The past nine months have been very different at the Care Village as you might imagine. The country of South Africa shut down in the middle of March – schools and businesses closed, the borders were closed, curfews were instituted – all with the intent of permitting the medical community to prepare for outbreak. The countries on the continent of Africa have quite a bit of experience dealing with epidemics, yet this has been arguably the worst in anyone’s memory.
Schools in Middelburg opened for a few of the grades in May and some were added through June. Level five progressed down to level two in early August after a spike in July that closed schools completely for the second time. Schools have reopened, but with children attending every other day. The small Care Center school staff at the Care Village has taken up the slack on the alternating days and provided ongoing instruction for all of the children.
This has been a very difficult time for the children and staff and a very anxious time as every effort has been made to keep the virus at bay. Several children are immune compromised – a very stressful time for all. Fortunately, very few have contracted covid-19, mostly staff and all have recovered.
The best news for me is that South Africa opened their borders to international travel from the United States on the 11th of November. I caught a flight on the 15th and have been back with my Care Village family for two weeks now. The pandemic has been devastating to the emotional well-being of the children and staff in so many ways. Physical restrictions were in place for many months where the children could not go outside of their houses for 23 hours per day. One hour to walk outside was permitted for each of the houses. The dining hall has been closed since the middle of March due to restrictions on gatherings and so the food is transported from the kitchen to the houses for each meal. Churches have been closed and so we began weekly virtual prayer services that continue to this day. A positive outcome from the virtual prayer services is that the children have become very involved in participatory prayer and scripture readings. English reading and speaking skills have improved dramatically as has the number of children who volunteer to read scripture or pray aloud. Since my arrival here, we have continued the virtual prayer services at the request of Manager and Papa Gerrie because the children have become so engaged in worship. Were it not for covid-19, I don’t believe that we would have thought to engage the children in this very meaningful way.
If you are reading this, you are probably aware that Care Village Outreach has not sat idly during the pandemic. Through grants and donations we have been able to accomplish three major project goals in 2020:
Through the grace and generosity of St. James United Church of Christ in Saline and the Presbytery of Detroit, we have recently seen the completion of the installation of 9 evaporative cooler units in the children’s houses. The hot South African summers have long been a difficult time for the children to study and sleep and this addition to the houses has been gratefully received.
Proceeds from the 2019 Care Village Outreach golf outing went towards the purchase of materials and labor to repair and renovate two of the swimming pools on site at the Care Village. Largely due to covid-19, that work was not completed until September and now the children can cool off just meters from their houses during this hot summer season.
Our biggest project ever was to raise funds toward the purchase of a new bus to transport the children to school, church, and family trips. Through the generosity of many donors as well as a $50,000 matching grant, we were able to raise almost $100,000 and have recently placed the order to manufacture a brand new 65-passenger bus. Delivery is expected just after the first of the year. Many thanks to those who contributed to the amazing outcome of this project! The children and staff of Middelburg Care Village are extremely thankful for the assistance from their American family!
Finally (for now), with the help of two donors, we have been able to give the children a Christmas unlike any in recent memory. Each child was given 200 Rand (about $13) to purchase a Christmas gift for another child in the house. The process of learning about a child in order to buy a meaningful gift, wrapping it, and handing it to the receiver were all first-time opportunities for many of the children. Papa Gerrie supplied a beautiful meal and party for each house and much fun was had by all.
Many memories have been created for our precious Care Village children over the past three-plus years that we have been engaged here. Thank you to all of you who have contributed in any way to our mission. I want to thank all of the Care Village Outreach Directors, Keith, Margo, Christina, Wes, Maranda, Karen, Laura, Gareth, and Lee for their tireless work and willingness to do whatever is needed to assist with our goals. I want to thank any and all of you who have assisted with our mission at the Care Village, whether you have visited, prayed, donated, or followed on social media.
The children love and appreciate their American family – a family that has changed many lives here in South Africa.
I am wishing you a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year!