In August 2015 we told you about one bold Queenslander - Heidi - who visited Mozambique in 2012 to chase her dream of helping orphans. On her return to Oz she helped raise $22,000 for a vehicle and training in sustainable farming practices for the orphans. Now, three years on, she shares with us her second amazing African adventure...
We stayed right down the hill from a boys’ orphanage In Mozambique in 2012 - so of course we became very good friends with all of them. It's like they're all my brothers! On this visit there were heaps of new boys - so even more brothers!
The babies in the girls’ orphanage are all 3-year-olds now and it was hard to recognise them! (In 2012 there were about three quarters of a million children orphaned through AIDS in Mozambique.)
We went to a couple of Orphan Days at the Rubatano project where Carlos, the manager, and his volunteers have created a community care site - all of the kids come once a day to get a meal, play games and have lessons in health, hygiene and farming skills. I spoke at both of these to all of the orphans!
We visited AIDS patients in the community, chatting with them, praying with them and encouraging them. (There are over one and a half million people with AIDS in Mozambique.)
Some days, I stayed at the orphanage helping out with the younger boys. We gave them morning tea and I did some craft with them because they don't often get to do stuff like that. I played a lot of soccer on these days. They all love soccer!
At one stage I stayed over at the girls’ orphanage and spent a lot of time with the toddlers. They don't get much love from the Mozambicans because it is not in their culture to adopt and orphans are seen as cursed. Rubatano has been extremely blessed to have so many volunteers dedicated to caring for orphans.
The typical house in Mozambique is a mud hut with roof of black plastic topped with grass, bricks or rocks to hold it in place. These huts usually only last about 5 years and whenever it rains the family huddles inside trying to avoid the leaks. The huts are very small so people just sleep inside while cooking and everything else is done outside. A hole with grass walls and no roof makes up the toilet! Most people have to walk at least 1km each day to get water.
But despite their many problems, the people in Mozambique are gracious, warm, welcoming and faithful. They can be very shy but they're very sweet. It's incredible to see their joy despite their difficult circumstances. (Life expectancy is only 36 years, 75% live below the poverty line and more than half can’t read.)
One of the orphan boys we visited really inspired me. Last year he went through the Rubatano project. Now, independently, he has cleared his own land and planted his own garden. Due to his new knowledge, his plants are thriving and he can provide for both himself and his ‘Aunty’ who had taken him in. He dreams that next year he will be able to expand his garden so that he can sell some of his produce.
I went to Mozambique thinking that it was all perfectly safe. But recently the current government has been trying to eliminate the opposition by killing their leader. A week into our stay, government troops actually ambushed the opposition leader and there was a lot of shooting about 1km away from where we were. Most of the older boys from the orphanage were out visiting family so there was extra food and rooms enough to open up the orphanage to take in many old people, mothers with babies and people from the village, for the night.
One of these was a man, the pastor of a church and a Rubatano volunteer. His house was close to the shooting. He was very shaken and quite different from his usual self - he normally had a big smile on his face. He wasn't smiling much but I remember clearly that as he looked at his daughter, his whole face lit up with pride and love. It captured my heart in a way I will never forget.
The shooting ended that night but over 44 people had died. Although the troops were gone, there were rumours of the opposition troops striking back and the start of a war. So very disappointingly, we had to leave and flew out on the 2 October, getting back in time for school.
However, I do know that through this crisis my faith was both tested and strengthened. We had an amazing prayer meeting that night and after that I felt like I had a massive weight lifted from my shoulders. I just didn't feel scared at all! I just felt that God was looking out for us and that he had a plan.
I love Africa and the people! I'm not exactly sure why. It's hard to pinpoint. I just feel so alive over there - doing something - helping someone. Each night, I went to bed feeling I had achieved something.
Last week, I had the opportunity to share my experiences, passion and dreams at an event run at my school to raise more money for the orphans of Rubatano.
I had been really nervous all week about talking in front of everyone but after praying with two amazing friends before it started, I felt really calm! I felt at peace, knowing that God had everything under control.
It was an incredible night! We had around 300 people and raised over $3500 for Rubatano's sewing project!
I want to encourage each one of you that you have the potential to do incredible things. Maybe you don't know what that they are right now, but in time you will know. Or maybe you have dreams but you are scared to step out. I assure you that no one ever achieved anything great without stepping out of their comfort zone and I promise you that it's worth it.