Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Home bound...

Two weeks ago today I returned home after saying some of the hardest goodbyes of my life... I never knew leaving this time round would be so difficult and overwhelming. From the time my flight was booked to the time I left South Africa it was just over 24 hours. The Tuesday I found out I was leaving I cried many tears... I was a broken, emotional mess but I had planned to go and see my boyfriend so went ahead with the plan. We had a lovely evening watching the stars but we were broken inside knowing that tomorrow we would be apart for a long time. I spent the majority of that night sat up remembering all the wonderful experiences and memories of my time spent at TLC wishing i could stay for my full time. My goodbye to my boyfriend was difficult and fast as I climbed into the Uber to go home.  But I kept myself together and tried my hardest not to cry. My heart was shattered knowing I would have to say many more goodbyes that day.

 This was the day I would leave my home, my family and the most amazing community of people I had ever met.

I had packed my suitcase on the Saturday before whilst waiting for medical results as instructed by my mum. So I headed straight to the nursery to be with my kiddios for my last morning in South Africa. I had always planned what I would do in my last week in South Africa and all my plans where being torn apart in the 8 remaining hours I had left to spend with them. I got breakfast and ate it with baby B then walked my kiddios to preschool and watched them walk ahead as I turned towards the cottage listening to all of them scream my name...

I hesitantly took my notes of my door that previous volunteers had made as a leaving TLC tradition as a thank you to helping the children when they couldn't anymore... A flood of memories came rushing back to me; All the people I had worked beside, All the babies who had arrived and All the children who had found there forever families... I had no words... Making sure I had packed everything I took a shower and returned to the nursery to spend more time with my children... Whenever someone leaves the children understand. They become more emotional and attached in the hours before you leave and this just makes leaving so much more difficult.

By this time I had already said many goodbyes to the family and staff members who not only looked after the kids but also supported me during my time spent at TLC. Every goodbye was becoming more and more painful. Many kept reminding me its not a goodbye forever its only for now- think of it as a holiday! So I kept the tears back by attempting to smile. The hardest moments still to come...

I had said goodbye to almost everyone then headed to the carpark with my cases to say the final goodbye to the preschool kids as they came back up to the nursery and a bunch of people followed me to the car... This is where I watched my babies both confused and broken as I stepped into the buckie ... My eyes getting heavier and heavier as I left them and headed towards security. I sat and watched as the gates became further and further away with my heart in pieces and on the verge of tears ...

I had previously explained to everyone that i'm rubbish at goodbyes so I only want a few people to come to the airport and it ended up just being me and T better known as Tingiling. T had dropped me off previously when my Granddad passed away so he knew how much I struggled...

We dropped of my luggage and headed for my last dinner at Spurs before making our way to security. This is when reality began to set in. As I looked at T I could feel my voice begin to shake.. One of my hardest byes. T was close to me, We went on many car journeys during my time and spoke about everything. Not only was I leaving an amazing friend but I was also leaving a brother... We spoke about when I was returning to South Africa then he told me to listen to a specific Christian song and we said 'SEE YOU SOON' as we separated and went our different ways...

I walked into the security line looking back as tears ran down my face. I broke. My heart had finally shattered. Emotionally and physically exhausted. T doesn't know just how much that song meant to me...  I listened to it many times before I flew that night remembering all the times I had at TLC and how God had walked with me through them all...

One Month Remaining!

With only one month remaining my heart is stretched. I don't know where this year has gone and whether to be happy or sad in these moments as I look into my friends, family and kids eyes, wondering whether this would be our last times together. As other volunteers know towards the end of your time you are excited to go home and see everyone you have missed but you know at the top of your heart that you are going to miss these people a million times more. The connections you've made the trust you've built and everything in between.

My past few months haven't been the easiest I have overcome sickness (double kidney infection, tonsillitis, bronchitis, sinus infection and the normal sickness) I have learnt how to deal with the heartbreak I feel as babies leave and the overwhelming sense of happiness I hold as they fall in love with there new forever families. You could say my time here has been more than an emotional rollercoaster. We have been through so much as a team but also as a family....

Volunteers and babies leaving whilst new ones arrive, you never forget the impact each and every one of these special bonds has meant for each and every baby, child and young adult on TLC property. From the small acts of kindness to the ongoing genorosity from day volunteers to continual supporters each and every one building part of these childrens lifes. I am reminded of the African proverb  'It takes a village to raise a child' because honeslty it does. Without every single one of us being a part of these childrens lifes they would grow up with missing pieces but instead they can be loved by a family, a community, a village and even a nation. These are Our babies but they all grow up with there own beautiful personalities because they have been raised by many and taught life changing things by all.

