Maggie Cox – Emmanuel – letters home

By Nigel Pegler. Filed in project news  |  
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Week 1
 Hi All! It has taken me this long to find the computer, now at an internet cafe 15 mins walk from Hotel at a millionth of the hotel price!
Every thing going well so far. The project does various things, including feeding a number of orphans and vulnerable children from the locality.

 At present there is funding for 90 each day but on Friday we fed 253 from the pots of chicken rice and carrots. So we have to prove that is not enough cash. Each child brings along his own container, maybe an old marg tub or raddled old bowl and they line up at the kitchen door. The kitchen does not have a sink or running water at the mo, but hope it will be done by the time we leave. We hit upon the idea of collecting the dishes 10 at a time and that way keep track of the numbers. They are not served if the dishes are not clean, so are sent away to the tap in the yard. Then they toddle off to eat with fingers in a shady spot, or sometimes set off home. Some are so tiny that they should not be out alone, and very few say thank you either, so I dished out and said thank you myself. Maybe…
The home visits I did on Thursday were very hard, and I was shocked, even if I thought I knew what to expect. The carers are a bit casual about writing up the records and filing them in, in fact one or them took the day’s notes home with her on Friday and we won`t see them again until Tuesday ! (Monday is a bank holiday here)
Yesterday, free day, and we were taken on safari in a 4×4, then supper in a thatched hut (Large) with wood fires. Then home in the dark through the reserve again to see lions licking their lips by the track. Earlier we saw Rhino, hippos, a huge tortoise, and giraffes all in the space of about 5 hours, and the lions, 2 groups lying around in the sun ! Lots of smaller game, too. No elephants or leopards.
The 32 crèche children are housed in a wooden shed about 10x 12 feet, and only leave it to trot across the yard to the loo. I am stealthily trying to discover whether this is a South African ” thing”, lack of imagination, or a way of “keeping the lid on” as there are only 2 staff to look after them. To be fair, I have not heard a single cry in 2 days there, and they don’t fight, either. While I don’t want to stir it, I have paper to make aeroplanes, some old undarned sock of David’s rolled into “balls” for outside games so it would be good if we could manage this when my feet are more firmly under the table.
On Wednesday night I had met up with Peter, my friend’s son who has been driving his Landover alone, Cairo to Cape . We had a drink and supper together and I heard on Friday that he had reached the Cape. Congratulations to him.
Just a quick one – the language here is Xhosa, lots of clicks and clonks. If you want to watch YouTube Xhosa tongue twister lesson South Africa very cool  you will see what we are up against… Nelson is one of our hosts here. Most people speak English, tho.
Love to you all and I will try to pick up messages more regularly now I have found a way!
Mags

 

 

 

Week 2
Hello every one!
Thanks to all for encouragement – much appreciated. Time is flying by now, and after a long weekend, back to work on Tuesday. I have been out again with the carers, making home visits a la Marie Curie (not) – no doctor or D.N to liaise with and no equipment either. We bathed a “skinny old chap who has had a stroke”(carers quote) who turned out to be 17 years younger than me. No flannel to be found in the house, so we managed by using the corner of the towel that we also used to dry him. Not a word from him, but lots of smiles and we left him sitting in the open door of his house, rolling a fag. The township is a real eye opener – hot dusty almost treeless roads and masses of litter which, as you can imagine, upsets me ! Everyone is friendly, and greets me as Mama – a sign of respect! There are a lot of people (men, mostly,) hanging around in whatever shade they can find. Unemployment apparently 75 %, but there is always washing hanging on the line, so the girls keep busy. I have visited several houses where granny is bringing up orphaned children, but no child headed households to date.
A magical thing happened quite spontaneously today. When the children turned up for their food at lunchtime it was not ready, so the general dogsbody, a skinny 17 yr old boy with an angelic smile, fixed up his Yamaha organ thing and the children, over 200 of them, sat in perfect order and sang along and clapped until it was time to dish up. I always save my surplus sandwiches for Voyu – I think he needs them most – and today he had the pillow chocolate and bar of soap from my room.
Great fun was had with the bubbles I brought from home and there was a repeat request for more yesterday. The tinies are turned out of their shed for a few minutes at lunchtime while the floor is swept and I pounce then to do something outside with them David’s old socks, rolled into balls were on the menu today.
But the REAL issue at the moment is the upcoming World Cup. Everyone is desperately anxious about child kidnap etc, so the project is being asked to push the message. Add this to the ongoing ones about healthy diets, safe sex, exercise, etc, it is a huge agenda. Healthy diet? what you can get…fresh veg is astronomical in price as there is a serious drought, and a loud hailer was touring the township exhorting everyone to go to church and pray for rain. It is, indeed, desperately hot, even the locals say so, and the aircon in my room is on all night. By the way, don’t bother to watch the matches. There is NO DOUBT who is going to win!
A lot of the businesses in the townships are housed in containers. Apparently this makes them fairly easy to move if business falls off. Lots of funeral businesses, ladies hairdressers and one selling “Fruit and Veg”
Sorry no photos yet. I have taken lots but would take too much of my meagre on line time to send them. When I get home…My Xhosa is coming on well – the word for “support group” is err.. “Support group” and for “workshop”, is “workshop” with the odd click or two, which seems to be optional. Easy, really!
Mags

