of the customs in their villages to be able to judge if they are actually better off at this school. I personally felt that the environment in the classrooms was careless and unengaged.
The children were definitely bored as this was not the appropriate place of schooling for those with Albinism.
The classrooms lack teaching materials especially for the little ones.
The kids live at the school but do not have any personal belongings. There are no decorations and also no special materials to teach blind kids. In most classrooms the children were asleep on their desks.
There were Braille typewriters in the class but the teacher said she does not know how to use them.
These typewriters are the only way that blind children can write.
The manager had never heard of Braille and was amazed when I showed him that you can type dots that form an alphabet.
The teachers said it is too difficult for her, she is new. She has been working there since 2010.
I see the effort in teachign the children academic skills. It would be nice if some fun franchises such as Kindermusik could be sponsored to come in and support the teachers.
I noticed that there was only one crafts class, all other craft classes such as sewing and wood work were closed down, although they could produce toys and the likes for the school. I hope the leadership will realize again that fundraising can and must come from within the school, and the nearby tourism due to the proximity of the Kruger National park would provide a great source of income if for example woodwork was to be sold.
Another challenge I noticed is that severely mentally ill children where together with learners who were only hearing impaired and obviously frustrated with the little education they were receiving.
Although the school is only up to grade 7, learners are often 20 years of age when they finish school due to the fact that up to the time they get to this school, they have not been given any education at all. Hearing impaired children have not learned to communicate even the simplest terms in sign language before. The teachers have to do a lot of hard ground work and are in over their heads.
These teens were all desperate for a hug and some praise for their samplers of their work.
One teacher, asked about the stimulation the children are receiving in the afternoons, told us they are only roaming about. No toys, no activities. I want to bring toys for each child, but I am told that the teachers are afraid that this will cause strive amongst the children. I understand that problem.
I can make simple Montessori-type teaching aids by myself for these children. I will try to get our people to help me purchase the materials needed to make those teaching aids myself.
But I would really need you to ask for some sponsors for waterproof mattresses, and anything else you can think of as well.
There is no visible application of modern educational materials. The teachers need to be taught to use computer programmes to teach vocabulary to the hearing impaired children.
This is a government school. But the braille typewriters stand unused because teachers are not knowledgeable about their use.
There is a computer room with about 16 computers in it and I am told the deaf children can never learn to operate a computer.
When I mention that there are loads of educational games available for cheap or even free online (like for example sorting a picture to match a word), the teachers in the class who are on their cell phones and the manager as well say they hear that for the first time.
Who can support us to be involved in helping??? It’s not just material needs. The children are sleeping their formative years away. So much could be done.
The kids were desperate for a hug and an appreciative word.
This little blind girl touched my heart with her beautiful song about the love of Jesus she was singing for us. I so hope to have the time soon again to go again and show the teachers how to use teaching aids.
What I can not do is to buy 360 standard mattresses with plastic covering.
The sad thing is that my skin colour is always putting me in the box of “rich and responsible for everything”. Which is not true – I had to even borrow a car to go there.
The classroom with a teacher I really enjoyed. She was trying to do the best for her grade 1 learners with whatever materials she had.
The teacher urgently needs some toys and learning materials. All she has are some plastic toys in two plastic buckets.
I can rally my friends to help get 360 stuffed toys so the kids do not have to sleep alone on a cold room.
I can make teaching aids.
I can get books and building blocks.
I can try to inspire the teachers to re-open the workshops so that students can produce goods to the benefit of all. (toys can be self made as well).
Because my husband and I are from two different continents, my family does a whole lot of traveling. In fact, before we were married, right after we got engaged in Durban, South Africa, I found myself standing in the Berlin airport watching people kiss loved ones good bye, realizing: That will be my life from now on. There will always be somebody left behind. A sharp sting burned my heart when I thought that this will be the life I will be dragging my yet-unborn children into. Always having to say good bye for a real long time to either set of cousins and grandparents, and having to stretch to accommodate two different continents …
Right there and then I decided I will give my everything to make this a bonus in my kids life rather than a burden. No matter how much it hurts me to leave everything that I love behind, I will get my kids excited about all the different wonderful things in their lives.
But once a year we are trying to make up for that and have them dive into their German heritage, full package. Musicals, History, Arts, friends, family, food, the full Monty. And while in Africa, we focus on doing and enjoying all things south African: The vast landscapes, the game, the wild, the roughness of freedom, hospitality, food, family …
I am telling you, to recycle ALL your waste into 5 different bins and to take EVERY SINGLe bottle you ever buy back into the store for refund can be tideous.
