It is a beautiful spring day in South Africa. There is a slight breeze in the air and we can hear the children at our primary school practicing for tomorrow’s big choir performance. At the clinic there is a buzz of activity as the doctors and health workers see to the crowd of patients – the sickest of the sick in Missionvale and surrounding areas. The vegetable gardens are taking a bit of strain due to the lack of rain, but our gardeners persevere day by day. In front of the clothing warehouse, waiting patiently in an orderly queue are families collecting their clothing parcels – one family lost everything when their home burnt down last week. Outside the Nutrition Unit, there is a large crowd, nearly 1000 people today. In exchange for items of food, everyone brings items to be recycled. This preserves a sense of dignity as they know they are not getting a hand-out. A well run distribution system is in place and the elderly, frail and disabled are served first.
Although your Global Giving contributions are allocated specifically to the Nutrition Unit, it is linked to all the other areas of our care centre. Without nutrition the children cannot learn. Medication on an empty stomach is of no value.
It is therefore with deep gratitude that we thank you again for your contribution to this particular part of the Centre. We hope that you take comfort in knowing that it is making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. Your continued belief in our mission is deeply treasured by all of us in Missionvale.
It is with gratitude and excitement that I am writing to you today to give you an update on our Nutrition programme which you are making possible for us through your contributions!
As you are aware, the food parcels are distributed to those most vulnerable in the community. Every day they arrive and wait patiently for their turn to receive this life giving food. We are always looking for ways of improving services to the community and thought of ways we can better occupy their time while they are in the queue waiting.
This has led to the start of the “Gogo Club”. (“Gogo” is a loving term used to describe a granny.) We have discovered great talents in the elderly ladies from Missionvale! Armed with knitting needles and some wool, they now keep busy making the most beautiful items including scarves, headbands, gloves and beanies – even handbags! It is amazing to see their creations and they are so enjoying having something to do while they wait!
This is incredibly special to us to see as many of these ladies were so weak before they came onto our Nutrition Programme, that they would definitely not have been able to do anything like this before. Seeing the difference in them makes us realise again how much of an impact your generous contributions make in this special community. So on behalf of all the people in Missionvale, and especially the gogo’s, thank you for continuing to believe in us. Your support means everything.
This postcard is written by Chi Nguyen, our In-The-Field Representative who will be traveling to the nine countries of Southern Africa to meet and work with our partner organizations.
On Monday, March 17th, I was privileged to meet Linda van Oudheusden who gave me a grand tour of Missionvale Care Centre and all of its accomplishments thus far - and a grand tour it was! Missionvale Care Centre, 26 years and running, now has quite a few impressive achievements to tout, such as two health clinics on the grounds, an assembly hall for HIV/AIDS support groups as well as community events and recreational activities, a farming project, and a sizable food program for the local impoverished community, just to name a few.
Student volunteers from America were in the kitchen, busily packing food parcels of sugar, tuna, beans, tea packets, and more as rows and rows of people sat in line for their food parcels just outside. Linda and the founder of Missionvale Care Centre, Sister Ethel, tell me that their biggest challenge is to get donors to believe that food parcels are a necessary component of the program as a whole. They say that too often, donors believe that food parcels are handouts rather than a hand up, wanting instead to donate to education, HIV/AIDS medication, or the provision of life skills, but Linda and Sister Ethel reason: how can one learn and progress if one does not have enough food to first survive?
Sister Ethel shares a story close to her heart, telling me that years ago, before the food program had started, a member of the community with HIV/AIDS came to Sister Ethel and told her how sick she was feeling. Sister Ethel pleaded with her to take her medications, but she said she couldn't, that the medication made her feel sick. Sister Ethel pleaded and pleaded, but the community member said that she couldn't, that the medication only made her feel worse. She eventually passed away.
Sister Ethel was determined to live a few days in this woman's shoes. She began taking the medication herself, on an empty stomach, to figure out what went wrong. She then become violently ill herself, incapable of functioning in her normal daily activities. She then knew that she had to start a food program.
The food parcel gives the families in community the energy to grow, learn, thrive, and contribute to the community. The mothers can now tend after their children, the children can now focus in school, the women and men can now contribute to the farming projects in the community. The food program is a crucial piece in the structure of Missionvale Care Centre, and is a dynamic demonstration of the fact that one must be well before one is capable of doing well.
GLOBAL GIVING REPORT FEBRUARY 2014
This being February, we are sure you are inundated with messages of love! For us in Missionvale, love has so many different faces. It is in the sense of community, (Ubuntu as we call it). It is the love between mother and child. It is the love we have for the people we serve and the love they give us so freely in return. At Missionvale Care Centre, we express that love through practical means: education, nutrition, skills development, health care.
Through your incredible generosity, and your continued belief in us, we certainly feel extremely loved! We have just received the funding from the last quarter and we are absolutely blown away by your kindness, especially during the Christmas period! With the funding received from the last quarter alone we are able to purchase 781 food parcels! We are hugely grateful to each of you for making this possible for us.
Any nutrition project is exceptionally difficult to fundraise for. Like air, it is something that is often taken for granted – until you run out! The harsh realities of malnutrition and starvation are with us every day, and yet, it is difficult to imagine that such things are still happening in South Africa in 2014! All of our friends through Global Giving may live far away, but through your contributions you are close to our hearts and close to our mission of finding sustainable solutions for these problems.
So it is with deep gratitude, and a massive virtual hug that we say
Every year seems to go by faster and faster! Here we are in November, finishing off the work for the year and planning activities for 2014 already!
As I am writing, the Missionvale Care Centre is buzzing with activity around me and in the township we are starting to see massive transformation taking place! For the first time ever, houses are being built in Missionvale and in front of our eyes we see the Missionvale landscape changing. Dilapidated tin shacks are making room for small, but sturdy homes. We are thrilled to see this transformation! Our hope is that the new homes will bring a sense of pride and dignity to this forgotten community, and that their lives will be made a little more comfortable.
At the moment there is still no water connection to any of the homes and the community are still relying on one of the 16 communal taps for their daily water needs. And although bricks are replacing rusty tin walls, their situation essentially remains unchanged. The unemployment rate remains the same. The level of education remainsthe same. The challenge of ending the vicious cycle of poverty and despair is just as hard as before.
In my last report I mentioned the increasing cost of fuel, food and electricity. This has impacted the hardest on this community and every day we are inundated with requests for assistance. The need is far greater than what we are able to assist with.
We are only making a small difference in an area of huge need, but that difference would not be possible without your support. It is your belief in us and your kindness and generosity that has kept us going. Without it, we would not exist. We can never find enough words to thank you for all you have done for us during 2013. Our hope isthat you will be blessed this festive season and continue to be a blessing to others in 2014.
With love and gratitude from all of us in Missionvale, South Africa
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