- by Luc Kabongo
At the beginning of this year, I went back to Jabulani, a government shelter where orphaned, abandoned, abused and neglected children from age 0 – 19 live. I first volunteered at this shelter in 2005. At the beginning of this year, I started running team building and life skills programs with teenagers who were interested. An average of 10 girls and boys have been joining me for the program. For the past few months, other teammates have been joining me to minister to these children. On my journey with the Jabulani children, I came across a childcare worker, Annah, who
has been very encouraging to me. Annah is a 58 year- old woman who has been working at the shelter for 27 years. When I was introduced to the staff of the shelter, she asked me a challenging and sad question: “Do you think you can make a difference in the lives of these children?” She continued: “I have been working here for 27 years and more than 20,000 children have been under my care, but I can only show around 10 successful stories of children. A lot of our children learn to abuse drugs and alcohol, have sex, fall pregnant and don’t prosper in life because of their poor choices. A sad fact is that our children don’t respond well to the programming we offer”.
My answer to Annah was that I did not know if my programs will work or not, but that every time I walk onto the shelter premises, my prayer is to be a good brother, uncle and agent of the peace of Jesus to the children. My hope is that my program is just going to flesh that out. Annah was surprised by that answer because her expectation was that I was only going to run our program and did not intend to build relationships with these children. This is what she has experienced in the past with people, churches and other NGOs who came to serve the center. Annah has been very supportive of the InnerCHANGE staff who serve in that shelter. She always helps gather children and participates in our interactions when we are at the shelter. She is also a good mentor to me. She is not only a childcare worker, but also a compassionate mother to the children. She intentionally builds relationship with some of the children often invites them into her home on weekends and school holidays.