Anyway, before you get to expose your little ones to the wonders of exotic destinations such as Landshut, Bavaria, you got to face often long and exhausting journeys.
Here’s my little cents of advise from the experience of so far 18 take offs (this includes in land flights and connection flights of course) with toddlers …
First things first.
Before you fly, check in online to reserve your seats in the “baby isle” (where nobody sits in front of you) on the airplane and book child meals.
You need to really talk this through with daddy BEFORE the big day. Because we can not afford business class or direct flights, but have to stop over in Dubai, the flight day is even harder and longer. So really, make a plan beforehand and stick to it.
We usually agree Mama is sitting in the isle seat, and is responsible for all the potty breaks, nappy changes etc on flight, simply because I am smaller than daddy and manage to fit WITH a child into the tiny airplane bathrooms. I will also take the kids for little walks inside of the plane. Dad will enjoy a movie or two and help me with the feeding of the lot. Your under 2year old will most likely not have her own seat – this means, worst case, 14 hours with a toddler on your lap… but not necessarily so. More about that later. But this is why you need to have a night or 2 of sound sleep before and after the flight day.
Because I know I will be on major duty during the flight, I don’t even plan on reading or watching anything. But I do get to sleep through the night before, as daddy is taking both kids for that night. Fair deal, in my eyes as daddy also handles the passports and luggage and I can focus on keeping the kids happy.
Whatever you prefer, it’s really good to have an agreement beforehand. During the whole travel, it is not a good idea to be discussing who should hold on to the boarding passes or why is dad nodding off to sleep while you have to handle a sudden running tummy and find yourself in the “lavatories” every 30 minutes with a screaming baby. Nope, agree, and then switch on the “autopilot” and do your thing. Rest once you arrived! I am so much more relaxed when I don’t have to discuss who does what while we’re at it.
I was asked recently by a first-time flyer what kind of things one should pack for the flight to keep the kids happy. Please trust me, less is more. Pack in a way that enables you to check in as much luggage as possible. We normally check in all our hand-luggage trolleys as well, so that my husband and I each have only one reasonable sized backpack to carry and our hands are free for the children. As much as you’d like your kids to bring their own little pack, remember – you’ll have to look after every item of luggage. It’s easier if they have just themselves to carry. Mine are 4 and 1 year old and I believe once they’re a little older it will be neat for them to carry some backpack, but right now I prefer traveling “clutter-free”.
Remember, from the security check to the gate and even from the gate to your plane are often long ways. You might have to carry tired kids. There might be stairs. You do not want to have nappy bags, hand bags, shopping bags etc dangling from your wrists while you try to catch the kids. 2 backpacks. Nothing more. Feel the freedom.
In my hubbys backpack are his man-things, a book, tablet, chargers, camera, tickets etc etc. In my backpack are extra clothes for each child, plus basic toiletries and nappies (diapers). no, I will not have a diaperbag at my feet during flight. Remember, you have to stow ever loose item overhead during take off, landing and turbulences. I do not feel like doing in-flight gymnastics. Rather, I have a slim zipper pouch holding 6 nappies, a tube of bum cream, a travel size pack of wet wipes (two others are in the backpack), moisturizer and hand sanitizer. This pouch fits neatly in the magazine pouch in front of my seat. Two bottles, one with milk and one with tea, also fit into the pouch in front of my husband’s seat. the pouch in front of my son holds his drinking bottle. That’s it. Sorted. Stays there even during turbulences. I don’t have to rummage through the overhead compartment for anything except if baby’s tummy really gets runny and I need to refill on diapers. Okay, if baby is under 12 month and doesn’t drink cows milk yet (which you get from the stewardess once your initial supply of formula is used up) you little formula container will also fit in front of you. I prefer to not have to look for a lot of things when we get off the plane.
Such a zip pouch you can easily get when you buy a gift pack of toiletries etc. Perfect for baby things. Small enough for a baby change tango in the tiny cabin loo.
Refill in water you get anytime on board, so don’t worry about that.
Remember, if you bring pens and a coloring book, the pens WILL roll off the table and you’ll have to go crawling in a search mission. the same goes for superman, and other favorite small toys the kids might want to bring. Loose them in-flight and you are in for terror! Mama, practice your finger games, funny songs, rhymes and stories beforehand. You are the main source of entertainment now.
