Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The New Year begins...

This new year already has a completely different feel to it. A new vibe. A new look. A new taste. A new perspective. Altogether I feel as though a new me has reentered a new Refilwe. In this “newness” I have decided to write to my readers honestly, meaning I am going to try to help you see this experience through my eyes, my heart, and my soul the best I can- without breaking any confidentiality rules :) So many of you have supported me above and beyond what I could ever ask for. You deserve to know what you are supporting in its fullest. The good, the bad, the truth, the lies, the heartbreak, the beauty and the transformations. 

If you read my most recent blog, back in December, you know things have seriously changed around here. Our Director and "Father" of Refilwe left, due to very unfortunate circumstances. Circumstances that I've come to learn I will never find real truth in, only this side, that side of things. I have accepted that. I know where I stand though, and I will fight if I must to stand that ground firmly. 
We are in a process of change. In that, there is always heartbreak, disagreements, struggle, excitement and hope. Right now my heart is feeling a bit of each. But most of all, I have hope. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and the question of that reason is where the hope lies. At the moment, things are quite messy, and we are all busy picking up the pieces that broke three months ago, and the ones broken since then. That means that certain jobs are being covered for those absent, we are trying to come together to understand what is happening, and trying to compensate for what is lost. We are without a "leader" at the moment, and I see the effects of that. Children and people taking advantage of the fact that there is no "fear" (for lack of a better word) that a leader brings. That's what parents, bosses, etc are for. They help to keep you in line and to remind you what is acceptable and what is not. The rest is in your own integrity, which not everyone has. So people are stepping in and trying to be the best leader they can, and I appreciate that so much. When working and living in a child based home/care center/school... whatever- we need someone over it all. We need a "Father" or "Mother". So without that, things are sloppy, but we're trying. I need to add that we do need prayer or positive vibes or support in whatever form through this. I believe that everything will be okay. I know amazing things will come. It's the transition that's difficult.
As for me, I am wondering what I'm doing here. I know I am supposed to be here, but why? I have a feeling that this year is going to be one of the biggest roller coaster rides I have ever been on, but it will be for something beautiful. I don't have all positive love and peaceful feelings about the next 11 months. But those feelings do lie in between the crevices, and out the other end. 

I am back at work. New work. Started Jan. 9. I am cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning. Right now there are about 30 +- students in the preschool, but we're expecting more as the month comes to a close.  It's all go from about 630am until between 2 and 3pm. I will take some pictures and try to get someone to do the same for me so you guys can actually see where I work and what I am doing. But for now, that's all you get :)

Again, please keep me and Refilwe- our children, our parents, our staff, our homes, our safety and our hearts in your mind and prayers. Thank you!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The End of the Beginning

So... I'm sure by now you have learned that I suck at blogging. I have no excuse for it. But I am sorry that I haven't been better about keeping you updated. I figure this will be my last post until I return in January so I will summarize things a bit.

(after staring at the screen for 10 minutes figuring out where to begin):
A lot has changed.

This entire year has been one thing after another, and unfortunately I cannot say there wasn't much heartbreak involved. We have seen a lot of people come in and out of our lives. No doubt transforming our hearts and the way we live. I believe our volunteers have such a huge impact on Refilwe, whether it be individuals committing weeks or months of their lives, or groups who come through briefly and BUST THEIR BUMS working. I believe there is such a bond that is formed when people come here and experience this life with us. Relationships that I know will last forever. The children are so blessed to have so many people from all over the world come to be with them and help to make their home a better place. Although it is always painful to say goodbye, their lives were touched and blessed forever. I have been fortunate enough to cater two volunteer groups (a taste of what the entire year of 2013 will look like). It is no doubt a full time job, but man I love it. Because so often our volunteer groups are running around with a long list of jobs to be done, catering gives me the chance to actually get to know them and spend time with them, not just see them from afar, greet them in passing, and say thank you and goodbye after a week. I understand the sacrifices made in this kind of work and I am thankful for the opportunity to really share our lives for a brief moment.
The individual volunteers who have come through have been some of the most unique, most amazing people I have ever met. No matter how close I become I know that a life long relationship has been built. I don't believe there is any escaping it. Amongst the daily chaos we always know that we can turn to each other and understand one another. It's hard to put into words, especially because writing is far from a strong suit for me- but there is just something incredibly special about these relationships. The levels of our inevitable bonding are extremely emotional and lay very deep. It's like our hearts become so open and so vulnerable here it's hard to keep someone out. I feel like I fall in love over and over again with every new face who comes here, and whether or not they know it or like it, they have all taken a little piece of me with them and i've secretly stolen a piece of them, that I will never forget. No matter how short their time was here, I remember every name and face of each individual who has joined our little volunteer family. I have made some amazing friends that live all over the world. I have new brothers, sisters, a very special, extraordinary second mother and family.

