from South Africa
Brenna Riggers of Craigmont hopped a plane and headed to Umtata, South Africa on September 11, 2006. She is working at Bethany Place of Safety. This orphanage is directed by Sister Mary Paule Tacke. Sister Mary Paule was born and raised in Cottonwood. Brenna’s plan is to work at the orphanage until the end of May. The following is a letter from Brenna to Home. Mosweni ( Hello in the Xhosa – the local language) I am writing this by candlelight as the power is out. This is quite a common occurrence – 3 times in one week. South Africa has been treating me well. I have been here since September 14 and am really starting to love it here. I am working at Bethany which is an orphanage. The children I am taking care of are lovely. There are 100 ranging in age from two weeks to 6 years. Most are very healthy right now which is a blessing. TB cases are low at the moment. HIV cases are also in low numbers. The healthcare system here is an all day event.
It is a good thing I grew up on a farm and was taught how to work, because I have never worked so hard in my life. Most days begin with washing the children at 5:30 am and the days end at 7:00 pm with one day off a week. In 3 months I have changed over 1500 diapers, and they are not the disposables. At this time there are 29 infants.
One of my goals is to raise enough money to build the children a playground. They do have a very small wooden climbing structure, but when 60 children are out to play it is not adequate. I am elated and so touched by the financial contributions from home. Your dollars go so very far here. The smiles of the children would touch your hearts. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The weather here has been very unpredictable. We are in spring and the rainy season. It has rained so much in the last month; the traditional houses here called roundvivilles have started collapsing.
I am very much a minority in a culture. I am slowly picking up Xhosa, the local language, which includes clicks made in place of letters x, c, and q. It is difficult to make the clicks correctly. The locals are helping me learn and love sharing their culture with the few funny white kids running around Umtata.
Bethany is close to Umtata. I live in a township about ten minutes from Umtata. It is gated and guarded, so it is much different than town. Umtata is close in size to Spokane. I have missed home a few times since I left. The land here reminds me much of home; lots of softly rolling plains. Agriculture is big here but not the way we think of it. It is mostly done by hand and cattle. The “rich” farmers have little wheel tractors. Vegetables, Sunflowers, wheat, beans, and maize are the main crops here. I am looking forward to visiting some local farms when it gets closer to harvest.
I recommend Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela. He grew up 3km from where I live and is very fond of this region. He still keeps a house in town. The book explains a lot of what went on here, the Transkei, during apartheid. This area was designated the “Homeland” for Blacks, colors and Indians during apartheid meaning they were sent here as a dumping ground. There are still many people here that are scarred by those times, but they are happy people and friendly to us even though we are white. Usually the only white people you see here are foreign volunteers. The Transkei is still very much a forgotten place of South Africa.
Tonight the volunteers are going for dinner at the Country Club at the Golf Course. Yes, a golf course. It’s definitely a 3rd world attempt at a golf course, but it will be a nice escape from nappies, diapers.
If you are interested in writing to Brenna you may do so at the following address:
Bethany Place of Safety, Attn: Brenna Riggers, PO Box 156, Umtata 5100, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.