Saturday, September 20, 2008

Background Info 9/20

Some of you have asked questions regarding different people or places that we have been talking about. I thought I'd give some more info so everyone knows all the background.

Mark and Chris Harding – Tshepo ya Bana(
We met Mark and Chris on our first trip to South Africa in 2002. They were house parents at an orphanage named Bethesda where we were staying with friends of ours from Innotec. Mark and Chris are originally from England, they moved here over 30 years ago when they were in their 30's. Mark was an engineer who worked for the SA government or military. After Mark retired, they joined Bethesda. In 2003 or 2004, they decided to leave Bethesda and start their own children's home, taking 4 boys with them who had been living with them there. Those boys are now all 8-10 years old. Tshepo ya Bana typically has between 10-15 kids living in Mark and Chris' house on their “farm”. There are usually 2-4 long term(3-12 months) volunteers who are there also, helping with the kids and the chores around the house. Most of them are women from the UK or the Netherlands between 20-30 years old. Along with the volunteers, there are 4 “mamas” who are paid South African women working there, 3 or 4 “Uncles” who do yard work and maintenance, and some other volunteers who come to help with the kids or in the garden. There have been 2 couples from Innotec who have spent a year out here, the first with Bethesda and the second with Tshepo ya Bana.

Our “Africa House” - Originally when we made our plans to come here for 10 weeks, we were going to live with an Innotec couple near Pretoria who was here for the past year getting Innotec's block making business started. About 6 weeks before we came, the decision was made that this couple was going to be coming back to the US while a South African man (Bethuel) took over running the block business. So this left us without a home. We scrambled a little, sending out emails to contacts we had over here. The place we are staying in now belongs to Mark and Chris' son and daughter, James and Juliet. It is a second home for both of them that they share, with James staying out here most of the time. He left a month or so ago for a 6 month stay in Asia for his work. So they were happy to have us rent it from them. Amos, the gardener, typically sleeps here during the week for security reasons when no one else is here, but he is going home each night while we are here.

Mama Catherine – We wrote about her work in a previous blog post. She is a black South African woman who runs an after school program for over 100 kids and is also housing about 20-30 kids from 2 years through early twenties at the same property where she runs the after school program. We just met her for the first time last week. Her “children's home” is not at all like the Hardings. She is kind of flying by the seat of her pants and is holding strongly to “her vision” for helping the children and perhaps has taken on too much too soon. I can understand where she is coming from. In order to get funding or support from government or other local programs, she would have to scale back on the number of children she currently is helping, which she feels she cannot possibly do as the kids have no where else to go. So we will help as we can.

Tamboti/Derrick- Darin has a much longer history with Tamboti than I. He stayed there on several occasions with different Innotec groups that came out while first formulating plans for starting a business here in South Africa. When we were last here in 2006, we stayed there for a week, give or take a few days. This is when my irrational fear of leopards really took hold because a leopard had recently killed an animal on Derrick's property. Derrick runs a B&B, has a restaurant, has several 4 wheelers for game rides (he has had various bok, impala, and other animals since he opened 5 years ago and now has several other animals around since Dinokeng began bringing animals in). He tells great stories, has led a very interesting life, and knows a ton about the area. He is now also selling real estate in the Dinokeng area. We enjoy going over there for good food, but mostly for the conversation.

If any of the details are way wrong, we apologize to those of you who may know better (Weeda's Mulder's...)

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