We have had to say goodbye to a lot of people. Two of whom were rocks of Refilwe and built it into what it is today. In those goodbyes, we have all suffered, cried, felt anger, and confusion. And now we are trying to come together to pick up the pieces and move forward. It seems as though everything has changed. I believe that this change will be good and is necessary but it's the transition that is the challenge. I can only hope and pray that we can be strong enough to make it through this transition and come out stronger, closer, and that Refilwe will be rebuilt into something a thousand times more amazing than anything we ever hoped for. This is a difficult subject to write about. I feel like I have so much to say, so much that I feel that I cannot express in this way. So I will only say this: we are absolutely in a time of need. There is no doubt a long road ahead of us, and if you find yourself praying or thinking about Refilwe- keep it in your hearts that there are many broken, but we are working hard to come together. I do believe what we are experiencing is necessary and as hard as it may be- everything does happen for a reason. There are beautiful things coming. We will come together as a community, and as a family. This is an amazing project and we have already come such a long way. I look forward to our future and the future of our children, our abandoned babies who we find homes for,  our families, our staff, our animals, our volunteers, our school and the overall transformation of lives. I know without a doubt- everything is going to be okay. Please keep the love and prayers coming.

As for me and my future here at Refilwe- I will land back in SA on Jan. 3, six days before the school year starts. I will be running the kitchen which means I will be feeding our precious little preschoolers breakfast snack and lunch Monday through Friday, preparing our weekly community dinners, catering to all volunteer groups who come to stay with us- which means I keep their home stocked for breakfast and cook them one or two hot breakfasts, lunch and dinner. Everyday. When I said earlier it was a full time job, I meant it. I will cater Board Meetings, and i'm sure a few random "feedings" here and there. My job is to cook. You know, I've always enjoyed cooking even briefly considered Culinary school, but I never would have imagined this opportunity coming my way. It's truly amazing how things work out. I feel extremely blessed and although I know I will be the busiest I may have ever been, I wouldn't change it for the world. I have committed to one year of this, and we'll see what happens after that ;)
Also, I am REALLY REALLY hoping to get myself a car. It is very difficult to rely on vehicles here and considering that this is my home, my life now... I feel like I need my own baby. By that I mean car. So check it out- I would like to ask a very special favor. I will be receiving a small stipend for the work I will be doing in the kitchen but I can assure you, it will cover my living expenses, and not that of a car . If you or anyone you know are willing to help me make it possible to purchase/ rent my own vehicle- know that it is a MASSIVE HELP. By this maybe you can commit to giving me your spare change every month. We had a car designated only for the kitchen, but she is pretty much dead and we can't exactly afford another one. Trips to the shops are necessary and frequent, especially when volunteer groups are around. We make it by now, but it's difficult when one car is being shared by so many people. This car will be used to keep the kitchen stocked, and bellies full. It will also be used for my personal errands, and occasional adventures. I thought I'd throw it out there and see what kind of help I can get. Anything is appreciated. As hard as it is for me to ask for money, this is the life I have chosen to live. One where I work and make no money. Ha. But again, I wouldn't change it for the world. I believe that if I am meant to be here, everything will work out, as it already has thus far. Spread the word :)

Well, I board the plane Friday evening and will be landing in Los Angeles on Saturday. I am beyond excited and flippin nervous to be back. It's going to be amazing to reunite and be with my family over the holidays. I have a lot of work to do concerning my visa, passport, international driver's license (or lack of), so i will no doubt be kept busy. But I cannot wait. I can humbly say that I will be coming home with completely different eyes. I know I have changed and grown so much, and without the pain and suffering, the love and support, that wouldn't have happened. So as I close this chapter and open a new one, I'd like to say Thank you to all of you for reading my blogs, for praying for me, for supporting me and for loving me. None of this would be possible without you. I feel as though I am in debt to you.  For now I pay you with my love and gratitude that will never cease. You guys are freakin amazing.