Week 3
Easter weekend, and South Africa is closed… including the museums, which seems counter productive to me!
Lazy day today as the sun has returned after heavy rain yesterday morning. The garden at the project has leapt into life since a downpour last weekend and I can see, now, that it might produce useful amounts – spinach, tomatoes, potatoes and a few things that I don’t recognise. On the way to work yesterday there were long queues at all the cash points, despite the weather. It seems that pensions and child support grants are payed in on the last day of each month – the latter only paid if you are caring for children not your own i.e. Grannies and older siblings. I met my first Child headed household yesterday – a girl of 17 who has been caring for 3 younger siblings for the last 3 years, and now has a baby of her own. The grants are about 250 rand per month – less than 25.00 (no pound sign on this keyboard!) as a result of the weather and the temporarily flush grannies, we “only” served about 100 dinners so it was quiet for once.
I had a very small boy waiting for ages at the kitchen door yesterday looking more and more anxious as time went on and his filled bowl was not returned. When the HUGE silent tears came, I went to investigate, and one of the server-outers was trying to clean up his particularly revolting bowl before it was given back. He cheered up immensely and toddled off into the road. He was probably about 2 years old! Only the VERY poorest eating yesterday, but numbers will be back to normal before we leave in 10 days. We are getting a good few “thank you’s” now.
Tomorrow David and I have accepted an invite to go to another safari reserve, and to see elephants in the wild next weekend. I shall return to Reigate feeling as tho’ I have been on holiday, albeit a different sort, and not been “working” The hotel is extremely comfortable and everyone so friendly, at Emmanuel and elsewhere. AND I have made some progress with the records, if not the filing… They are entering notes DAILY now, and I purchased coloured semi transparent folders for each of the carers to keep their own clients’ papers and not try to find them in the anonymous pile on Friday mornings. David is still bashing away to try to get water and a sink into the kitchen, but tradesmen are not turning up at the appropriate time and don’t bring tools if they do. It is Africa, after all. The fridge at Emmanuel has been broken for 6 months, and no-one has managed to arrange to get it fixed…
I am now going to explore the harbour now and go back “home” for lunch. Thanks, again for all your encouraging messages. Much appreciated!
Love to all, Mags
Week 3 and a half!
Well, all goes on much as before, but sadly now counting the days to our departure next Tuesday.
We had a very long weekend as it was Easter and so no work… David (Dolman!) and I could not wait to get back to Emmanuel this morning. The weather was a bit iffy yesterday for the first time, but not cold enough for me to wear a jumper. The locals have got out their winter woolies!

