Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Durban Mission Area of South Africa looked forward for months to Helping Hands Day, a day of service given by Church members (also known as The Mormons) and their friends to show their love of the community and the love they have for the One who set the example, Jesus Christ. Many volunteer hours were spent on Saturday, 18 August 2012 all over Africa.
The Ark is a homeless shelter that gives more than shelter, it teaches skills and gives hope to those who are left destitute and have no place to go. The Hillcrest Stake, a congregation in Durban, chose this as one of its Helping Hands projects. Over 60 volunteers gave service in planting grains, herbs, and gardens, clearing land, raking and picking up trash, and general cleaning up of the area.
The Ark houses approximately 120 people. Pastor Gary, who oversees the facility, looks for people who are committed in learning to help themselves. Skills taught at the shelter are: raising livestock, training of horses, leather work, carpentry, computer IT, upholstery, and gardening. The Helping Hands volunteers donated vegetable starts for the garden, along with seeds and grains for planting. The gardening and land clearing tools they brought with them were donated to the shelter. After 4 hours of hard work in the sun, everyone seemed very happy with the work they accomplished.
Another part of Hillcrest Stake served at the Queensburgh Cheshire Home. Twenty-two residents live at this old-age home for the disabled, each one being in a wheelchair. Lynn Ramsay-Boyd, manager of the Home was thrilled with the painting, cleaning, and time Helping Hands volunteers spent with the residents. The physical work done was greatly needed, but the time spent visiting and playing games gave real joy to those who live in the Cheshire home. One resident, Janey, was helped by Sister Zawacky, a Missionary for the Church. Janey said, "It feels like Christmas! I have lived here for 20 years and like to save things. Sister Zawacky has helped me clean and organise and I am finding things I haven't seen for years." Being confined to a wheelchair makes things very difficult for Janey and the smile on her face was more than enough thanks.
The Helping Hands day in Port Dunford was very exciting and spiritually uplifting. The members of the Branch prayed for spiritual guidance as they had several projects that could be done that day. They were guided to the Mjadu family with two young women living there, ages 19 and 23. Both of these young women have infants 3 and 4 months old, and they are depending on government grants. The shack they call home was falling apart and had no windows or proper door.
A new door was fitted and 2 new windows installed. The members of the Port Dunford Congregation donated a new stove, as they had no stove and had to cook outside. Blankets were also donated. 28 members participated, along with seven people of other faiths. When they started to work on the house, about 40% if it collapsed. "If we did not go to fix the house on that day who knows what would happened to those infants and orphans while they were asleep," said Sister Vesi, a member of the Port Dunford Congregation and Public Affairs Director for the Richards Bay District.
The Bloemfontein District of the Church commemorated the annual Helping Hands Day by renovating the Lockshoek Primary School, and many other projects accross the District, including Lesotho. It is estimated that 257 volunteers gave of their time in various areas. The Lockshoek Primary School was started by Reverend Olivier around the 1930's. Among those who graced the day was Mr. Elias Vis, who spent nine months in this school as a student in 1946. Mr. Vis, said, "Who would have thought that after 57 years I would feel so overwhelmed to be part of this. It brings back the wonderful time I had as a farm community member."
The Church partnered with GG Civil providing computers, and Fence and Gate who provided fencing and gate materials, both of which were happy to be part of the project. The Mormons, under leadership of District President Globber, donated clothes and planted seeds at the school. Ms. Wolff, principal at the school, said, "I am so happy and never expected such a blessing for our school. After such a long time, the Good Samaritans have come to meet our needs."
There are four congregations, or Branches of the church, in Swaziland and each of them chose a great project for their support of Helping Hands Day. Ezulwini Branch worked at a day care for Orphans, Manzini Branch spent time at the Hope House, Mbabane Branch chose Care Point for its project, and Nhlangano Branch fixed up a community yard and repaired fences. A total of 114 church members and their friends spent many man hours giving service that benefited many needy people.
The project for the Berea Ward of the Durban Stake was to serve at the CANSA center in Congella. This facility is for those who need cancer treatments, but live a great distance away and cannot travel. It was a day of hard work and singing. Approximatly 50 volunteers repainted 10 rooms, cleaned the kitchen, weeded and tended the grounds outside, and did a general cleaning of walls and window. After the painting, drapes were rehung, and the rooms were put back together.
There are so many people to thank for all the service that was rendered in the Durban Mission Area. Not only were the lives blessed of those that were served, but lives were enriched and spirits lifted by the volunteers that freely gave their time on this Helping Hands Day.