Safarii March 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — rarens @ 1:41 pm

Well, we have successfully put our pictures up! Now you can look at them on your own time and I wont be filling your email inboxes with tons of pictures J The website for the pictures is www.flickr.com/photos/zrarens If you click on this link, or put it in your URL, you will go to a page full of pictures. Along the right hand side, there are folders of photos from different places we’ve been. You can click on these folders to see all of the photos in each one. For example, there’s an entire folder with pictures from the Mohau Center. Hope you enjoy! We’ll keep uploading this as we see new things. Last week we moved to our new place. It’s lovely, and we feel much more safe here than where we were before. It’s also better for our budget, which is always a plus! A friend of ours who is staying in Cape Town came to visit for the weekend, which was a lot of fun. It was cool to have someone to show around our ‘new town.’ On Friday we drove for about 7 hours to Kruger National Park, which is a huge nature reserve about the size of the Midwest. Over the course of 3 days we drove about 15 hours in the park and didn’t even cover 1/3 of it! It’s huge, and all of the animals living there are wild. There aren’t cages or man-made pools for them or anything…it’s just wilderness that’s protected from the Poachers. Since they are all wild, the rules are very strict about driving around…you are not allowed to get out of the car, and when close to some animals you have to have the windows up, because they can be vicious when hungry…they’ve had people severely hurt who haven’t been smart about it…cause obviously lots of those animals would just love some easy prey for dinner! We had a lot of fun, and a few scary experiences! The problem with the animals all being wild is that they aren’t in a specific place for you to just drive up and find…sometimes you travel for a long time and don’t see anything. You just have to be lucky enough to catch them close enough to the road. After we had been in the park for a few hours, we came upon a very large herd of elephants, standing by the road. We happened to stop in front of one…it was standing probably about 10 feet from our car. Once we stopped and started taking pictures, we noticed that she had a baby next to her, eating. Not being experienced safari-goers, we forgot that she probably wouldn’t be happy with us being so close to her baby. I stuck my head out of the window to get a better picture, and as I did so I saw the mother drop the food that was in her mouth, and start flapping her ears. By the time we realized what was happening, she was charging straight for the car! Zach put it in reverse and started flying backward away from the elephant, and she continued to chase us! Finally when we were far enough away that she felt comfortable, she stopped running. Luckily, we caught the whole thing on video! It’s pretty scary, but funny to watch the video cause we’re all screaming as the car is flying backward down the road, an elephant charging straight for us! J After that we were much more careful and tried to be more respectful of the animals when we saw them. The next morning, we were leaving our camp and there was a large group of Baboons walking along the side of the road. I was videoing one right next to the car, when all of a sudden it jumped on the hood of the car! It was like 2 ft from my face, on the other side of the glass! It was so cool…I was just glad that it didn’t jump in the window! Baboons are scary cause they’re so big and have huge, sharp teeth. We saw lots of other kinds of neat animals…hyena, monkeys, impala, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, water buffalo, rhino, zebra, wildebeest, lion and leopard!!! The people here say we were lucky to see the leopard because they are so hard to spot, but luckily he was right by the road as we were driving by, so we got some neat pictures. All the pictures will be on the picture website. Anyway, we had a wonderful time and were so lucky to see so many neat things! Our friend went back to Cape Town on Monday, and we are back at work this week. This week we are visiting a HIV/AIDS hospice in one of the townships, and also the child welfare department. Thanks for your continued prayer and support, we really appreciate it. We also are starting our group work at the Children’s Home, so we’re hoping all goes well with that!Hard to believe a month has already gone by!

