Well, here we are, our last day at Kodumela! We have talked water, fed children a wonderful meal, seen the good that World Vision’s facilitating does, been sang to by old and young, and met a wonderful little boy in red.
We began with a gentle walk through the bush to a beautiful reservoir, a surprising oasis in the sometimes hostile terrain. This is where Kodumela gets its water, something that sounds so simple, but no! The levels between the source and the outlet are the same which denies gravity her magic, reaching a solution will make the water flow more strongly. In fact as our day progresses water becomes a defining theme.
Water availability is not a problem, as there seems to be plenty of it but getting it to the right places is difficult. This simple element is so crucial to the sustainability of those who are so vulnerable. With it they can cultivate, this empowers a struggling family, child-headed or with parents, to produce food to be eaten and any surplus bringing in an income which can be the difference between survival or not.
I met my little boy in red at Lafata, a World Vision micro-finance success story in every way. It has been in existence for ten years and now employs 200 villagers, mostly ladies, who produce everything from unique bead jewellery to raffia woven shoes in bright colours. They have a very healthy chicken and egg business and are looking to begin a goat keeping programme to work with the disabled to include them in the success story. They keep the most impeccable files of paperwork that most western offices would envy and when they have nothing to do (which is rarely) they gather in the central building and sing their hearts out which is a magical sound.
My little boy in red was small and dark with those big brown eyes that melt your heart, he didn’t say much with his tongue but spoke volumes through his expressive little face. We bonded in a pure and simple way looking at the chickens together from one day old chicks to the old broilers whose laying days are over and are ready for selling. He held my hand, let me cuddle him with such trust, I left him all smiles with a little toy car I had brought along just in case. In all the difficulty we have encountered he shines like a beacon for me of the good that is being done here.
It is a fact that through World Vision’s dedication to children they have radically reduced mal-nutrition in Kodumela. How good does that sound? Today I saw first hand how! A drop-in centre doesn’t fill one with hope that the meal provided is going to be anything other than a scene from Oliver Twist, but how wrong was I! The food was amazing and this is certainly the only meal they will have in a day; they are hungry, really hungry, but they come to this place where it is safe, basic lessons are sometimes taught, everybody smiles all the time. There are swings, a slide, sunshine and hope, a feeling of being cared for and even loved, they sing and pray before their ‘lunch’ closing those dark brown eyes with such solemnity, even the tiny ones. They line up smallest first, biggest last, no pushing, no shoving, no snatching or grabbing, each child waiting in line dignified and patient each plate being met with thanks and a shy smile.
Food! Wow, vibrant orange pumpkin, gloriously red beetroot, creamy white rice that smells as rice should and each child has a good piece of chicken cooked with those flavours that make it so South African. They retreat politely to the unfinished building that hopefully will one day be their haven where the food is enjoyed peacefully in the company of each other. How much more wonderful can it get? – thank you World Vision, as a mother I know how important feeding children is and with the help of a dietician brought on board by World Vision this is really happening here against all odds.
So back to water, a second drop-in centre where they do the same, this is Ledile’s pride and joy the building built by World Vision not yet finished but it will be any time soon. The gardens are magnificently cultivated and productive because of – guess what? Fresh clean accessible water provided by a bore hole dug and supported by World Vision. Drip feed irrigation was then laid down using this new found water source freeing up valuable labour and so the ‘market garden’ thrives and expands giving work and income to the workers and their families again bringing the sustainability that is what World Vision strives to achieve.
We ended the day and our time here with a wonderful, emotional ‘de-brief’ sharing our feelings positive and negative, then a flurry of activity had us all assembling tables and chairs so we could sit together for a good hearty meal. Some sat, others came filled their plates and stood: the cows moo’d, the sun set, we said our goodbyes with tears in our eyes.
This has been a humbling few days where we have encountered the successes with enthusiasm, the failures with concern, the happiness with smiles and hugs, the sadness with tears and more hugs. I have seen faces that have cheered my heart and some that have melted my soul, I walk away with a desire to make things better but know I can’t fix everything, I know I cannot wipe away all the problems with a hug. Kodumela is a magical place, the landscape, the light, a smile from one so young they don’t yet understand and the hope that World Vision brings. But the reverse is the sadness seen in the face of a child who is confused by what life has dealt, frightened by responsibility beyond his years, the loss of childhood. We came thinking we already knew a lot; we leave knowing we have so much more to learn.
As a family we leave enriched by our visit and love for all those at Kodumela ADP and beyond.
Nicola Brown is a long-term World Vision Supporter who is visiting South Africa with her husband Tudor and son Sam
If you would like to ask the Browns any questions about what life is like in South Africa please post them below.