Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

The Work Begins…
November 25, 2008, 7:00 am
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I grabbed a little online time tonight after our day ended to reflect on our first work day here in Mamelodi. When I mentioned in my last post that this certainly is not a vacation, I was not kidding. It was in the mid 80s here all day, blazing hot sun with little cloud cover, and I must have sweated off about 10 lbs today. I am part of our gardening team and spent most of the day outside working in one of the formal settlements in Mamelodi. To give you a short overview of this area, there are incredibly wealthy areas contrasted by drastically poor areas. The poorest parts of Mamelodi consist of two types – in the formal settlements, homes are usually built out of concrete blocks or corrugated-type metal. There is sometimes a fence around a “yard” made of chicken wire or perhaps proper fencing material (ran head-first into one today!). In the informal settlements, also known as squatter camps, “homes” are made of pretty much anything that one can find – metal scraps, cardboard, blocks, etc. Below is a picture of what one of the squatter camps in Mamelodi looks like:

Mamelodi informal settlement

As I’m sure this photo made you shake your head in disbelief, imagine what it must be like to live in a place like this on a daily basis. There are no garbage dumps, often there is no running water or electricity, and no plumbing. In addition to that, some of these homes pictured house entire families – often more than 5 people. There is nothing that can prepare a person to see something like this first-hand.

On Sunday, we took a tour of the Charity and Faith campus, which includes a hospice center, a school, and an orphanage. The school has about 350 students that attend, and the orphanage can house up to 16 children. The hospice center has both a men’s and women’s ward, and there they care for patients with TB, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. The design of this campus was essentially to care for people from cradle to grave, and it is truly a blessing to the community it serves.

In the neighborhood we combed today, we planted approximately 6 gardens in the morning. Then, in the afternoon our team made home visits with a government hospice worker and a hospice caregiver from our partner church, mostly to AIDS patients. I did not think this would affect me as much as it did, but the folks whose homes we visited invited us in wholeheartedly and just wanted to be loved and prayed for. It blew me away that these men and women could be given so much happiness with such a simple gesture as a personal visit. It made me sad to think about how petty some things are that anger me after seeing this.

the first garden we plantedTo give a little information about AIDS/HIV in South Africa, about 1/3 of the population suffers from HIV or AIDS. In fact, the woman at the first house we planted a garden at informed us that just day she had been diagnosed with HIV. There is a belief among some people here that if a man who has AIDS has sex with a virgin, he will pass the disease on to her and be cured himself. Typically when a person here is diagnosed with the disease, he or she is shunned by their family, as it is shameful to them. Because of this, many people do not get tested for fear that they might test positive. It is an epidemic in the country. We have a medical team here this week seeing sick people, and just today they saw over 300 patients, many of whom arrived at the makeshift tent clinic as early as 4am just to wait in line to be seen.

I have learned today that there is nothing like being able to see, touch, and experience true poverty to make your heart reach out to those in need. Reading about poverty-stricken countries, watching TV programs about them, or even sending money somewhere in the hopes that you make an impact cannot match what it feels like to see it for yourself. Standing in the home of a 56 year old woman who lives with her grown children, one of whom has AIDS, and who herself does not have a job because she cannot find employment, but hearing her ask for prayer not for herself but for her family’s health and financial situations, will strike a cord in the hardest of hearts. I understand now the purpose of bringing so many people on projects like this. Seeing for yourself the contrast in lifestyle between Cincinnati and Mamelodi is a sight that can never be forgotten. Being able to share the accounts of participating in a project like this with others helps to bring awareness to those we know. With that awareness comes sensitivity to the problem, and in that sensitivity, more can be done to help alleviate the suffering.

The remainder of the week will be filled with more gardening, and I understand that a special Thanksgiving day celebration is in store for us on Thursday. It will be wonderful to share our traditions with the people here. They’ve already given me much more than I could have ever dreamed of…stay tuned for more!


7 Comments so far
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Thank you for the work you and your church are doing to help those less fortunate then ourselves.


Comment by Charles Bretz

Glad you’re here, Amybeth, and having a great experience. Praise God.

Comment by Nathan Clendenin

Thank you for improving people’s lives and for sharing your story on your blog.

Comment by Mario Sanchez Carrion


What an experience! We need more people like you who are willing to take action and make a difference. You Rock!! Safe travels and have the best Thankgiving ever.


Comment by Allan Greer


I am so grateful that you are publishing your experiences for us all to share. It really makes me want to join in on the effort. I think I will look for a way to make more of a difference. Thank you!


Comment by Amy Albright


~Wow! + ~Damn! Your time, effort, and energy touch my heart and soul. Thanks for sharing story this my friend. It helps me to understand what St. Matt was trying to tell us in Matthew 25:40. May God bless all involved in a very special way. Peace!


Comment by Ray Towle

So proud to know you.

Comment by Jim Stroud

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