Some of you may know I had to take a trip to hospital after finding out I had a kidney infection at the doctors. They prescribed me antibiotics but two days into the course I felt worse.. Much worse in fact but carried on going as I was starting shift in about 10 mins time. I sat on the bed and read a story to the children whilst in agony. I spent 30 mins sat with them before the pain became unbearable so I asked one of the other ladies on bears to step in for me as I crawled out of their room into the corridor - Tears streaming down my face and screaming in pain. I was vomiting white stuff where the pain was so intense. The other volunteers and one of the managers came back from an outing and realised how bad things had became so insisted I went to hospital. So they helped me to the car whilst I was shouting in pain and my boyfriend and T came with. Within seconds I was being seen too and it was confirmed my kidney infection had spread to both kidneys so I had to have bloods drawn and cannulas put in to administer the pain meds and iv antibiotics. Luckily after 4 hours I was allowed home with more pain relief but if it wasn't for my amazing friends and volunteers I wouldn't have been able to survive that night - We all need each other in the difficult times but we also need each other when life is going well.

During my 14 months at TLC I have learnt that God is with you no matter how rough your day or week is. He doesn't mind if you are stressed or over the moon, he is with you through it all. TLC has taught me to love and trust through the difficult and to work together, love and support those around you during their struggles and happy times too. Everyone needs a hug every so often even if they look like they have it all together from the outside...

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The Half Way Mark!

Its crazy how fast time can fly by when your so far away from family and friends.
Here at TLC us volunteers say: Each day goes slow, Each week goes fast and Each month fly's by.
I am already past the half way point, the Hardest the Happiest and most Confusing time of my stay!

Before I left my cousin who had previously done missionary work said that the middle mark is always the hardest, but being me I counted the months and realised that it was near my birthday so completely ignored the fact that it could be pretty difficult.

Little did I know it really would be a confusing time in my stay. Part of me is ready to go home and see my family who love me so much. So i'm counting down the months, but on the other hand the other half of me is dreading going home. Leaving these babies who I now class as my kiddies.
In total during both my stays I have been here for 9 and a half months. I could tell you most things about these children: What they like/ dislike, There sleeping patterns, There cry when I am in the room next door and there favourite toy and food etc. These are the children I got ready for school everyday and waited for them to arrive back in the afternoon. Waiting patiently outside for all the hugs as they ran towards me screaming my name in there playground before dinner, bath time and the bedtime routine.

Just thinking about leaving these kids in a few months is heartbreaking. It is especially difficult to leave the older children who I have spent most of my time with. The two to ten year olds. As I know that they understand that I will be leaving soon just like all the other volunteers that come into there lives and for me that is heartbreaking.

I am currently sat in the nursery managers office at 00:46 writing this blog after a 13 hour day with 4 of the oldest children including the oldest who has cerebral palsy who is 10 years old. Today changed dramatically after planning a whole day of activities for the girls walking into the nursery at 6am. I noticed one of the younger children fidgeting in an unusual way but checked him and made my way to the bears who I was with till 7pm on the schedule. However, about 15 minutes into my shift the volunteer on meds came to give one of my children her meds when she said she thought the other child was having a seizure. I ran to where he was laying and immediately face timed the manager onsite so she could see how sick this child really was, she arrived in minutes to the room he had just fitted in. After administering the appropriate meds the manager left me with a schedule of times to give the next 3 different types of medications throughout the course of the day and night. Hence why I am sat here typing now waiting for the next medication to be needed. During this time I was also handed another sick child of the same age group who was very weak but mostly just needed more sleep than the other children so I put her back into bed and sat with her until she fell asleep. Meanwhile all the older children where being patient waiting for me to prepare breakfast before a change of plan for the day.

Just this previous month, 4 of my children have been adopted or fostered and its the most amazing thing you will ever feel whilst being the most painful all at the same time. There teacher explained it like this: At there leaving party one of my eyes will be crying happy tears for them as I know this is for the best and that they will live a wonderful life with there new parents but my other eye will cry sad tears as I remember all the memories we had together and because I will miss there little character and for all there little friends as they learn to live life without there sister and brother at TLC.

