South Africa: City of Gold

27 12 2010

The City of Gold at sunset

In one of the African dialects (which I can’t remember, please forgive me!), the city of Johannesburg is literally translated into “city of gold.” This comes from the gold rush which launched the city into the most industrialized city in Africa. The name has stuck and thousands of people from all over Africa – Zimbabwe, Mozambique and others – travel great distances to come to this “city of gold.” However, what they find here isn’t often a city of gold. South Africa has an unemployment rate of over 30% – three times the US rate. Instead of finding the gold they had expected many find the same tin shacks and lack of jobs they had left in their motherland.

Across the street from the guest house we are staying at 12,000 people, who came to Johannesburg to find their city of gold, live in tin shacks. This squatter camp is the basis of Zoe’s work. Today as we drive through the camp everyone – from the town alcoholics to the lively children wave with a welcoming smile saying, “Hello sister Zoe!” It seems that the whole camp knows her name.

Today we visited with three women. The first, who in some ways reminds me of Zemzem, seems to have her hands in just about every money making venture possible – she sells the clothes she buys from Zoe, runs a small crèche for the children in the camp whose parents are sick, sells wigs, and has about five other schemes. The second has come across marital trouble (her husband is abusive and appeared on her doorstep with a second wife) and Zoe has recently helped her build a new shack as she was kicked out of her abusive husband’s. And the third runs a day care for 28 children.

Family and friends at TLC

The last stop was probably my favorite of the day. While Zoe chatted with the woman my mom and I played tag and tickle with the seven children who were at her place at the time. It always amazes me the universality of a good tickle – every child understands it no matter what country they are from! The other universal, “naaa-na-na-naa-na!” always means, “please try to catch me, I am teasing you saying that you can’t catch me but I really want you to please catch me!” It’s so lovely to know that in every country, every child will love this affection! Our game became so ruckus that the children from the neighboring homes came to see what all the commotion was about! Sorry, no pictures of this, for safety reasons we traveled into the camp without any valuables (no money, cell phone, camera, nothing).

The last stop in the camp was to bring a totally blind man to his home. He is cared for by the community of the camp. He was having lunch at one woman’s place and his next door neighbor will cook him dinner. Zoe brought her some food to help care for him – with the money Zoe makes from selling the clothes to the local woman (which they then sell as a means of income) she buys food for the individuals in the camp who aren’t able to care for themselves, it’s really an impressive system she’s developed!

Upon our arrival back at TLC we discovered a large food donation being delivered, all of the older kids were carrying in loads of sugar, salt, juice, etc. This donation will help ensure that the children and the family have a wonderful Christmas. Our afternoon was spent sorting this donation and doing one of my favorite things, taking a small group of kids out for a special treat, ice cream. The five kids we took out we’re just little babies when I was here last. It was so amazing to sit down and have a proper chat with them! Again, sorry no pictures – two white women with five black children outside of Soweto brings enough attention without out a camera but I’ll try to get pictures of the kids tomorrow.

All in all, today was a wonderful day – exactly what I wanted to do with my Holiday Season – help others and make life a little more enjoyable for a few very special people.

Rebecca

P.S. We’ve finished – sorting clothes that is! My mother and I spent the better part of 14 hours over the last three days sorting clothing for the local woman to sell (see previous post with more details by clicking here). It was a tiring feat but well worth it. While we sorted the clothes Zoe was able to help many in the community, including the starving women who come to the gate at TLC begging for food for themselves and their children. She remarked to me that it felt like she was accomplishing two tasks at once – she was able to help others throughout the day knowing that one of her major tasks was still being accomplished. I’m so grateful to help her be able to help more families in the community.





I Am A Mother…

30 11 2010

To learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign-Click Here

“I am a mother.”  It is with these simple yet profound words that Thea Jarvis, founder and president of TLC Ministries in South Africa explains her life’s work.  In 1993, Thea established TLC Ministries amid political turmoil, racial hatred, and a growing orphan crisis in South Africa.  Today in South Africa there are approximately 2,500,000 orphans.  Thea and her family have made it their life’s mission that they help as many of these children as possible.

In its first year TLC Ministries found two orphaned children a home – Thea’s.  Thea explains, “Our first two little boys were called Joshua and Reuel…We found them in Baragwanath Hospital amongst 40 other tiny, abandoned children.  A little Albino boy, Tommy, followed a year later.  He stole and melted our hearts.  Then at two years of age those stolen hearts were melted down even further and poured out into buckets of tears when he tested HIV positive.  That was our initiation, and first taste of the very bitter cross we were going to carry in this ministry.  After Tommy, came a little boy with cleft lip and palate and we called him Brendon.  He had been abandoned in the Johannesburg Hospital.  Soon after Brendon followed Crispin, who was born to a 13-year old street child.  She already had a one year old to cope with.  A second baby was too much for her.  Soon after Brendon and Crispin had joined our family, God put the ministry into full throttle and more and more babies started finding their way to TLC…Since that time we have been growing by leaps and bounds.  I have personally adopted 14 children in addition to my 5 biological children.  My eldest daughter, Joanna, has adopted four children and has one biological son.  My next daughter, Pippa has adopted seven little ones.  Then there are another 10 who have ended up with us for various reasons, have permanently joined our family, although they are not yet adopted.”

Thea and her family realized they alone cannot help the many children in need. So, after Brendon and Crispin joined the family Thea began to work to streamline the adoption process so that children who came into the ministry who could not be reunited with their biological family could be adopted both domestically and internationally.  Meanwhile, Thea and her family moved into a larger house on an expansive farm outside of Johannesburg.  The large house includes living quarters for Thea and all her children as well as a nursery which over 35 children call home until their family is found.  The nursery is staffed by dedicated and committed volunteers.   To date, Thea and the ministry she founded has managed to help place over 750 children into permanent, safe, and loving families.  Thea, her family, and her ministry are true heroes for the children of South Africa.

Please be aware Adoptions from South Africa and TLC Ministries to the U.S. are currently not open.

You can follow Thea on her blog at http://thea-jarvis.blogspot.com/ or to learn more about TLC Ministries go to their website at www.tlc.org.za.  TLC is celebrating the Christmas Season by sharing the story of one child everyday until Christmas, check these stories at http://seasongiving.blogspot.com/ or

Please Note: Rebecca, Joint Council’s Director of Programs and Services will spend from December 15th – December 26th with Thea at TLC.  While there Rebecca will be blogging and video-blogging at http://www.betheanswerforchildren.wordpress.com.

Today the task is simple- give yourself a big pat on the back and check out everything that Joint Council and you have accomplished this month through our I Am The Answer Campaign. You have successfully made it through the 30 day challenge! Congrats!








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