On Saturday morning we were taken to a small local wildlife park and saw some more creatures…no lions but a very quick glimpse of a cheetah carrying her two day old cub in her mouth. Our ranger was blown away, he had never seen it before, and was on his phone fast to report the sighting. We were told that there were 5 born on Wednesday…also saw giraffe, zebra, impala, warthogs and a buffalo – you don’t mess with buffalo. The other days were filled with walks, reading in the sun and spectating what is supposed to be the second largest water sports festival in the world – music, dancing, fireworks etc as well as the water sports. The hotel is just across the road from the sea and a fantastic beach.
There was some possibility of me going to camp with some of the older children this week, but I re-read my brief and I feel my time would be better spent “supporting the carers” (and larking with the little ones.) David is going to continue his life skills groups. The home visits are still hard to take, but the carers are really appreciative of my input. I have only today got hold of the training manual that they use. It was at the bottom of a pile of papers, not in a GREEN folder as I had been told, but in a transparent one. I shall study it tonight.
Over the weekend I visited a sort of aquarium place very near the hotel. I met a seal called Katy, and a pair of rock-hopper penguins called “Nip” and “Tuck”. There is also a good museum there.
Last week I visited my first “child headed household” – a 17 year old girl looking after 3 younger siblings, and her own baby. She is living in a tin shack as her previous home was burned down, destroying all the documents she needs to apply for grants. Helping with these applications is a big part of the carer’s remit – and until this is sorted she will have no income….There may be time for one more email, but I will send some pictures when I get home.
Love to you all.
Mags

Week 4 – almost done
Day off today, but my co volunteer has managed to blag a free trip for some of the older children to a game park some way up the road. Organising it has been a monstrous experience for him. How many children to go, taxis to hire and meals to arrange etc etc. I won’t even GO there…. He needed to leave the hotel here at 7am for a early start from Emmanuel, as he imagined himself running round the township knocking everyone up! Most of the children going had spent 2 days at “camp” this week. It is an annual event, but chaotic nonetheless. It took 2 HOURS to load them, their bedding, pots, pans, supplies( and the MUSIC ) into 3 vehicles on Wednesday morning and they came back yesterday full of beans (literally !) David D had travelled to camp with 90 eggs on his lap on a very bumpy track! Oh, and the 3rd vehicle, once loaded would not start, so we pushed it down the road… Africa!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch work continued as usual. I am surprised by the casual way that clients are enrolled, self referral, neighbour requests, etc, and there does not seem to be any prioritising as I know it. I was out with a carer, Rolom, on Thursday morning and we were hailed by a lady, asking us to go and visit her neighbour – no details, but I saw quite the worst sight I have seen in a very long career. In a well (?) equipped NHS unit we would have been challenged, but this will have to be dealt with in a shack with no resources, even a light by which properly to view the problem. While we can’t do much, she might have easily been missed altogether. There is a rude word in Afrikaans – “footsack”, which you say to stray dogs in the yard ( you must set me right, Andy, on just HOW rude it is… it causes hilarity when I use it with the carers, as one of the few words I know in a VERY UGLY language.) I am constantly surprised that it is spoken by black people AT ALL, but nearly everyone is tri-lingual. Any way, this poor lady’s family as we left, said “footsack, Aids” with which I heartily agree. I only hope that the upcoming generation will remember the horrible deaths their parents are experiencing, and take note of all the education that is going on everywhere
There is a farewell party for us at lunchtime on Monday, and we are hoping that we can fit in a bit of “work” first, so are going in at our usual time. 8.15 am. I seem to have managed to clean up the records and filing a bit – hope it lasts – and David is very much hoping his sink will be installed by the time we leave, but he has had a much more frustrating time than me. He did get the fridge, broken for 6 months, repaired though!
All in all, a fantastic experience, a lot more ups than downs! Elephants tomorrow YAY!
This will be the last message from here, but will try to send a photo or two when I get home….
Love to all, Mags

And one more – David managed to beat the plumbing gremlins in the end. Brilliant experience all round. I would give A LOT to hear the crèche children sing “I am special” again.

Quick one to say that I am now home again, luckily before the volcanic fallout affected flights.

 I will post some photos soon. The project gave us a great party on Monday lunchtime, meanwhile the workmen were finally installing the sink and water supply and the very last thing we did before leaving was to TURN ON THE TAPS.

 Thank you all again for the emails, texts and messages. I confess to having been a bit homesick at times…and they helped

 Love to everyone. Mags

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