Ever since we launched our Hand Of Friendship campaign in support of the Winnie Mabaso Foundation back in 2017, “Friend” readers have taken this very good cause to their hearts, responding with stunning levels of warmth and generosity.
Thanks to you, the charity continues to be able to make a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged people in South Africa.
But our bonds go so much deeper than financial support, with strong and lasting friendships being formed across the thousands of miles that separate us.
Here, charity founder Lisa Ashton tells us all about how our friends in Meriting are faring during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
So much has happened since I last wrote to you. It seems the world has become almost unrecognisable in just a few months.
I hope this update finds you safe and well.
It has been so hard for people having to distance from family and loved ones, and you have all been in my thoughts.
I am really missing everyone
In March I was in South Africa, ready to spend a month working at our various projects and spending time at the orphanage with the children.
I had only been in the country a few days when Boris Johnson made the announcement that there would be a lockdown in the UK because of coronavirus.
I spoke to the British High Commission, who told me that South Africa would also be putting measures in place, and they advised me to return to the UK as quickly as possible.
Luckily, I was able to get a seat on one of the last flights that left Johannesburg before the lockdown began, so I have spent the past few months with my family in Derbyshire.
I haven’t been away from South Africa for this long in many years. I am really missing everyone, especially the children and the grannies.
South Africa took the lockdown very seriously, with strict curfews put in place which were enforced by the Army.
People were only allowed out of their homes for groceries or to seek medical assistance. People were even prohibited from buying alcohol and cigarettes.
We were concerned for our friends on the informal settlement of Meriting.
As you know, the community live with many family members in tiny shack dwellings with limited access to running water. Buying soap would be considered a luxury few can afford.
The lockdown also coincided with the onset of winter.
Our other worry was we had to stop our Friday night feeding station – our weekly distribution of a hot meal to over 850 people.
I have been overwhelmed by people’s kindness
I decided to launch an appeal for grocery packs. Each pack costs £20 and includes enough groceries to keep a family of four fed for a month, as well as some soap.
I have been overwhelmed once again by people’s kindness; indeed many of you also supported this initiative and generously helped us.
To date, we have been able to deliver over 1,700 packs to those most in need. I hope this continues, and we can keep the community going through these really tough times.
We also had to ensure the safety of the staff and children at the orphanage.
Many of our girls live with weakened immune systems. That’s why we decided nine of our team would move into the orphanage with the children, to minimise movement and the risk of someone bringing the virus into the home.
Fortunately, we had plenty of space in our International Volunteer House which is – of course – currently empty!
The team who didn’t move in were able to deliver groceries and medication and leave everything at the gate.
The carers also had to double as home tutors. Quite a challenge with 23 children of various ages and abilities! But they have been wonderful and the girls have enjoyed having school at home.
On Sundays the children usually go to church. Their faith is very important to them, so we have instead created a church at home. Each Sunday at 10 a.m. the children light a candle, and think about their Mabaso family all around the world.
They sing songs and say prayers and take it in turns to read a chapter from the Bible.
I hope it’s not too long before we can reopen
These quiet moments of reflection have been essential for them, and also enable them to feel connected with our supporters around the globe, as many post photos of their own candles on our social media pages.
It has been sad to have to temporarily close our projects for the time being. But we have a small team who are still able to go out visiting those who usually attend our groups to check they are OK.
All of our granny club members have been recipients of a grocery pack. And so far none of the community have contracted COVID-19.
Let’s hope it stays that way!
I hope it’s not too long before we can reopen and return to a more familiar way of living.
That’s all my news for now.
Thank you to all of you who have sent letters of encouragement, or have telephoned me.
It truly does help to know we are supported by you all.
I will write soon. In the meantime, please keep safe and well.
As always, in Mabaso love,
How you can help
The Foundation requires donations to fund its projects and vital work. You can donate:
- By cheque: Please make cheques payable to the Winnie Mabaso Foundation and send to 78 North Road, Glossop, Derbyshire SK13 7AU.
- Online: www.winniemabaso.org
You can also contact Lisa by phone: 01457 891498 or by e-mail: Lisa@winniemabaso.org
For more on the Winnie Mabaso Foundation, click the tag below.