TRIP UPDATE TO LILY OF THE VALLEY IN APRIL 2012

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Images of the April 2012 trip can be found on our Facebook page.

April heralded the first trip of 2012 for TWOWEEKS to Lily of the Valley in South Africa. Our team comprised of Jennifer Tomlins, Mimi Hou, Davinia Powell and myself Karen Patten. Ying Teo was to join the team a week later due to work commitments.

We arrived on the Sunday and by Monday the team was getting stuck in to their planned activities. As ever, it is always a pleasure going back to Lily of the Valley and seeing the children there. However, on this trip I was struck how some of our ‘sweet Lily babies’ have now grown into young adults. This was especially noticeable when I showed some pictures to some of the volunteers and we saw how small the children had looked when I first went to Lily in 2005. Back then our focus had been wholly on reviewing the health of the children and ensuring that all medical complaints were identified and that those with HIV/AIDS were on the correct medication. Well, with the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, staff at Lily and also in the associated hospitals and health centres in South Africa, the children at Lily are now much healthier and living longer. In fact, hearing that a child has died at Lily is now a rarity and we all rejoice in this change. However, with this development comes a new challenge in that Lily and the extended Lily family need to prepare these children and young adults for the time that they will leave. We not only want our Lily children to survive, we want them to flourish.

This is not an easy thing. 130 children need food and clothes and a solid education to equip them with skills to earn a wage and pay those bills. However, they also need other training and skills like learning how to cook, how to buy a pair of shoes, how to open a bank account. When you live in an orphanage you do not ‘pop to the shops’ or bank with your mother or father, things are brought to you, given to you and there is little insight into how the process of acquiring and working for these things has occurred.

So with this in mind, Lily has now developed their school and extended the classes and age groups they teach. Lilyvale School http://www.lov.org.za/our-work/lilyvale-school/ now teaches Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, and 10. They have a dedicated headmaster and teachers who originate from the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe and it is truly wonderful to see the great work that this dedicated team do.

Davinia, who works in marketing, has skills in mentoring and doing workshops and her focus on this trip was to work with the older children at Lily, preparing then for life after Lily. She worked primarily with Grade 10 youngsters who are between the ages of 14 to 21 (yes, 21 years is the oldest ‘child’ at Lily now – an amazing achievement!). She held classes and workshops for the children and I was privileged enough to sit in on a couple of her sessions. For one of them, she asked the class to draw and develop ‘vision boards’. A vision board is where you put all your hopes and dreams on a poster. It’s your vision of what you would like to be, do and acquire in your life and the focus on how you will achieve them then follows. I will always remember the speech that Davinia gave before she talked about doing the vision boards as she spoke about her father and where he came from in Jamaica. How he worked hard to save and travel to England and start with very little to get a job, a home and provide for his family. She explained that whilst he may not have acquired all he had hoped for regarding his life, his vision was not just about himself, but he was thinking of the future for his children and one day grandchildren and now as his daughter, Davinia had received a good education, has a good job and achieved many things in her life all because of his hard work and ambition in taking this initial step. It reminded me of the sacrifices that my parents had made as well and I think it showed the children that success does not begin and end with them, but is an ongoing process for generations to come.

The children then set about drawing and developing their vision boards and as I walked around the class, I cannot lie, tears came to my eyes. Some of our children drew fast cars and fancy jewellery and similar luxury items. Others stated that they wanted to become lawyers, businessmen, teachers and one was most specific regarding their future chosen profession and wanted to become a cardiothoracic surgeon! But many of them drew simple houses, with a family outside, their family. Wherever we come from, we seem to all have the same dream – a family a home, a place and people to call our own.

I am not sure how it happened but I also got roped into doing some teaching with the older children at Lily. I was asked to do some classes on childbirth and pregnancy and other health-related issues including diet and hygiene. One of my favourite classes was when I taught on the different parts of the body and asked the children to draw where they thought they were but on a live subject called Pete who is a long-term volunteer at Lily. The session on childbirth was also great fun and trying to show the children how women give birth was a particular highlight as I could not show any gory films so used a very willing male assistant from the class. He loved stuffing a jumper under his t-shirt to mimic being pregnant and the actual delivery was an event in itself! It caused a lot of laughter and we all had a lot of fun that day.

But not all of the sessions were as joyful. I decided to make the last class with the older children a Q&A session as there were often so many questions asked during the other classes. So I thought that it would be a good idea to let them talk about things that they wanted to know. At the beginning of the session Davinia and I handed out blank pieces of paper and let them write their questions anonymously and we then picked them out of a box, reading each one and addressing the question posed. But the first question that I picked up was, ‘I have a disease that cannot be cured, what will happen to me? Will I live?’. The question just stopped me in my tracks and I was left speechless and stayed silent for a while as I tried to compose myself and then took a deep breath and answered the question as best as I could. I was reminded that teenagers have very different things to worry about and with all of the laughter and joking aside, this is what many of them have to live with every day. A sobering thought and a very difficult reality that needs to be addressed as well. Other questions asked were about cancer, contraception and ‘why is life so hard?’. These children have had to grow up a lot faster than others and this session highlighted and reminded us how much they have been through.

The medical side of the team comprised of Jennifer and Mimi, and we were later joined by Ying. They primarily assisted in the clinic at Lily seeing walk-in patients in the mornings and also assisted with the circumcision program that is being rolled out in South Africa. Research has shown that the spread of HIV & AIDS is reduced when men are circumcised so there is a big program to perform as many procedures as possible in male populations in the townships and the take-up has been very good. The team assisted the surgical team that visited from McCords hospital and also did pre-assessment and post-assessment reviews of the patients.

They also went out into the community and did ‘head to toe’ reviews of children in local township crèches and picked up a number of newly diagnosed complaints, recorded heights and weights and treated many fungal scalp infections. We also did community visits in the township and reviewed the equipment that had been donated to the clinic and sorted through this checking what would be useful and what had expired. So in short, they were very busy during their time there!

Luckily it was not all work and our team were blessed with particularly good weather during their stay and so many an evening was spent sat around the fire pit outside our accommodation sharing life stories and listening to the sounds of Africa all around us as we were staying on the borders of the Tala game reserve.

Before we knew it, our two weeks were coming to an end. We had many good times, a few challenges and even more memorable moments that we would carry home with us and keep for years to come.

However, as is always our vision and hope, the work with Lily and TWOWEEKS does not always need to stop when volunteers return home. After working with the Lilyvale school and seeing their needs, Davinia returned to the UK and contacted the Pearsons office in South Africa and a consignment of very valuable school books were sent to the school which were much appreciated. This is testimony to the vision that even though a volunteer may work for two weeks at a partner organisation like Lily, things do not have to end there. It can actually be the beginning of another initiative or development of a program to help. The possibilities to help are endless and so we continue on.

Once again, thank you all for your help and support and please join us on our mission to raise money for our TWOWEEKS Lily home and for us to continue doing our trips to help the many disadvantaged and needy people in South Africa.

Karen Patten

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