The half way mark really does show many different emotions. Each hour and day that passes you feel something different whether thats happiness, heartbreak, confusion or peacefulness as you enter the next phase of your stay. The most challenging part is looking forward to going home but wishing that you had a longer time with these children to see all of there firsts and all there milestones whether they are small or big! They are still planted into your heart as you love every child as your own even if you have stronger bonds with some you still love them all through the wonderful grace of God!!

Please by praying for all the kiddies here as they encounter a very big change with there friends leaving and other children coming up into there different age groups. It can be a very unsettling time for some and a challenge for others. Just an update: The sick children are on the mend and seem a lot happier and healthier than this Morning :)
Thank you for taking time to read this!!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Reunited with TLC!

After what felt like years I finally returned back to TLC in march.
It was a emotional journey which encountered many challenges along the way.
From my Granddad sadly passing away to saying my goodbyes to the family for a year to waking up in the place my heart wanted so badly.
My heart longed to see the babies grow and explore so much whilst I was home in the uk and returning back made my heart finally feel a sense of peace. I could breath again....

There are no words that can explain how I felt coming back to this spectacular community.
from the wonderful welcome 'home' to the hugs and kisses from all the babies when they remembered me. The overwhelming feeling of being loved made me feel a thousand times more positive about this crazy adventure I had placed myself in.

The smiles on there faces where unexplainable. All of the older kids where shocked about my return.
This is because they have grown up knowing that volunteers come into there lives and leave again a couple of months later. This is heartbreaking as you know that after they get attached to you they are waiting for the day that you leave again. So all the kids were overjoyed to know that I was staying a long time. It took them a while to figure out that I am going to be here for all of there birthdays this year!

When I left the uk I was on antibiotics this time for a throat infection.
Exhausted from the plane journey I rested in the car back knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. Working the following day from 6am to 8pm.

My first week back was chaotic...
 2 volunteers left TLC
 2 went on holiday leave with family who where visiting
 1 volunteer was sick.

The breaks we had planned out on the schedule where no longer breaks...
I ended up completing a 26 hour shift with a 15 minute break instead of a 13 hour day with a 3 hour break included because of the lack of volunteers. This 26 hour shift was a dayshift which carried on to nightshift and a small part of day shift again. It was exhausting but I managed through it.

The week I arrived started with 6am starts with 1, 5am start and between 7 and 9pm finishes.
I was in charge of 13 lions, tigers and bears all by myself 2 years old to 10 years old for Saturday and Sunday morning shift 2 hours each morning.
Then I thankfully had the lions, tigers and bears for evening routine with another volunteer.

Some volunteers don’t have a clue what to do so its sometimes easier to do it yourself then make the work twice as much.
I spoke on 4 different tours around TLC for day volunteers to explain how it started and what our role is in the nursery. This was interesting as I had no experience in this department before but I seemed to make everything clear enough for them to understand.

We had 1 nursery meeting with all the staff and volunteers going through what needs to change from the previous weeks work and the positive things also.

1 day off still taking care of the kids at different times throughout the day because of volunteer sickness, we are all on a group chat so know when our other volunteers are sick so if you are well you step up and help out where ever possible to make sure the work load doesn't become to unmanageable for everyone else.

The hardest times for us volunteers are when our babies are sick with bad coughs and wheezy breathing where they are being nebulise to sickness and diarrhoea where we are doing ten times as much wishy washy. This is a hard time as we are there 'mummy' for the time we are here and when theres not much you can do to help it breaks our hearts. 

On my first week back I:
Folded 20 mountains of laundry 
Hundreds of bottles made
Thousands of nappies changed
Many hours spent on wishy washy
Sterilising bottles, dummies, cutlery and teats
Washing bowls, cups and all other nursery things
Sorting through truck fulls of donations only to find we had no wipes so a quick trip out and 20 packs of wipes later to get us through nightshift and the morning
But most of all giving these babies the love and cuddles they deserve and need as they grow up to be amazing young children of God. 

Being able to see my babies and children grow up into wonderful people makes my heart full of happiness. At times during my first week I honestly questioned my crazy decision of staying here for a year!!! But then I thought to myself the only people these children can look too for help is us and there wide stunning smiles set my plan in stone for staying here. I will never look back through the struggles heartbreaks and happiness. I know I have made the right choice in Gods kingdom....

Sunday, 22 April 2018

A million miles away.......

