by Jeremy Price
August 2005 we drove into a remote village in the country of South Africa. Much of the nation of South Africa is developed with shopping malls, housing estates, and McDonald’s. This was not one of those areas. This village, called Cork, was set on the border of Mpumalanga and Limpopo near to the Kruger Park. It was a community of Mozambican refugees who, in order to flee a Civil War, walked across the Kruger Park following power lines to guide their way. This village was an unauthorized settlement made up of beautiful people. Even though there was no electricity and no running water, they called this place home.
That first morning I will never forget the uncertainty on the faces as we drove in. The look they gave said, “What are these foreigners up to?” They watched with arms crossed and skepticism. You see this community had endured much. They had suffered for years, and understandably, they were unsure what our intentions were. The question was were we there just to look at their plate or would we do something to help. What they did not know was we had met the community leaders a few days before. In this meeting, we had asked how we could help. They introduced us to a young child headed household. These young siblings, age 12 and under, had lost both mother and father to disease a couple years prior. This young family was living in a dilapidated shelter that their father had started to build before he fell ill. We were there to meet one of this family’s most basic need and their greatest wish. To have a proper house.
For any of you that have ever worked in construction, you know that the foundation takes time. We had to dig footings and pour concrete. This process is not usually the most rewarding, because it’s difficult to see the progress. But we showed up every day bringing a fresh tank of water with us to do the work since there was no running water. The community continued to watch us cautiously. After a few days of foundation work, we began to build the walls. As we were building the block, the first day we built 2 to 3 rows. The next morning when we arrived into the community we began to see the faces there to greet us changing. Instead of a cold stare, there was a little wave. We continued to build the walls day after day. With each passing day of progress, our greeting growing warmer. We even had a few young men show up and offer if they could help mix the cement.
After a little more than a week, the height of the walls had reached roughly the top of the windows. The following morning, as we drove the dusty road into the village, we saw smiles everywhere. There were warm smiles and big waves in the sense of celebration as they ran alongside our van to the job site. When we pulled up to the house, we found the real celebration. The Go-Go’s, or grandmothers of the community, were all there dancing. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I didn’t speak the language and they didn’t speak my language, but it was unmistakably a joyous moment happening. We unloaded out of the van and began to investigate. We looked around, and through simple sign language, figured it out.
As I mentioned, there’s no running water in this village. In order for us to have water to mix cement, we had purchased two (1000 liter) water tanks. We would come every morning with a fresh tank leaving the second nearly empty tank behind at the job site, because we often wouldn’t use all 1000 liters in one day. This beautiful community had seen something that they could do and got together with their wheel barrels and jerry cans to haul water 5 km one way back-and-forth through the night until they had filled that tank of water.
You see, they weren’t helpless. They just needed some help. They didn’t want to sit idly by.
That day is when I learned two important truths. One, if you want to impact a nation, care for what is most valuable to them, their children, specifically the most vulnerable. And second, I learned what HOPE looks like. Hope is looking forward to what we do not have while gaining comfort or joy and its pursuit. Some days we all just need a little help. The process of building this gave hope which turned to joy and in turn came full circle which altered the lives of all were involved.
This is why we do what we do. For hope’s sake.
To be a part of creating hope and making an impact on a whole community, visit here.