Also, make sure you greet the flight attendants very friendly right from the start and point them out to your children. My boys will get all excited saying: Hey mom, look at the beautiful princess! (Emirates Airways – great outfits) Of course the “princess” will stop by later with some extra goodies for the kids.
Also, having the flight attendants on your side right from the start will help you with the extra seat for baby you bargained for when booking “baby isle”. Most likely at check-in you discussed it with the lady at the counter, too – a free seat next to you. Often, flights are overbooked and there will still be somebody sitting next to you when you board the plane, no matter how you tried to sweet talk the person at the airline counter. Do not panic.
A person in single free seat next to you in the baby isle is most likely traveling alone and wont mind moving to another open seat elsewhere in the plane after the plane took off. Especially after you and your husband had a lively discussion on how you hope the kids wont throw up again after the airplane meal … you get the picture. Having a flight attendant on your side helps, as she will kindly ask the single traveler if he minds moving to another open seat and she’ll even help him with his luggage. Done, free seat secure. Mind you, I had to travel twice for 8 hours with Sam on my lap. It is manageable, if your relax about it.
Today’s airplanes provide each passenger with his own screen. Perfect. For your toddlers – relax if you’ve been limiting their screen time. This is not the time to get all educational conscious. this is the time to focus on peace. Do not choose a Disney movie for your little ones, as they wont hold a 2 year olds attention for long. Go to the “TV-Series” options and check whether CTV (stands for Children’s TV) is available. My best bet is CeeBeebies, the BBC’s children’s channel. They have a nice compilation of favorite 10 min episodes. My baby’s hooked. Disney Junior will do as well. Stay clear of Cartoon network and the likes. Makes them all edgy.
You know about the bottle during take off and landing. Get ready for the need to pee soon after, of course. But again, I am entering the plane knowing I will be walking to the loo with one of the two kids more than sitting down and relaxing. So it’s no biggie. I also take the child that’s bored the most on little exploration tours through the economy part of the plane. Next to the emergency exit are little windows through which we can see “the whole world”. How amazing, every time.
The flight attendants will usually bring the child meal before your meal, so you have enough time to assist your kids with their eating. The plate Steven gets is more than enough for him and his brother. They will also bring toys for the kids, and even some coloring books and pencils. You see, there was no need for you to bring your chest of wonders from home. If you’re the cranky passenger, there will be the one set of complimentary toys for your older child and you will hear: Sorry, it’s only for the paying child. When you’ve made the flight attendants your ally from the start, there will be, miraculously, another set of toys and gifts for your baby as well, and a back pack, and extra chocolate … you get the picture. It’s worth a try. If your baby has a bad day, it is hard on your flight attendant as well, because she needs to make sure ALL passengers are comfortable. So try to show appreciation.
The complimentary on board magazines have a lot of “strange” photos in them to keep baby entertained for a bit as well.
O yes, and, very important, have one nice and thick empty plastic bag handy, folded away neatly in the seat in front of you. I tell you why:
Mealtimes often last an excruciating long time on board. It literally takes over an hour before the tray with lots of flimsy little containers on a flimsy little table in front of you is removed by the hard working crew. Not good with rambunctious toddlers who need to jump on their seats and definitely will want to go pipi twice while you both are stuck with that tray. Enter the plastic bag. You drink that tiny sip of a juice you were provided with, finish any open container or put a lid on, unfold your bag into which you elegantly slide one tray on top of the other, place it on your seat, get out with the kids to attend their needs (no waiting time at the lavatories because everybody else is “stuck”), go back, sit down and slide the tray out again and continue your meal as if nothing happened. Easy peasy. Helps every time.
Later you can use the bag to scoop up all the little favours you received, and put your nappy pouch back into the backpack, slide the bottles into the backpacks sides and you’re good to leave the plane, no mess, no clutter, no panic.
Especially if you have to stop over somewhere it is a big advantage to not have too much luggage to look after. There is always another security check, passport control etc. Yes, it is good to prepare, but unless you are going somewhere 3rd world (with little kids? Not a good idea) remember that you can purchase almost everything in an airport.
Dubai airport has little strollers available which is excellent, because both kids can sit down and rest while we find our way to the connecting flight. We had to stay from 8pm to 4 am at the airport.
We found ourself the quietest of all restaurants, Tapas Authentic Tapas Bar located near Gate B26 offering delicious Spanish tapas in a very comfy setting. We put the kids on the soft couches and enjoyed the little portions of Spanish starters and just had a good time. If we had waited at our gate or in the overcrowded main restaurants, it would have been really exhausting.