On 12 January 2008 we arrived in Tembisa township after a long journey from Ireland via Cape Town. The four weeks we spent working at Tshwaranang Orphan and Vulnerable Children's Centre, Ebony Park were among the happiest and most challenging times of our lives. We will never forget the warm welcome we received from the community at church on the first Sunday.
Also from Sheila Thomas and her team of care workers when we arrived at the Centre on the first morning. Initially, we were quite overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the poverty we could see all around us. However, over the next few weeks our eyes, if not our emotions, grew accustomed to our new and amazing surroundings. We saw and learned so much about the communities of Ebony Park and Kaalfontein during our journeys on foot to visit the homes of the orphans.
While the children of Tshwaranang have been through many difficulties in their lives, we found that they are like children everywhere: they do not like doing homework but they love to colour in, play and sing! They also love to have stories read to them. We had so much fun teaching them Irish dancing and were amazed at how quickly they picked up the steps. The day we were leaving they lined up to hug us goodbye. That was another overwhelming experience.
It is difficult to explain in a short article how much we have been affected by our time in Tembisa. We feel truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to experience township life in all its complexity. To have witnessed at first hand the wonderful work being done by Sheila, the volunteers and the MSCs. We are very grateful to Frs. Jimmy Stubbs msc, Herman van Dijck msc and Frank Bray msc for making all of this possible. Tshwaranang is now in our hearts and likely to remain there for a long, long time to come.