Footprinter report: Tim Hibbin: July & August Newsletter

YfC Volunteers

 

 The last two months have been a bit of a crazy roller coaster; there have been good times, bad times, and even a few alarming times. I’ve been getting myself into more of a weekly routine by working with the Outreach team who work with the children and young people who live on the streets.

The Outreach team is where most of my focus will be while I stay in South Africa, along with working at the boys shelter once or twice a week. I have started my training with YfC which is aimed mainly at the South African interns that YfC give jobs to. So for me it can get very tedious at times as it’s learning about very easy things like report writing, how to write E-mails, and being professional in the work place; things that the interns know very little about.

I have also been away on two trips over the last to months; one trip was with the regional director of YfC, and her family, to a place called Drakensburg which is sited in some mountains – It was an amazing weekend, and although it was action packed (filming the sunrise, hiking into the mountains, taking photos of the stars at night, etc) it was a well deserved break away from our work environment.

The second trip was to a place called L’abri which was a type of team building week away. There were a lot of activities and team building exercises we had to do, including hiking into another mountain. For me this week away was a bit of a challenge as I had came down with the flu a couple of days before we had gone away so for this week away I was not feeling up to a lot of the activities and was, on occasion, a bit grumpy (to say the least!). I was, however, able to join in by taking photos, and join in smaller activities that were going on.

As I mentioned earlier, during my time here in South Africa, I will be focussing on working with the Outreach team. The Outreach team go out on the streets of Pietermaritzburg and meet the children and young people in the places that they stay and hang out; so that we can show them love and care, and hope that they make the decision to come and stay in one of the shelters. These young people are usually found down the sides of streets, under bridges, on open fields, in makeshift houses, or as they beg to on going traffic on the roads, usually ranging from about 8 years-old to 18+. As you can imagine most of the children, young people, and even adults, I come into contact with will be high on drugs, drunk, or even both. This can then cause problems for us being out on the streets with the them.

I have had a few situations over the last couple of months where there have been knives pulled out on us, threats have been made towards us, and I have even seen a couple of the children on the street almost being stabbed or attacked too. One example of one situation I was involved in last month was one of the older boys pulled out a knife in a fight with a younger street kid, and as my supervisor broke the fight up, he older boy then turned the knife to us as we broke the fight up.

It didn’t really help that he also has a disliking for “mlungu” (white people or people from over sea), and as I was the only “mlungu” there I got most of the stick, along with the knife being pointed in my direction a good few times (that was exciting!). Luckily, we were playing tennis with some of the children that day, and I was holding on to one of the rackets.

So all I could think about, as I was having this knife pointed in my direction, was how I could use the racket in self defence! But I didn’t need to worry about that, as we were all able to stay safe, and talk the older boy into calming down and putting his knife away. I was able to stay real calm in the situation too, as most of what was going on was spoken in Zulu so I didn’t get what was going on until afterwards when someone was able to translate for me what was actually being said.

As the Outreach team, most of our efforts will be towards getting the street kids to attend one of the shelters so they can clean up their lifestyles. We try our best to communicate with the kids, and build relationships with them so that they know they can trust us, and even though at times it does have its challenging moments, as you can probably tell, it is still totally worth going out on to the streets and working with these kids.

Some of you may be wondering happens if the street children want to come to the shelter, and the best way that I can describe it is that it’s like the film “The Green Mile” with Tom Hanks, where a prisoner has to walk the green mile but in the case of the street children they have to walk the distance to safety and shelter. So it’s not exactly like The Green Mile, but hopefully you can see what I mean!? Getting the street kids to do this is YfC’s way of seeing that they are committed and dedicated to staying at a shelter. YfC also have a team of social workers that work in, and around the communities of PMB. The social workers will then go to places like Masukwana and Swapo (that I mentioned in my last Newsletter) and also other communities too. They will then do home visits around these communities, meeting children that might be in need of being taken out their home as it will be safer for them to be in the shelter. They will then help the families, and put the children in the shelters for a temporary period of time; this could be anything from a week to a year, maybe longer in some very difficult situations too.

I have also experienced new children come into the boys shelter, and also then doing the opposite and absconding from the shelter. We had one boy come to the boys shelter this month, from off the streets, and although he looked like he was 9 years-old, he turned out to be 14 years-old.

He looked like this for a couple of reasons: 1) was because he was living on the streets and was underfed and malnourished, and, 2) was because he was a glue addict. But when we told him he wasn’t allowed to have glue at the shelter he freely gave it up.

Unfortunately, this boy then absconded a couple of days later for reasons unknown but probably because he preferred the street lifestyle rather than having a structure to his day, and being told what to do. Another boy, who moved into the shelter at a similar time to when I arrived here, also absconded at the beginning of last month.

This was a very challenging situation for me as I was able to gain a really good relationship with this boy; we were able to chat, play, take him to our churches summer club, and then to church on the Sunday of that week too. So to find out that he had run away from the shelter was a difficult thing for me to discover.

We also had one challenging day at the boys shelter this month where we found out that one of our boys was supposedly carrying around two knives in his school bag. One problem with this was that we didn’t know if it was two kitchen butter knives, or if it was more like two machete type of knives.

We had to come up with a plan of action so that we could search for these knives, but also by making it not obvious that we were just looking in this one boys bag who we had got told about. So once all the boys came back from school we got all of them to put their bags in the uncles room, and then they were to go and get on with washing and cleaning.

There were two knives found, and unfortunately it was more like two machete style knives. We then had to pass this on to the social workers as they would then talk to the boy about this. I am also planning on talking to this boy as I have a good relationship with him, and hope that I can mentor him in some sort of way.

In the last couple of months I have been able to settle down into a church called, Cornerstone. It’s an English speaking church, which is nice as I can escape from the Zulu language for just a small while, and they serve nice coffee at the end of the service too! It’s a very friendly and inviting church where I have also been able to gain some really good relationships with a few people in the church. I have been able to attended their worship jam nights, where they all instantly fell in love with my drumming abilities, and asked me to join their worship team (which is great!) and I have also been able to get involved in a small group that is connected to the church that occurs every other week. It’s a great space to talk about God and study the Bible, and to talk about any challenges that may have occurred, and then to pray about it.

 

As you can probably tell this month has had many ups and downs. Through all this I have also been able to gain some very strong relationship with the people I work with, and the children and young people that I am in contact with.

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