Andrew Newmarch, World Vision Australia’s Program Advisor for South Africa, recently visited the Umzimkhulu project. As you sponsor a child in this project, we thought you might like to hear about his experience during the visit.
The realities of village life
The region of Umzimkhulu in South Africa has been described as a beautiful land of rolling hills and wide valleys. But this beauty masks the realities faced by the little local villages, isolated from each other and from government services.
"In one of the villages there is no health clinic. So children die or are in poor health, mothers are not taught how to nurture their children through the early stages of life, emergencies can turn into tragedies."
Government services are stretched and don’t always reach into the villages.
"The nearest hospital is 25-30 kilometres away; that’s a long way if you have to walk. The medical service is the monthly mobile clinic."
Nurses will come with the mobile clinic to attend to the needs of the community. Sometimes the nurses may bring a tent, so they have a place to talk to people a little more privately or to test residents for HIV/AIDS. The nurses may be offered the use of a house in some places, but no villages in the area have their own clinic.
This village is part of the area covered by World Vision South Africa through its child sponsorship funded activities. Mahlanganisa Mazongolo (Alfred) is a Development Worker in this area and regularly visits this village. He knows that medical services will only improve if the village itself takes action to get a clinic.
A remarkable achievement
This village has done an extraordinary thing. They have built their own community clinic. The community own the land and the building. They have built it themselves. No more will the nurses have to serve them from the boot of a car.
Key staff from the nearby hospital have come to the clinic opening.
"Mrs Nonhlnanhla Keswa is the CEO and says it is good to have better facilities for the nurses. She predicts that services might move from a monthly service to twice a month".
The district doctor agrees and says the time may even come when the doctor may make visits. This village is not there yet but it has started the journey to that goal.
"The remarkable feature of this story that the community has decided to use their own land, labour, funds and expertise to construct a building. A building they own and can use for whatever purposes they wish."
There is no doubt that this day is a big deal. Apart from the dignitaries, the community have flocked to the site and dressed up. Two large tents have been erected to house the proceedings. A conga line of schoolgirls leads the chiefs and tribal councils to the big tent and performs dances outside the tent. And the day will have yet more feasting.
As time goes by, the sign out the front of the clinic with the World Vision logo will go. Yet the community will always remember that they built the clinic building themselves and that this has led to better services and a better future.