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exploring February 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — rarens @ 8:04 pm

  We are now beginning our 3rd week in Pretoria, and things are not settling down, but we’re starting to settle in. Getting to know our way around, which has been really nice…now it only takes us 30 minutes to get to the Mohau Center, when before it was taking us 1 – 1 1/2 hrs J             We’re getting much more settled in at the Mohau Center also. We had a meeting today about all of the things we need to accomplish, and our timeline for this. In addition to our work with the children which I have already told you about, once a week we will be working at the Child Welfare Department here in Pretoria, to see how the government run programs work. Also, once a week we will be shadowing the social worker at Mohau on her home visits in the community. I’m excited about this, because I will get a chance to see the homes where some of the children we’re working with are from. We feel a little overwhelmed with all of the work that needs to be done before we leave, but are excited for the opportunity to learn from these people and help out where we can.             This past weekend was really neat for us. Our neighbors, Patrick and Dipsie, took us to Soweto on Saturday. Soweto is the second largest Township in South Africa. A township is like a slum-area…Patrick said that during Apartheid the blacks were all confined to townships, and allowed only to leave their township with a pass. Now, most of the people living there are left over from the Apartheid era, and are very poor. Dipsie’s mother lives there, so they took us to visit her home for a time. Township homes are pretty much 2-3 room cement slab houses with tin roofs, but when Nelson Mandela was President of SA, one of the things he did was to make township homes free for anyone who needed a home. People in the township only have to pay for electricity (which only some homes have) and water…no rent or property taxes or anything. Dipsie only had good things to say about the townships…she said that since everyone is so poor, they are like a big family. Everyone watches out for everyone, and there is little crime because everyone would know the person who committed the crime, and get after him/her. She also said, if anyone is hungry or in need of something, their neighbors would come together to help them out. She did say, however, that it’s not very safe for people who don’t belong there to visit. We took two cars, and we had to have people from Soweto drive, because they said if one of us drove, there was a good chance the car might be hijacked. We honestly didn’t feel unsafe, people were kind to us when they knew that we were there with some of their friends. While in Soweto, we visited and Apartheid museum. This was really interesting, because we didn’t know a lot about SA’s history. Soweto was very instrumental in ending Apartheid, as there were massive freedom marches there in the 90’s. After that we visited Nelson Mandela’s old home in Soweto…he lived there many years ago. We had a traditional South African dinner. I ate lamb shank with Pap, pumpkin and spinach, and Zach had Mutton Curry J We both also were offered some of Dipsie’s meal, which we politely ate. It was sheep intestine! Thankfully Patrick didn’t offer us any of his Oxen’s Tail…not sure if I could have done that J Dipsie said that next time we have traditional food with them, we will eat chicken feet and goat head (yes, they eat the whole head!) …looking forward to that! Anyway, we had a really wonderful time seeing some more of South Africa and are so thankful for these sweet neighbors who love to show us around and stuff.Sunday we went to another orphanage about 1 ½ hrs away. It’s called TLC (The Love of Christ). This children’s home has about 42 babies under the age of 4. They are sooooo sweet. They just need all the help they can get, so we helped with feeding, changing, and playing with kids all day long. This is something we don’t get to do at Mohau, since we are so busy with other things there, so it was a nice change for us. The home was started by an Afrikaans woman about 15 years ago, and since that time she’s had over 750 children adopted from her orphanage. This is a wonderful place…the volunteers are from all over the world, and they work 10-13 hr days, 6 days a week! And some are there for a year! They have such dedication and love. It is a private organization, so they completely rely on donations and volunteer workers…and sometimes things are really tight! We are planning on helping the director apply for some grants, because they are in such need of financial help. We are definitely planning on going back.  

