the Summer of 2002 Hilary went to Cape Town on a house building
programme under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity. This is her report.
I spent two and a half weeks in Cape Town, South Africa under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity.
The team of 22 young people whom I share accommodation with in Derryvolgie Halls, Belfast lead by our Dean in residence Steve Stockman flew out on 12 July 2002, Our aim was to build three houses in Masiphumlele a township outside Cape Town.
You may ask why HFH? Well the foundation stone on which HFH build is Jesus Christ. From the beginning of this ministry, Christ has been the foundation and cornerstone. HFH is openly and unashamedly a Christian ministry. Its number one purpose is "to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world by working in co-operation with God's people in need to create better habitat in which to live and work". Every house that is built is a sermon of God's love, witnessing to the homeowners and to all who pass by that God is love and that the house was build or renovated by people of love and faith. Its overall goal is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness worldwide and to stir the hearts and minds of others to take action in this issue.
Personally I guess one of the very first things to hit me was the combination of beauty, wealth and the amount of poverty there is in Cape Town. As we drove from the airport to St. Pauls B&B, which was going be our home for the next two and a half weeks we passed Hells Highway.
Hell's Highway is a township situated either side of the motorway; there were thousands of shacks one after another. On one shack we saw a man on the roof of his home. From a distance it looked like he was trying to secure what appeared to be a black plastic bin liner to the roof to prevent it leaking as it was raining when we arrived. During the winter months a leaking roof is one of the many hardships which people living on townships face on a daily basis and in Africa when it rains it really does rain.
When we went out to S.A. we thought that we were bringing a little of God's kingdom on earth and showing a little of God's love in a very practical way but we were very much mistaken, God was there a long time before we ever thought about going out. The people on the township rely on God for so much on a daily bases for what would seem like the simplest of things - like having enough money to buy good food at least once a week for their family and more importantly they are so thankful when God answers their prayers...
During our time there we visited and attended a black reformed church with a congregation of over 400 in Guguletu another township. Spiwo, who has been the minister there since 1989 has only married 9 couples and when he took over the congregation there were only about 100 people. I also met a doctor who was a member of this church. He not only works for the government hospital but he also works on the township in the community scheme. He told us a bit about the Aids epidemic in South Africa. In South Africa someone dies every 10 minutes for HIV/Aid's
I can gladly say that we did build and finish three houses. Some of my tasks were to carry concrete blocks to the bricklayers and help with the cement mixing as well as doing some joinery work. On the first day it looked like my house was going to be finished first as we were ahead of everyone else or so we thought. Then it started to rain and remember when it rains it really does, it rained so heavy that the mortar or dagga as it's called was washed out from between the blocks. It was a bit devastating but we put it down to God teaching us patience.
During the second week it rained all day Tuesday. We were prepared to go and build, but we had to remember that it was us who were working for the black man not the other way round. We could have all came home and had a shower (even though it probably would have been cold (they tended to run out of hot water after the fourth person), put on dry clothes and went out to have a warm meal but our builders couldn't. It would have meant that they would have had to come out in wet clothes again on Wednesday.
During the second week Lucas our builder had felt unwell it turned out he had a sore throat. I gave him some paracetamol and they did the trick. On leaving we bought each of the three builders a present. As part of our present to Lucas we bought him a bottle of paracetamol. At first he wouldn't take them but I told him that I had bought them for him. He placed his hand in mine with the bottle in between and thanked and hugged me so tight, I've never been thanked like that before for something so small.
I also gave some clothes that I had with me to one of the little girls, Tandaza, whom I had become close to. What I gave her wasn't much, jeans, and a few tops and my baseball cap but for someone so small she hugged me so tight for absolutely ages.
It was extremely difficult leaving, there was an awful amount of tears, but I believe it is how God wanted me to spend my summer holiday and a time I will always remember.