So for the last time in 2012- I am sending you all my love and thanks from SA. I'll see you now now ;)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

4 months to go, and I need you.

In this post I will put down my guards, set aside my pride, suck it up, and ask.

I have now been at Refilwe, in South Africa, for one year. Without hesitation- this has been the most amazing year of my life, and the most life changing work I have ever done. My gratitude for all of the support and love that got me here, and kept me here, overflows.
I have seen a new world, and lived in it and become part of it. A world more real than anything I've ever seen. People more real than anyone I have ever met. The cares and concerns of my family and friends here are not materialistic or selfish, but so real and deserving of every bit energy exerted into it. Food shortage, no water, no electricity, no money, rain so hard you're wet inside the house, children sick with no money to heal, children being abandoned AGAIN by their parents, corruption, crime, evil, and heartbreak. I have seen and felt all of this first hand in the past year. I have learned so much about the world and the reality of it. What is important? I know now. The safety and wellbeing of my loved ones and myself. Even at the bare minimum- as long as we have food in our bellies, a roof over our head, and air in our lungs. We are okay.
My eyes see completely different, my heart breaks and celebrates in a completely different way. To be apart of a project like this has been the biggest blessing for me. To have the opportunity EVERYDAY to be an influence in a child's life. To simply hug them, makes for the most the beautiful day, everyday.
I can see how I have blessed Refilwe, and those apart of it. But it does not compare to how they have blessed me. I literally don't know how to put into words what I feel. I am trying, though. I can much better communicate with noise and body language, than words.  So just know I am making a lot of sounds and movements just trying to type this out ;)

With that said, I come here today to ask for some help. One of the hardest things for me to do is ask for help, especially financially, but i'm sucking it up! I need your help!!!
I have four months left here at Refilwe. My flight home is December 7, 2012. If you can spare ANYTHING to help get me by for the next few months, i would greatly appreciate it. Know that what your money is spent on is food, occasional gas for a car I drive, homemade birthday cakes, cat food (for my adopted SA baby), occasional art supplies, toiletries... I think that's pretty much the chunk of it. I don't ask for much, just a little something to help me get by. Know how much this means to me.
Donations can be sent to the the address on this page ----------------> ( i think it's there), to the church and is tax deductible, or straight to my parents at
525 w. Pico
Clovis Ca. 93612

Thank you so much for your support! Please keep me in your prayers and thoughts in the final few months of this journey. Sending all my love from SA <3

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Changes in Motion

It seems we've gotten to a point where everyday there is something new or different. It's definitely keeping us all on our toes.

We have entered the season of volunteers. For the next few months there will be many groups from all over the world coming in and out of Refilwe to serve for a few weeks at a time. The energy is going to be high and so many projects will be started and finished. I am looking forward to how things will change thanks to the contribution of our volunteers.
On a sadder note, as we welcome our new guests, we just said goodbye to two of our beloved long term volunteers who's time has come to go back home. Barbara was here for over a year. She ran the sewing program, English classes, computer classes and private lessons here and there. She has been nothing short of a blessing to so many people here and has definitely left her mark. We said goodbye two weeks ago. Johanna was here for 7 months and said our goodbyes yesterday. She worked very closely with the kids and was very involved in multiple activities. Things will not be the same without them. Both Barbara and Johanna became very close friends and family to me. It was not easy to say goodbye. I think the hardest part about it is that we honestly have no idea when we will see each other next. If ever. We built such deep relationships and bonds, but our lives back home are scattered over the earth. We would have never met if we didn't come here and we have no clue when or if we'll meet again. Of course it is in all of our plans to reunite someday. But no one knows what the future will hold. It's a hard reality to face. But all I can do is stay strong and keep moving. Thankfully with internet communication, there's no escaping me! MUAHAHA!!!
I am doing well, just staying busy doing the same things. Office work, making amazing coffee, homework, tap classes, computer classes, youth meetings and whatever else pops up in my day. I am still very happy with the work I am doing. The tap classes are so much fun and my little ones will be performing in a talent show next week that I am putting on. I will look into posting it on youtube! It's going to be so much fun. Homework has been incredibly rewarding. I have been working with three specific kids since August, and I have been able to see the progression. One girl impeticular has GREATLY improved and her marks are absolutely outstanding. A big change since last year. She has thanked me specifically for my help. It's moments like that when you completely forget about all of the frustrations and moments of impatience, and are so thankful for every minute. It was all worth it. I am happy I will be there to finish out the school year.
The computer classes are going great. I am running them alone now that Barb is gone. We were working on typing and Word documents, graphs, tables, etc. Now the classes have moved into the office where there is an internet connection. So I am teaching them how to email, Facebook, etc. Some of the guys are straight giddy to learn such a thing. It's a lot of fun.
There have been many changes within myself, as well. I feel such a growth within my spirit and heart. Many of the struggles I battle with have subsided and I have gained so much strength to face struggles and to embrace me and my life. I feel a confidence that I have not felt in some time. I am at peace. It's such a sweet feeling.

