March 24, 2021
A Shared Purpose
March 24, 2021
By Dr. Carolyn Hancock, Chairperson of Thembelihle School and Angels’ Care Centre (South Africa)
As I reflect on 2020 and the challenges and devastation it has brought to people globally, I am reminded very clearly of the time when it all began – when many thought it would be over in a matter of weeks. Almost a year later, here in South Africa we are sure to face many years of suffering and deprivation that can only be overcome through immense courage and faith.
I remember so clearly meeting with the Angels’ Care team towards the beginning of March 2020 as we were soon to enter lockdown and brainstorming “what we could do” to remain a constant shining light in the lives of our precious children. We decided the best place to start was with their basic needs; nutrition and health care.
Our lockdown was extremely inflexible and all schools, businesses and community centres were closed at very short notice. Angels Care Centre was allowed to remain open only to assist child victims of sexual assault but we were not to continue with anything else, including feeding. The children “retreated” into the settlement and were not allowed to leave for anything, even to collect food supplies or to receive medical attention. This was reserved for adults only.
At that time, we clearly were at a crossroads and for us there was only one route to take. Simply leaving the children neglected and alone in the settlement was not fathomable as we knew they had no access to water and sanitation and were not able to social distance due to up to 10 people inhabiting a dwelling made from wood, and plastic. Consequently, a relentless dialogue between every form of government official began, with one after another coming to tell us we were breaking the law and must stop helping the children.
In desperation, after being told more than once that if the children starved to death whilst locked away, then that was a sad reality of our circumstances, I took a high level group of officials into the settlement one rainy day. The ladies arrived in their high-heeled shoes and fancy motor vehicles. After quietly praying for patience, courage and resilience, I turned a blind eye to them battling to make their way through the endless mud to where we had a seemingly never ending line of children waiting to be fed. They witnessed first-hand what appalling circumstances our staff were prepared to work under in order to ensure the wellbeing of our precious children. After a short while the one lady began to cry and beg God for forgiveness of her ignorance – and so, as they say, the rest is history. For week after week, month after month, our team was there for hundreds of children EVERY day.
What strikes me most as I think back was how whilst they needed and appreciated the food, even more importantly the children needed to know that they were loved, that someone cared and took the time to show them compassion, they needed to know that they were not alone. I re-learned how a simple smile and a quick, “stolen hug” could go a long way to brightening a child’s day, perhaps even their week!
In return, something equally amazing happened as our team grew closer together and we all felt the true joy of giving and loving unconditionally, just as God intended. Through our joint faith that we would prevail, to date we have distributed approximately 65,000 daily food parcels to children in the Shiyabazali Informal Settlement. We have also consistently supported 115 families through the provision of weekly food parcels which now total 6,200. Our professional team has further provided crisis care and support to 170 child victims of sexual abuse and trama.
Will we now give in to fear with the current vaccines available not being effective against a new strain of the virus in our country, will we stop helping the children now as we all grow increasingly weary? Definitely not! We each know WHY we get up every morning and carry on. It is because we have the most incredible shared purpose – our children, our future!