 

First few days…

Filed under: Uncategorized — rarens @ 8:03 pm

We've had our first days at the Centre ...it's a really neat place. They have about 40 children there, and they are so sweet. It's in a very bad area...it's way out in the middle of nowhere, and there's quite a bit of poverty around. It's connected to a hospital, that is nothing like any hospital you've ever seen. They tell us it's a wonderful hospital (and it does help soooo many people), but it's more like a giant shack....people are roaming all over the place, and there are very sick people laying on the ground and benches, waiting to be seen I think. It's very dirty and unsafe looking...the ceilings are made of tin, and probably the walls. It's very big, but very run down. They have a hospice for children who are infected by AIDS, because even though they have the medicine to treat the infection, not all children have access to it until it's too late.> > The Mohau Centre is an orphanage for children, most of whom are infected with HIV/AIDS, but not all. It's also a safe house for children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their families. Some of those children who are not infected are fortunate enough to get adopted...three were placed last year. However, probably 96% of the children are infected. With their medication, most are doing very well, but the director says that they are still very prone to sickness, and it is fortunate that they are so close to the hospital, because the children need to go so often. Some of them come to the Center VERY sick, because their families will not get them the treatment that they need. HIV is very stigmatized here, and no family wants to acknowledge that a member has it, so many die before getting help. They are afraid that if their neighbors find out they are going in for treatment, they will be oustersized. The orphanage itself seems to be in pretty good condition, which is wonderful. The children are very happy, and very attention-starved...they all want our undivided attention. I am glad we will be working one-on-one with many of them so that they can get some individual attention.> > We still do not know the extent of what we will be doing, but I know that I will be working mainly with children who have just started school (ages 6-8ish), as the director feels they need help adjusting to this new environment. I will be doing a needs assessment for them to have a better understanding of what those kids need for healthy development. Many of them are going through major life changes as well as starting school, plus they have a lot to deal with at school once the other kids find out that they live at a safe house for infected children. I will make sure that they are doing well in that environment and dealing with their other life changes well. I will also be doing home visits in the community, checking on children in the community and making sure their parents have the help they need so that they can care for them...even though they are sick. I will also be doing an assessment of the entire program (the Centre and how it runs), to see what the staff feels they need more experience in, and we will train them accordingly. These are the tasks that the director told me today they need most help in, although they have many more things that we will be doing (according to her), I'm just not sure what all of that is yet 🙂 > > They are overjoyed to have Zach, as they have no male volunteers at the Centre. He will be assigned to the 3 most disabled children at the Centre...they are all physically disabled (two have no use of their legs and one just had surgery so that now he can walk a little) and all three are considered mentally retarded here...although we don't know their individual impairments fully. It is obvious that all 3 of them are pretty severely developmentally delayed. Two of them do not even speak. They do not recieve any attention because there are so many other children to look after, so he has been kind of put in charge of them. He's actually really excited about it, and they seem to really love him. He has to help them meet goals set by the orphanage social worker over the next few months, and he's already planning out how he will work with each one, and what kinds of creative ways he can get them to learn and grow. I'm very proud of him. He's also taking the older boys to do things in the afternoon (the director says they need some peace without them for a little while 🙂 ) There are many more boys than girls, so he will have his hands full. Also, they would like him to take the children to the hospital when they are sick...they just don't have enough staff to take care of everyone. Hah...Zach will be very busy!!!!!

 

a new direction… January 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — rarens @ 11:24 pm

well…zach and i (and erica) have had to seriously change our mindset over these past few days. last week at this time we were fully prepared to be heading to Kenya in two weeks, and we only found out a day and a half ago that Kenya was no longer a possibility. since Monday we have had to completely change our mindset, and begin to prepare for another country, South Africa. we are excited to go to South Africa, but what we will be doing there is very different than what we would have been doing in Kenya, and this has taken awhile to get used to. there are a lot of last minute things that need to be taken care of, along with all of the normal last minute things one needs to do when preparing to leave the country for a few months. we still feel very fortunate for this opportunity, and are beginning to get more and more excited about what our role will be in Pretoria. we will be working at an orphanage in Pretoria (the Mohau Center). we do not have a solid idea of what we will be doing there yet (as this happend so quickly), but we have heard that Zach will also have a special role there, as there are virtually no male role models there now.

so…we expect these next two weeks will be a crazy whirlwind of getting things done and preparing for an adventure very different than what we were originally planning…which makes it even more exciting