Well I think for now, you've been caught up. I will try not to be such a stranger to my Blog. I love you friends and family and miss you SO MUCH everyday.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Busy! Busy! Busy!

There has been a lot happening here, and we have all been kept on our toes! We are undergoing a lot of new renovations. A couple cottages that some of our families are living in are being renovated to accommodate the size of the family. Our landscaping projects are just booming and Refilwe is looking absolutely gorgeous. New trees, plants, grass, and flowers are being planted all over the property and it is just stunning. We have officially begun building the new short-term volunteer block. For now, it is being built with 10 rooms that will have a bunk bed in each, a couple bathrooms and a small kitchen. So by the time our group volunteers start showing up, we will be able to house 20 of them. In time we will add a second story replicating the first so we can house 40! This way, with so many volunteers and groups coming through May-October, we will be able to house them together, even overlap some groups which we have not been able to do due to lack of space. In the meantime, I am the photographer that is constantly keeping track of the progress of everything. It's a lot of fun and I am incredibly busy with everything!

The Tap classes are still going great! We have started learning dances that the kids will perform at a Talent Show i am organizing in May. It's been so much fun. Because of the renovations, we had to move the classes out of the gym and into the hall which gives us A LOT of space and even a stage to practice on! The girl's meeting I was running on Friday nights has been opened up to all the teenagers. It's a place where they can come and just talk, ask questions with total confidentiality. They are also being educated by me about something different every week. Last week was the effects of alcohol on the body, this week, more alcohol and marijuana. There will be lots of talks and information on these Fridays and I appreciate so much that I have been able to put this together. I think it's really important for them to have somewhere to vent and ask questions you may not want to ask Mom.

Refilwe has recently been blessed beyond belief. A woman who works for GUESS watches has a special connection and heart for Refilwe. Every year, GUESS supports a non-profit organization. She nominated Refilwe and guess what? WE GOT IT! Oh yes, and we just learned that we are not going to get the profits from just GUESS watches, but everything GUESS! I will update you on the details of this but this is absolutely HUGE for us and means that we will be able to begin different projects, like a playground and playroom for the kids by the end of the year. Tomorrow a videographer from GUESS will come by to take some footage of the work we do here- Sewing classes, computer classes, homework, the Preschool, etc.  I will keep you posted about this but I must say thank you for the prayers and keep them coming. We are overwhelmed with joy and excitement about this.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Just checking in...

Everything is just peachy around here! Not too much has changed since my last post. It's been hot but you know, it's nothing like Fresno's summers. But summer is now coming to end (slowly but surely). Autumn is creeping in with her gentle breezes and browning of our surroundings. I cannot express how much I am anticipating winter. I think I'm the only one here who enjoys the cold. By the time winter comes, I will have had about a year long summer. I'm over it.

The two other volunteers with us- Barbara and Johanna- will be leaving us in May. This weekend we will have our last weekend away together. In April they will both be doing a bit of traveling with their families and preparing to head back home. It'll suck to say goodbye but they leave just as we get 3 new long term volunteers, and a few months full of volunteers and visitors. Not to mention my mom and one of my very best friends coming to see me :) I'm very much looking forward to winter.

That's about it. Please keep me and Refilwe in your prayers and consider supporting me financially. Everything helps. I'll be here 9 more months and could use all the support, from every aspect, as I can get.

:) Peace and LOVE!