Postcard from Lisa Fusella – Australia

Worcester July – August 2012

Whilst I knew that volunteering in a township in South Africa would be a great experience, I honestly could not have predicted how much it would change my life.

Upon arriving in Cape Town, I immediately fell in love with the cities beauty. The combination of the mountains and the sea was truly majestic and the architecture was unlike anything I had ever seen before. But sadly, amongst all that beauty, were far too many stories of poverty and homelessness. Even the people, who had housing, were living in far less than ideal conditions. Which was so confronting to me, as it was not something I have ever been exposed to. To see thousands of people, crammed into shack housing that barely had enough to provide the most basic of needs, was really difficult.

I then moved to Worcester, a valley township 2 hours out of Cape Town and it was here that I was able to get amongst the people. Listen to them, talk to them and work to help them wherever possible. The people were so quick to welcome us into their homes, their church and their community.

My main focus in Worcester was to go daily to the ‘House of Moria’ orphanage. It was here that I learnt the most about the people and myself. Mary and David, who have opened their home to 16 of the towns orphans, were the most spectacular, generous and caring people I have ever had the privileged of knowing. I immediately felt comfortable in their home and they made me feel trusted to engage openly with the children. I instantly fell in love and cared for every single person apart of ‘House of Moria’. On the first day, Mary introduced me to everyone and told me their stories. I felt so small after the first day. These children, whose ages ranged from 2-16, had unfairly experienced far more heartache and pain then I will ever experience. These children were robbed of their innocence and childhood and if it had not been for the saving grace of Mary and David, they would have been children robbed of their lives. Each day I would go to Mary in the morning to assist with taking care of the younger ones who weren’t yet able to go to school. Then once the older children were home we would do fun activities such as puzzles, board games, sports etc. I loved every second. They were so ready to give everything a go and despite a language barrier, as the children and I became close, we were able to express to one another exactly what we were thinking without words and it was such a unique and powerful relationship.

Over the weeks that I was there, I was able to explore the town of Worcester and see the extreme diversity in social economic status. It was strange to see a nice, rather affluent area and then the parallel street had run down homes and people living on the streets. The drug problem, particularly with Crystal Meth, was very apparent as I became more aware of my surroundings. It is a problem that leads to a spiraling downfall in the lives of the people and adds to the high crime rates. It’s sad to see kids the age of 10, feeling as if drugs are their only way to escape. Whilst volunteering at the local soup kitchen that is run by the church, it really became apparent how bad the poverty was. When you have to turn away people who have not eaten for days because there is no more soup, you can’t help but feel absolutely hopeless. Despite popular Western opinion, I honestly never once felt unsafe travelling around South Africa. The people are warm, friendly and most incredibly hospitable.

Over the weeks that I was there, I became incredibly attached to everyone at the House of Moria, they were now my second family and I never wanted to let them go. Having to say goodbye was one of the hardest things I have ever, and will ever do. They are forever in my heart.

I really do have to thank Margie for her continuous and ongoing support. She is a true star of  Dreamcatcher and I feel so honored to now consider her a friend. Margie was there, with her friendly and warm nature, every step of the way and was so thorough to make sure we gained every experience we were hoping to.

Volunteering in South Africa changed my life because it made me so much more aware of the world around me. Before I went, I was so insular. I had never left my hometown of Melbourne and now I’ve experienced something truly spectacular. South Africa is now apart of me, it is something I will never forget and I want to spend my life doing what I can to help.