Anyone who volunteers abroad knows how difficult it can be away from family when you are struggling with the task you have been handed. Most of us probably just want a hug from our parents and to be told everything is okay. However, when something life changing is happening within your family at home it makes you feel like you are millions of miles away.
This is how I felt when the only way of decent contact was through texting.
I knew my mum would try and make everything sound like it wasn’t that bad but on the other hand I also knew my older sister would tell me how it actually was.
On the 26th December just after a month of volunteering at TLC I got a message that no one ever wants to receive.
My dad (your granddad) is really ill and wants to go home to heaven.
My brothers and sisters are all round to say goodbye to him.
I just wanted you to be kept up to date
Love you loads
This was extremely difficult to process but thankfully I was teamed up with another lovely volunteer for our second night of nightshift.
That night I felt angry- not angry at my family but angry with God at the fact that all of this had happened and I was so far away. I knew in my heart that my Granddad would want me to stay strong but it all seemed impossible as I didn’t know the full extent of what was going on.
After 5 more days of the unknown and messages being sent back and forth my night shift finally came to an end. During this night shift I would sleep for an hour or two during the day then wash and go back to Main house. I stayed there as much as possible because my phone only worked on Wifi and I didn’t want to get any news about my Granddads health hours after it was sent to me. When I ventured out of TLC someone would always come with me and I gave there number to my older sister so that she could contact them in an emergency. I always felt on edge with my phone constantly attached to me.
Things at home took a turn for the worse I was told that the doctors said there was nothing else they could do for him. – I remember sitting at the table and bursting in to tears my heart completely shattered.
Later that day a few of the volunteers took me out to the shops to try to distract me but it was there that I received a call from my daddy. It went something along the lines of: I've brought you a ticket home. Im coming in a couple of hours. I'll see you tomorrow mid day.
I was confused, shocked, exhausted but in my heart it didn’t feel right just abandoning TLC like that with less staff at a time of need. So I rung my dad back up and explained the situation and he cancelled the tickets. My father is the most loving person and would do anything for us children when we are in need, however the timing just didn’t feel right. Part of me still questions my decision!
I also didn’t want anything to happen to my granddad whilst my dad was on the plane or in south Africa as that would have made me feel more guilty as they were so close.
The messages where constantly saying that they had been told he only has hours left but my granddad is a true fighter.
On Thursday the 4th of January after another volunteer arriving I decided it was time that I could leave so my loving parents booked me flight home for Saturday the 6th of January. I was an emotional mess and anyone at TLC can say that too!
On the 5th of January during the day it was planned that one of the girls was going out for her 20th birthday but I just couldn’t bring myself to go even though it was my last evening in south Africa something once again didn’t feel right.
 I prayed to God that he would give granddad enough strength to survive the night so that I could say my final goodbyes when I returned home.
Shortly after they left to go out I returned back to my cottage to pack up a few more of my belongings that I had just washed when a massive thunderstorm came overhead and cut the power out. I was told by another volunteer that it probably wouldn’t turn on for around four hours and I was truly at breaking point but suddenly the power turned back on!
I left everything at the cottage and ran with my phone in hand back to Main house but the Wifi still hadn’t returned. So I asked one of the guys to turn on his hotspot.
With that I received a phone call so I ran to where it was quiet and where the service is normally perfect but all I could hear was my Daddy’s voice hurting on the other end of the phone. I couldn’t hear what he was actually saying but knew in my heart that it was the end. I completely broke down I cried and cried and cried.  It was at this point that I realised just how amazing everyone is at TLC!
In times of hurt and pain they make you feel so safe and secure I felt a sense of peace within me that I didn’t think I would ever feel again. Mumma Thea gave me the biggest hug that evening that I will never forget- it was just what I needed!

Being so far away from family felt like it was impossible to deal with at the beginning of the rollercoaster ride with my granddads health but even though I was hurting beyond words can explain something just felt peaceful knowing that my granddad was with God in heaven. TLC taught me so much whilst being miles away from my family at such a difficult time and I am forever grateful for the support and help they gave me through that emotional time. 

Learning Life at TLC!

