travel bursary reports
2016 – A year at LIV Village, KZN, South Africa
2016 got off to an unexpected start; after a delay in the process of my visa due to violence in South African universities and the subsequent change of visa type, my outlook on my planned life in South Africa was presenting a lot different to reality. I had originally intended to study education in South Africa, whilst working at LIV Village as a trainee teacher, but a change in study fees sent higher education in the country into turmoil, and the threat of violence seemed too high a risk to pay. It’s oddly comforting to see how God intervenes in our plans and shows us that His way is better than our way, if a little unconventional. A two month delay, and three trips to Mainland England later, I was at the airport with my volunteer visa in hand, and a little confused albeit enthused to see what the year would hold.
LIV Village is a home for orphaned and vulnerable children, just outside Durban in South Africa. I have previously spent time at LIV for three months in 2013 and a year in 2014, and found that the country and people completely drew me in; I fell in love with how free the country felt, how warm the people I met were, and how close God felt. The thought of being able to spend a definitive amount of time, and be able to absorb myself into ‘village life’ was thrilling. LIV works to rescue, restore, raise and ultimately release children in to the world by offering them a home with a mother who loves them, a school to educate them, at a place where all their physical, emotional and health needs are met. LIV aims to turn scars into stars; furthermore from what I have experienced, this isn’t an empty catchphrase – this is evidence of God moving in a very real and powerful way.
My role at LIV Village is an assistant teacher in the Special Needs class, I also teach art to Grade 10 and 11 – the oldest class, and lead the Youth Church programme, to allow children to socialise in a Christian environment with their friends and to build their relationship with Jesus. I have implemented a mentorship programme for the girls on the village, which creates a safe space for the teenage girls to come together and be family together.
When reflecting back on my year at LIV Village, I realise that there are four key lessons that I have learnt, which have all changed the person that I am. God isn’t just working on the orphans at the village, His reach is so vast and limitless that He is able to impact the ones that feel they came here to teach, and not be taught.
This leads me onto my first lesson; humility. When I arrived at LIV, in my mind I knew exactly the way to deal with troubled children with severe behavioural difficulties, I knew what my timetable looked like, I knew what I was going to teach the children; however I quickly established that the testimony and the perseverance and the character of these children would clearly teach me more than anything I could contribute. Getting to know and see children flourish who have been through more than I could ever imagine going through in my whole life is such a powerful reminder of how God redeems, how He goes after the one lost sheep. Seeing God at work like this, and the love I have for the children humbles me to the point where earthly treasures; like an income and a high powered job and a car don’t have the gravity that the heavenly riches I have seen in these children and in God hold. Learning to live a simple life, without an income is tough, and a world away from the life I lived in Jersey, however I know that the lessons that I have learnt and the skills I have acquired are so valuable.
My second lesson is hard to avoid at LIV; living in community. At the core of LIV’s values is living in community – we love the African proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, well it in fact takes a village to support a person. The sense of family that comes from living in such a way is extremely reassuring and made settling into the village an easier process, and is one of my favourite aspects about the village. Not only is the village creating community amongst staff, it is also extending that community to the mothers and the children and the local township. However, community also comes with it’s struggles; living in such a selfless way can be a culture shock from the western world I grew up in, and boundaries between work and home become blurred. However I have learnt that the freedom and excitement and life and joy that comes from living in community is something I hope I never loose.
Another key lesson learnt is gratitude; praising God in everything and every situation, and giving the glory completely to Him. I used to feel like I had to strive in all areas of my life and I used to find my identity in success through school, university and work. However through my time at LIV I have come to see the practical workings of nothing being impossible though our heavenly Father, furthermore to give the praise and glory all to Him. Moreover, finding the gratitude in all things has made me realise the importance of enjoying every moment and seeing the workings and plans of God, whether through friendship, work, leisure, ministry or community.
The final key lesson learnt is hope. Without hope working in missions would be a very arduous and heavy life. Working daily with children who have such struggles and such upsetting pasts is the hardest work I’ve ever done. However through the hope of believing in the healing that the Father has planned for each child gives strength to get through each day.
In conclusion, my year at LIV Village has been a time of learning, development, insight in ways that I didn’t think possible. The children and seeing the explicit work of God has changed my life and my heart, and I look forward to continuing another year at this wonderful organisation. I would also like to express my deep gratitude towards the Timios Trust, without your funding, I would not of been able to travel to South Africa, and doing the work I do would be more difficult. The work that you do, not only funds incredible projects, it also instils belief and empowers individuals to do God’s work.
Read our reports from those we have supported through bursaries!