Day 8 Red Rocks Team Trip
Today we took the second group of people from our team to visit Freedom Park. It is so much fun for me to see people experience that for the first time. Today's trip to Freedom Park had a particularly heavy impact on our team.
They really connected well with the caregivers that showed us around and really got a heart for the heavy burden of these people. There is so much tragedy and heartache that it can be very overwhelming. It is very difficult to explain Freedom Park to people until you have visited. Every time that I take visitors there the common comment when we leave is, "I don't know what to think. I'm so overwhelmed by what I saw." To see it in person is so much more meaningful than to hear about it or see pictures or video.
When you see children playing barefoot in streets filled with broken glass, when you smell the smoldering ruins of a shack that has recently burned down because one person wanted to murder the 4 people living inside, when you feel the bone-numbing cold inside the tin shacks, when you smell the pungent odor of paraffin stoves mixed with the decay of terminally ill patients, when you see the hopelessness in the eyes of one patient, and then hear the laughter, joy, and dreams of the next patient, when you shake hands with a terminally ill patient and feel the light weight of their hand...you realize you are essentially holding skin and bones, when you watch a child using a discarded bone as a chew toy, or watch them using rusty tin cans as toys, when you see the pain and heartache of the caregivers, but hear them talk of joy and hope for their patients....all of these things mix and mingle in your mind as a stew of emotions, and thoughts, and fears, and inspiration, and hope, and pain....and you don't know what to think or feel.
It is very overwhelming, and today was definitely overwhelming for every person that visited. We have not yet had time to debrief and talk about it, but I can tell that it rocked their world.
4 of the ladies from our group went with Dr. Neil on his rounds to the AIDS clinics. (Dr. Neil is a South African doctor who volunteers much of his time helping out in several AIDS clinics, he also provides free health care for all of the children at the Lighthouse shelter.) I haven't had a chance yet to talk to them about their experience, but I know they enjoyed it. Dr. Neil is such a wealth of information and experience. He loves to show people around and explain to them all about the HIV pandemic and what is being done to help the situation. I'm sure that their mind is full of experiences and information. I look forward to hearing about their day.
Some of the team went back out to Phokeng to continue working on the ceilings, and 4 of the ladies came back to the shelter to begin digging 3 ft deep holes to plant the new poles for the playground that we will be rebuilding tomorrow. I know that this earth is not soft and they definitely had their work cut out for them. My hat is off to everyone that is working so hard to make a difference. I really appreciate all their hard work.