Life goes by fast at TLC when you are surrounded by love laughter and happiness. It is definitely not the easiest thing to do with the long work hours and short breaks but it is well worth it to see these children being so loved and taken care off with huge smiles on there faces. My first month at TLC was crazy from being told I was getting training for the first two days of me arriving to jumping straight into TLC life the following morning at 6am.
I got a early wake up when the other volunteers knocked on more door at 5:30 in the morning explaining to me that the training wasn't happening and that I was incharge of 6 grubs who where from the age of 7 months to a year for the morning routine. This routine included waking up, bottles, baby cereal, bathing and change time then finally putting them all back into there beds for a nap.
This would have been easy however they missed one important piece of information - I was alone!
The crazy thing was I had only met these children the evening before so I barely even knew there names... and I was now incharge of them all.
It was all going peacefully until I realised the bathroom where the baths where was nowhere near the grubs room! Carrying 6 babies into a bathroom bathing then changing them can be a bit hectic when your all alone and you can't leave them in two different rooms at once.
Luckily my dad came to help out towards the end of my shift with the grubs then helped out for the rest of that week as TLC was short of volunteers. We would start at 6am have a couple hours break if we we're lucky then work past 7pm as 7pm was our finishing time but we wait till all the babies and children in our group are asleep to help nightshift out whilst they complete wishy washy.
Wishy washy is different for nightshift to day shift as you have to try to complete more tasks:
cleaning the bobbit
sweeping and mopping floors
washing drying and folding laundry
washing up and sterilising bottles, teats and cutlery
changing sterilization buckets
making sure kitchen is tidy
cleaning out fridge
bins including the nappy bin and slop bucket for pigs

-All whilst babies are waking up and screaming
The nesties need feeding every  3-4 hours
If a baby wakes up they need rocking back to sleep
and bottles and breakfast need to be made for the following morning.

Once I got to know all the babies Names, Likes and Dislikes I was then able to complete nightshift. This is where you get to learn the different babies cries so you can run to them quickly with the correct milk bottle or dummy. It was a serious learning curve when you know what they love and hate it makes life a whole lot easier.
Life at TLC can alternate between being the most peaceful place to the craziest it all depends on your daily schedule. We are given our schedule the night before so that we can prepare ourselves for the following day- The first few weeks I was basically changing between grubs and wishy washy whilst getting to know all the other babies and children ranging in age between a couple of days old to ten years.
It was the best way to get to know everyone at TLC by just jumping straight into life in Johannesburg as I picked up the daily routines quicker and settled in faster :)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Unbelievable Adventure To TLC!

Well.. what can I say? The past three months have been the most rewarding, challenging and craziest times of my life! When I arrived home from helping out in a township in Johannesburg in 2016 I was immediately looking for somewhere else to volunteer, but knew that I probably wouldn't be able to go anywhere abroad until I was 18 so being a teenager I gave up and stopped looking.
I have grown up in a large family so knew I always wanted children but felt a massive pull in my heart for adoption so I began looking up adoption videos on youtube when I came across this wonderful Lady's story! I rewatched her story around 7 times before I felt a connection to what she was really saying, so I found her on Facebook and messaged her asking where about's she had volunteered in Africa. Her answer was totally unexpected! Johannesburg?! Well... I was shocked this is where my heart has been pulled towards since a mission trip in 2012. Then she mentioned that it was The Love of Christ  Children's home where she volunteered. I have grown up in a christian family since I was a baby so this made me extremely happy. I instantly did my research and that evening I began sending emails to TLC asking if I could volunteer in January 2019 as I would then be 18 and would have finished my college eduction.

So I carried on with normal day to day activities in the uk and booked up my next mission trip in 2018. I then started college doing health and social care in September but unfortunately only 6 days in to it my teacher quit so I began looking for different courses and jobs. One evening I was sat in my lounge when a friend came round and mentioned an email so I thought I should check when my job interview was booked for, for the next day when an email came through from TLC. This was the most amazing email I have ever received! "would you like to come and volunteer at our Children's home as we are extremely short of volunteers for over the christmas period" I jumped up and ran round the house excited, emotional but mostly overwhelmed by the offer. So I messaged them back straight away explaining that I only just turned 17 not expecting them to actually let me help. After three days of constantly checking my phone and emails being passed back and forth they sent the final email saying they would love for me to travel and volunteer. So from the first email to the day I arrived at TLC it was only a short 21 days to get vaccinations, affidavits, flights and pack!

So after an 11 hours flight with my Dad (as I'm too young to travel to Africa on my own) we sorted out the hire car and started driving towards TLC. There were small miscommunications about not knowing exactly where it was but we finally started to get closer. We knew we were close because of the sat nav on Dad's phone. Suddenly we both went silent whilst taking in the surroundings, we looked at each other and realised exactly where we where! We where at Jacksons..... The preschool in the township that we had painted in 2012 with the mission team from our church in the UK! I was completely overwhelmed as this was less than 2 mins away from TLC the place I had no information about and the place I thought was in the middle of nowhere was actually only 2 minutes away from where I was volunteering in 2012!

This was only the beginning of my unbelievable adventure in Johannesburg....