Blanket Drive | 2017 | Mpumalanga

Sizabantu Nelspruit arranged for the delivery of their collected blankets, on Saturday, 17 June. The team collected a total of 450 blankets and loaded up a Quantam bus and a Bakkie, early on the Saturday. There was a lot of excitement in the air and the necessary refreshments where packed for the 300km trip. With the help of Lechal Louw, we identified a Children’s home in White River, a Children’s home in Sabie, a home for the mentally disabled in Lydenburg, lunch in Dullstroom, an old age home in Belfast and a Children’s home in Belfast. With our spirits high, we set off just after 08:00am to our first stop.

Driving through a township close to White River, we were all struck by the presence of immense poverty. Eventually we found MAMA ESTHER Children’s home and we were cheerfully greeted by about 70 children of all ages. Their home is a shed, generously donated, where makeshift beds lie scattered all over a hard, cold concrete floor. We learn that MAMA ESTHER has been running this home for 14 years without any support of government. She is totally reliant on donations. Telling us her story, and being entertained with songs of praise by the children, it is immediately clear that these children, black and white, all love MAMA ESTHER as their own Mother. A few strong men had to hold back the tears, and we dropped off enough blankets for each child to sleep a little warmer. With our initial “high spirits” being reduced to absolute pity and an empty box of tissues, it became so clear that we are far more blessed than we realise. These children consider themselves “lucky” today, only because they got a single blanket. Shoulders drooping, girls hugging each other, we walked up the dusty road where we had parked, with the cheers and songs of 70 homeless children in the background.
Off we go through the mountainous pass to Sabie. We meet an elderly German volunteer who also has a home. Herself and a friend run this home from the Anglican Church. We had the privelage of meeting a few of the children, and dropped off enough blankets for each child. Again, we were met with “song and praise” and it is humbling to notice that a blanket means so much. Again, the box of tissues were handy. As we drive through Sabie, the sun starts peering over the Mountains and one can only feel a sense of pride, knowing that a difference, however small, is made by this team.

So we meander through the Long Tom Pass, en route to Lydenburg. Trusting the female opinion, we get lost, but fortunately there are some male guidance that gets us to “Lekkerus”, a home for the mentally disabled. With a warm winter sun heating up the courtyard, we find many of the patients enjoying this time, as Lydenburg can get quite chilly. There are many people with different levels of disability and again, one counts one’s fortunes when you look at these poor people. They did not choose this. It is hardly as a result of their actions that they are here. Trying to take a picture with them is a great challenge as each person has a story they want to tell. It is obvious and clear that these poor men do not get many visitors, let alone a team of ladies. Deciding not to have everyone posing, we take a few snaps, drop off the blankets we promised and decide to move on. I must have been thanked by each and every person and they really are so friendly, grateful and humble and again one feels so guilty… Not sure why. Perhaps we should do more…???

Off we go to Dullstroom and head into the “DULLSTROOM INN” for lunch. This Hotel features a fireplace (as all houses in Dulstroom do) that has been burning for 37 years. We have some lunch and get back into the Van for our last stretch, Belfast. Arriving in Belfast, one can feel the chill in the air. We drive straight to the Old age home (‘cause the men were giving the directions) and find that it is nap time. The home looks after about 70 frail old people and we have a chat with the Manager who seems very grateful for the donations. In discussion, he mentions that out of the 70 people that call this home, only about 4 have relatives that visit. Where are these people’s children? It is unbelievable.
Back in the van, and we head out to the Belfast Children’s Home. Arriving there we find the children playing outside. Meeting with the carers, they indicate that the donation is a God send as Belfast drops below zero. We spend some time with the children and we are horrified to hear the story an 8 year old girl tells us. We all run for the tissues and the men act tough, as we all battle to understand why this happens to these innocent children. We are greeted with cheers and smiles as we conclude our trip.

What a day it was and our initial intention was to have a day with fun and upliftment. It turned out to be a day of introspection and gratitude for what has been given to us.
Thanks to my team for the vigour they have pursued this initiative.

Thanks to Lechal, Diana, Rene, Zancia and Petro for putting it all together and making it happen. It was a great cause and an eye-opening experience which we will never forget, and certainly do again.