Greetings from Mariannridge!

Sanibonani or Sanibona as many people say in slang meaning Hi everyone!

So we are the Mariannridge team, and although we have been very delayed in giving everyone an update on how we are doing, I am currently using a very unstable wifi connection so please bear with us.

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So, I think the team and I can gladly say that for the 4 weeks we have completed so far, Mariannridge has certainly captured our hearts and made us feel like we are part of their community and that Mariannridge is a part of us. From the day we arrived, we were introduced to Uncle Ralph who is the co-ordinator of Church Alliance for Social Transformation – C.A.S.T. and runs the Ridge Café, which has turned into our meeting place and where we always start our day.

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—  By the way, we realise that in African tradition, anyone older than you is referred to as either Aunty or Uncle and if they are really old, are normally referred to as Ouma which is Afrikaans for Grandma.—

The next few days we spent getting to know the township in which we will be spending most if not all of our time. So we were treated to a grand tour of the local residency, nicknamed ‘F-Section’, located moments away from our meeting place. We very quickly found that it contained many drunks, drug users, overcrowding and is also where Barney and Jabu stay. Good luck guys! We also got to know that it is the essence of Mariannridge and we found that residing in the middle of it meant that we can really understand what it means to live in “the Ghettos” which in Zulu is called “Asinamali” — direct translation: “We don’t have money”!!!

So a typical day consists of:

Morning worship and devotion with the team and whoever wants to join, from 8-9am at the ridge Cafe which is where we spend most of our time. Then we have a morning meeting to plan our day and also discuss our ideas. We often meet with Jenny who is the Mariannridge Coordinating Committee (MCC) coordinator and she gives us a complete run down of the things we can and cannot do. Thank God for her as she has been working for MCC for the past 9 years and despite the setbacks and disappointments from failed projects, she still has hope and encourages us, giving us ideas of what we can do. This usually runs from 9-10am.

At 10:05am, Nomvelo and I coach the high school Netball team who are currently preparing to play a match against another school. I felt that the current coach needed some encouragement in commanding the children to play better and listen to her but she seems to often have an excuse as to why she cannot attend the practice.

Then from 10:30 we run a literacy programme for grade 3 learners who are slightly behind than their peers in their reading abilities. The purpose is to encourage grade 3’s to read confidently and practice reading comprehension. Between, Barney, myself and Tebogo, we have two classes each who read to us for 30 minutes and then return to their classes. We play games with them to do with reading and try to make it fun. We noticed that there is a wide range of abilities in one class which gives a good indication as to why the teachers find it difficult to engage the entire class.

Then at 12:00, we break for lunch. Then the day’s vary from this point depending on where each day takes us. Sometimes we spend the afternoon just bonding with the local community members, be it playing snooker, going swimming in the local swimming pool, or hanging out at the pastor’s house to take advantage of the wifi connection!

In our second week, the buzz around town was certainly to do with the xenophobic attacks happening just a few miles from us. So we were able to visit a refugee camp in Chatsworth, a neighbouring town which was one of the biggest refugee camps in Durban. At its highest capacity the number of refugees reached just under 3000 people including children. It was by far the most emotional and heart breaking moment of our placement and we were all moved at the sheer size of the people who had been displaced from their homes and could not go to work or open their shops as they feared for their lives. We volunteered along with other community workers in the area, religious organizations and local churches to distribute out lunch for all the xenophobic victims. It was a challenge but it was also eye opening in that we were face to face with real life victims experiencing real life issues.

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Prayer requests are:

-Thank God for the safe arrival of all the teams in their designated placements.

-That God continues to lead us in where the needs are and how we can make the best impact in the community that we are working in.

-That we are able to build a good relationship with the teachers in the schools and encourage and motivate them in their jobs.

-That the team continues to bond with each other and no problems or illnesses come our way. (we are all fine so far)

-That we all settle well in our host families and maintain a good relationship with them throughout.

Keep checking for more updates on how we are doing and progressing.

Thank you for all your support and prayers for us. We are feeling very blessed to be here and that everything is going well so far. God Bless!

Gayle