Day Ten

imageTo laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. -Ralph Waldo Emerson At the end of this day we come to realize the coming of age of Arm In Arm in Africa and the generosity of so many back home that empower this mission into the future. In a perfect world, one realizes that if justice prevailed for all, a mission such as this could eventually become unnecessary. That said, one realizes very that justice does not exist for all people. Hence, the struggle between a justice based response versus charity. AIAIA is committed to identifying ourselves with the poor by actually helping them. photo 2We returned to the village of Itipini, a community of the poorest of the poor living in housing and environment unfit for human habitation. It is with this village we connected years ago when they were living in a garbage dump (hence,the name Itipini, as in tip the garbage). Three years ago the government forced them from this area and bulldozed their homes. A remnant of this group was relocated to the current 19 units of government housing. There are 38 families (two families per building) with over 100 of them children who run about the mud, garbage and broken glass with bare feet. AIAIA began a food distribution to this village two years ago after one young woman pulled us aside and said, "Please, we need food." Four times a year a food parcel for each family is delivered. This past Christmas AIAIA sent extra money for food. Our team here on the ground, who is led by our friend, Olga, prepared and brought a hot meal to serve the residents. Today, we brought another meal and were touched to see as we pulled up, the children were sent out first with a bowl in their hands for the food. As the meal was being served, the food parcels arrived by truck. The people patiently waited for the food parcels to be stacked, their names announced then the AIAIA delegation helped haul the food bags up the muddy, gravel road to their very dilapidated dwellings. It is overwhelming to see the conditions under which the people here live, yet, on this visit we felt more of a connection with smiles, thank yous and little children grabbing our hands to walk with the them. In previous visits we felt the despondency that one would expect if forced to live in this environment. Today we were reminded of the continued lack of response from the local government in responding to this community and its overwhelming needs. Despite that sad reality we experienced the joy and gratitude of this community and the building of our relationship. We returned to our home base in time to unload 135 food parcels (weighing 150+pounds each) for distribution in Malungeni and to celebrate the evening with our family of fifteen years. Reflecting on this event is Doris Knettel: It is difficult to put into words the experience I am having here in South Africa, so this will be brief. Arriving back in Malungeni from the food distribution in Itipini, I watched in amazement to see a large gathering of families scattered about patiently waiting for their name to be called for the food distribution here. Families are selected by members of the community identified as most in need. When each family name was called the head of the household stood beside the food parcel. Yes, sometimes the head of the household is a child. The children, playing games and singing were watched over by the community. Smiling, joyful children love to have their picture taken. Adults appeared to enjoy visiting with each other. This reminded me of when we gather at St. Joan of Arc and we look forward to sharing with you this experience of community I have witnessed here.