In summer 2012 I joined Mike Horns Expedition to Africa. If not earlier, the visit of the township Masiphumelele was definately when I decided I was going to spend a few months living in Africa to volunteer at a project.
A year later I finished school and a gap year presented me with the opportunity to make that experience. At a dinner table on summer vacation my uncle told me that Mike is an ambassador of a project called “LIV“. LIV, Lungisisa Indlela Village, is a place near Durban where orphaned and vulnerable children find a new home to prepare their way to a brighter future.
The decision was made… I was going to go to South Africa!
I was leaving home with the expectation of finding an orphanage, a place where parentless children would live, but I experienced so much more!
When I arrived I got welcomed by lovely staff and volunteers, that were soon going to become my close friends. I was quickly part, not just of a community, but of a family so diverse, but brought together by their faith and love for those children.
I worked in the Social Services office, the Clinic, and the Therapy office all at once so my days never got boring. But who can expect days to be boring when you live with about 170 kids of all ages, 28 “Mums“ and uncountable staff members and volunteers…?
First I should explain the concept of LIV. Children of all ages live in families. Each family consists of one “Mum“ and around 6 children, living in one community. The kids go to school, to church, to sport activities, have Birthday Parties, playgrounds and most importantly: They have people that LOVE them.
I think I have never before experienced so much love in one place, where so much pain would normally be. Children with backgrounds, that I would describe as the worsed nightmares, have smiles on their faces and get raised like they should be.
I have never experienced before so much love in one place.
The children welcomed me with so much love that I knew I arrived at a place, were none was left behind and no pain would be left unnoticed. Working in the clinic I soon realized how important it is to let the children know that you care, that no matter if it is physical pain or a scar deep down in their hearts, they could always come to you. So I tried to be a friend, a clown, a singer, a soccer-, rugby- and cricket player, a teacher or just a pillow…. and that was quite challenging.
Spending 12 weeks living on the village also gave me the opportunity to spend the holidays with the kids. It was the first Christmas I would spend away from home, and of course it was completely different. The children were so excited about the story of Christmas. The Mums cooked an incredible lunch for the whole community. Afterwards the kids got presents. I guess for some of them it was the first time that they celebrated this holy day and they got to celebrate it with a huge family.
On New Years Eve, everyone met in the LIV-Hall to celebrate for three hours with singing, dancing and praying. When the fireworks started over the hills, all the kids ran outside with a lot of excitement.
When I reflect on the three months I spent at LIV I realise how much I have learned. The children let everything seem so easy, when it´s not. They play, although they are sad and angry. And they love despite everything that has happened to them. But I also took home amazing memories of moments I spent with the Volunteers and Staff of the village. All those Braais and parties we had, the days at the beach, fighting with the waves and how we went with a group of people to a restaurant on Valentines Day, where we probably ruined some of the romantic dates the couples where planning on having.
On my last day, when I was saying goodbye to everone, one of the Kids came to me and said „Thank you, Anika“… but I can only thank all the people that made my stay at LIV so wonderful.