Last night we stayed in the Valley of 1,000 Hills – the area in KwaZulu Natal between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. This area is spectacular. The valley is the meeting point of the Umgeni and Msunduzi rivers and a place of unique natural beauty. It is deeply rooted in Zulu heritage and history. Visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture, with traditional Zulu villages offering an authentic experience, complete with traditional crafts, music, and dance. There are houses dotted across the hills, the dirt is red-orange.
At the top of one of those hills sits the Philakade Care Home. Philakade, meaning long life clinic, is a home that is bringing about real change in the lives of the vulnerable and previously abandoned with disabilities. When we arrived the staff was in the midst of their usual cleaning and getting people ready for the day. Beds were being stripped, residents were cleaned and getting up. There was a scent of freshness at the start of a new day.
On this particular day, there was a farewell celebration as Mary, a long-time volunteer, was moving to the United Kingdom. She was dearly loved and had made a significant impact in teaching the staff how to care for residents. Benjamin and I walked around interacting with residents, volunteers, and staff. It was an incredible blessing. The residents each had a unique story of pain and suffering but were generally upbeat and generally positive. I talked with Shedrick, a double amputee, about living at Philakade rather than on the streets of Durban. Benjamin played pool with Wandile. I talked with Cindi, one of the volunteers, and the impact that Philakade had on her, even more than the impact she might be having on residents within the home.
At one point in the morning, the staff broke out into dancing and singing Thula Sizwe. It was powerful. (If I were honest, I would confess that it brought tears to my eyes, but I’m not that honest.) It was amazing to see the joy of the residents. There were so many smiles and even outright laughter. It was a joyous environment and I was blessed.
Where else in the world are the vulnerable and previously abandoned experiencing such care and joy? Where in the world do the staff working with the disabled spontaneously break out to song and dancing? I hope the answer is lots of places, but I haven’t encountered them. Amazing! Please consider donating here:
While I only spent the day there, I found myself pondering my mission and purpose. I recently wrote about what it means to “live like you were dying.” In response, I drafted a new mission statement:
Love like there is no tomorrow,
fight poverty and injustice,
and seize today’s adventures.
As I walked around Philakade, I was aware it didn’t fit in my preconceptions of “poverty and injustice.” My preconceived notions were inadequate. In reality, my mission was deeper. At its core, it is about relieving pain and suffering, and the scope of my intended mission needed to grow.