Some of you who have been following this blog since we first came to South Africa in 2008 might remember Mama Cathrine. We met Mama through Mark and Chris Harding. She was running a children’s home and community center in a township close to where we live. If you are not familiar with Mama and what she does, you can go to our old blog, http://mifeys.blogspot.com and read about her from early September through the end of November 2008. Again, the lack of internet does not allow me to make a bunch of links to posts that we wrote about her, but they would be easy to find.
Since we’ve been here, we’ve gone to visit Mama and see the work she is doing about 5 or 6 times. Usually we take the kids, but I did go once last week by myself, which was a nice change. I think the reason I haven’t written much about Mama since being back here is that my mind is just kind of full of different thoughts and I am still trying to put them all together. We do not know what our role is going to be in helping Mama, but we do feel like we have been placed here “for such a time as this”. Beth Moore and the book of Esther have hopefully prepared me well!
Some things at Mama’s have changed since we were last here and some are exactly the same. Instead of having 25 children living at Tshwaraganang, which means “we come together” and is the name of the non-profit Mama runs, there are now over 60 children living there. These additional kids seem to have placed a lot of strain on some of the other things Mama had been doing in the community when we were last here. She no longer runs a feeding scheme because she often does not have enough money or food for the 60+ kids in her own care so she can’t be feeding the other children in the community. There also used to be a crèche on site, which is like a preschool program, but she no longer has any one to staff it.
Speaking of staff, there are a bunch of adults on the property, but we still have not figured out what they all do. I believe she pays three “mamas” to help out with cooking, cleaning and taking care of the little babies who stay at Tshwaraganang, but she has no money to pay the other “volunteers”, so sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t. Yes, there are now babies on site, which was not the case in 2008. Mama is now taking in a lot of sibling groups, which means she has all ages in her care. Some of the kids are really too old to be there, but there is nowhere for them to go. They do not have jobs, some did not finish school, so even if they did have property in their name or a little shack to live in, they would have no money to get food, which is obviously a problem. So she keeps them on, which adds to her problems as 20 year olds eat way more than toddlers do!
So, for now we are still just trying to figure out what is going on at Tshwaraganang and trying to figure out if Mama has any idea what direction she would like things to go. It has been very nice for us because there is a couple from New Zealand that are staying with Mama, so they are seeing a lot of things that we would never know about and they are able to provide us a lot of insight into the day to day workings of Tshwaraganang. We have started talking to them and some of the younger volunteers about some ways that Mama could start making some money on site. They have chickens right now, but their “coop” looks like a pile of garbage and the chickens have not been laying eggs regularly. If we could help them get their chickens sorted out, they might be able to sell eggs in the community. They also have a large garden, but no one who really knows much about gardening. We are hoping to somehow get them connected with some people that could teach them the best way to grow things and what vegetables will provide the highest yields so that they can eventually sell some produce as well. Both of these ventures would help Mama to become more self-sufficient as they would provide food and income for other things as well. There are some other ideas we have, but we are just going slow right now and trying to see what Mama wants and what will best serve the children in her care.
So, that is my introduction to Mama Cathrine. I will be writing more about her and I am sure Darin will too. Please pray for us as we try to discern what God would have us do in this situation and in all the other situations like this that we are sure to encounter during our time here. Some of you have already asked if there is anything you can do to help Mama Cathrine. In the coming weeks, we hope to have some concrete ways that you can help, so stay tuned!