Week 3 volunteering in South Africa

– By Noreen Oliver

It is difficult to believe that we have completed 3 weeks in Rustenburg. With the blue skies and sunshine – the time flies!

This last week was different for me. I was on site helping to clean, wash and paint a container to be used as a kitchen, counselling room for ART patients, ie patient receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS and a storage room. In the squatter camps no permanent structure can be erected as the police might at any time decide to move on the thousands of squatters. Therefore shipping containers are used for crèches and clinics as they are easily moved and can be loaded on to the back of a lorry if necessary.

One of the days, a care worker for the clinic took a few of us to do home visits. I felt privileged to be brought into the homes of the HIV/AIDS patients. Their only request was to pray with them for healing and peace. The area that we visited was phase 2 of the camp. The African government have started to construct houses for the residents: a two bedroom house with a lounge come kitchen area and an outside dry toilet. In the house they have a tap for water and electricity.

According to African law now each South African is entitled to a plot of land free to build a house and sow a garden. Emigrants from countries like Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and The Cape have to buy a site of they want to build a house.

South Africa is called the rainbow nation, because of the variety of emigrants. There are at least 11 different languages. Rustenburg is a mining area and is said to be the richest valley in the world, but unfortunately for the people in the squatter camps they see little of that wealth.

On another day we visited crèches and clinics in a different area. The pre-school children were taught English as a second language, how to count, read and write. While we were there the government agents were giving out free paraffin. The queues were so long and the crowds were so patient.

I thought of home and the only time we have no light is when a bulb blows. My visit has brought home to me how lucky I am to live in Ireland and I thank God for our rich culture and traditions