Hi all! We made it back from South Africa a little over a week ago and are almost over the jet lag. It's been brutal! I don't ever recall having such a hard time adjusting to the time difference! : ) Our trip was absolutely incredible though.. We flew out of Orange County and had a five hour layover in Atlanta. From there we had a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. We then spent the next few days in Pretoria with friends who run an organization called Kerus Global Education. I've had the privilege of being involved with them for the past 10 years. My first trip to Africa was seven years ago and then again two years after that. It's been 5 years since traveling on African soil, and let me just say it felt good to be back!
We spent a few days in a township called Soshanguve just outside Pretoria. Soshanguve is estimated to have around 4 million people. It was an incredible experience just as before. However, this time it was especially my favorite trip because I got to see my husband with the kids and watch them love on each other; it made my heart smile big time! The moment we arrived, we could see the kids line up to greet up. Once we parked, we could hardly get out of the car because we were bombarded with hugs from all the little ones! They just couldn't wait to say they love us, play with our hair and squeeze us to death! I immediately recognized some of the kids from the previous years - what a blessing it was to see their shining faces again!
On one of the days while in Soshanguve, we went on "home visits" where we went to some of the family's places of residence whose children come to the orphan care center. We prayed with the families and brought them a few food items. We saw only one father present while out and about. In fact, you rarely see families with men (or fathers), and a good portion of the children at the center live with their 80-year-old grannies and are "double orphaned", lost both parents (mostly from Aids). Even some of the children, as young as four-years-old (Kai's age), have been affected by the epidemic of Aids/HIV which was passed down from their parents at birth. I remember the first time I met "Cuvvey" (Kevin) seven years ago. He was HIV positive and was the sweetest little thing. Little Cuvvey didn't make it long enough for me to see him again this time. He passed away a couple years ago, and I'll never forget receiving the news. I wept... for his family and for the countless other innocent lives affected by this horrible virus. My eyes have been opened, and I am forever changed.
SIDE NOTE: The orphan care center is called the Kerus Go Amogela Orphan Care Center. It is not a typical orphanage where children live full time; rather, it is a place where children come after school to receive love, encouragement, support, a meal, etc. The below describes the purpose of the center:
"The orphan care program is now being led by the newly formed NGO, Go Amogela, and is led by key professionals from the township. The primary goal of the orphan care strategy is to inspire and equip the local church and schools to be a beacon for compassionate care for those in great need and a trumpet for courageous actions that will stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Soshanguve area. The orphan care programs seek to provide the following:"
We also had the privilege of getting to know the staff at the center. All of them are truly incredible human beings who have a passion for God's children and a love for this orphan care work. They work tirelessly and go above and beyond for one another, for the children and their families, and for their community. I felt honored to pray with them, sing with them, and listen to their beautiful stories - not to mention their accents. : ) The words I would use to describe the staff at the Kerus Go Amogela Orphan Care Center are heroic, selfless, influential, loyal, hard working, gracious, giving, enthusiastic, and godly. They are one rockstar team!
Another unique experience we had was when we attended a funeral for the granny of one of the boys at the center. His name is Bongani and he is also one of the boys I got to meet seven years ago; I actually met his granny, too! Bongani is now 18 and such an incredible young man. Although he is HIV positive and has his major struggles with his health, he is positive and trusts God. I am very proud of him! We were honored to attend his granny's memorial, along with the other 500 people. We were the only white faces in a sea of black - it was an incredible sight! We were treated like family, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to experience Soshanguve culture and witness the love they had for this amazing woman. Please be praying for Bongani's family as they mourn the death of their beloved granny and also for his health that he will grow strong.
After Soshanguve, we drove about four hours to Madikwe Game Reserve (just on the border of Botswana) to a safari lodge called Rhulani. The staff and everyone there was so friendly, accommodating, and on their A game. Our ranger, Sean, was amazing as well! Rhulani definitely spoiled us! Prior to arrival they asked us for specific nutritional needs, so I requested a few gluten free options. And oh my goodness... they made some of the best gluten free goodies I've ever had! So not only was the food amazing, but the company, setting, and animals were over the top! We went on two game drives a day - one in the early morning at 6am and then another at 4pm. We were only there two nights and saw the BIG FIVE! One morning, we were abruptly woken up by the loud roar of a lion!!! We later found out by the staff that he (Pretty Boy) had passed right by our room! If you have not yet been on a safari, I HIGHLY suggest adding it to your bucket list!
Once safari came to an end, and we were all on a ridiculous high from seeing so many amazing things, we got back in the car, drove back to Pretoria, unpacked/repacked, headed to the airport and flew down to Cape Town! We weren't messing around! lol. While in Cape Town we visited the wine country which is only a short 40 minute drive outside the city. There we went wine tasting at a couple different vineyards and enjoyed the incredible mountain view and gorgeous landscape. Our favorite winery was Babylonstoren. I strongly advise you check it out HERE! It is truly a breathtaking and magical place in Franschhoek. We then proceeded to end our day in the wine country at the picturesque and ultra charming MONT ROCHELLE with a lovely dinner at their restaurant Miko - it was divine! This beautiful boutique hotel and winery is now owned by Richard Branson. I also love that they are committed to sustainability! Check out how they have gone from plastic to glass to eliminate single use plastic effects:
Ditching the plastic
"Some of the properties in our collection are in parts of the world where the local water supply doesn’t always inspire confidence, so we previously made bottled water available to our guests. As the result was a lot of discarded plastic bottles we worked with a supplier to source branded glass water bottles which are washable and can be reused again and again. A filter machine sits on site and the team is trained in how to operate it hygienically. The result is a complete elimination of plastic bottles used on the Mont Rochelle estate with similar results elsewhere." Can we all catch on! I just love this so much! : ) Thank you, Sir Richard Branson for your efforts, vision, and commitment to reduce the plastic footprint! Together we can make a difference!
Ok, moving right along....We spent four nights in Cape Town and had delicious food, cruised around town, visited local beach towns and the penguins, and hitched a ride on the "red bus" to catch a bird' eye view of the city and of Table Mountain. It was the trip of a lifetime, not to mention we had THE BEST crew - my lovely mother Cate, and Jennie and Marcia (the founders of Kerus Global)- there was never a dull moment. And applause to Duke for hangin' with the ladies for two whole weeks and for being oh-so-very patient with us! You're a gem!
I hope you enjoy this visual story and take a journey through South Africa through our eyes!
If you'd like more information about Kerus Global Education, would like to donate or find out how to get involved, please visit the website at KerusGlobal.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org SUBJECT: Kerus. I'd love to hear from you!re to edit.