Our Mercy work was created in 1994 specifically to help and heal refugees , in particular young refugees, war orphans, or others whose family life has been totally disrupted by the wars in Africa. The security of a stable home brings healing and education diminishes fear of the future, replacing it with hope. Hence our motto: Love changes everything. Mercy House embodies this and our history has proved this to be true.
On Friday 9th August we celebrated our 25th birthday in a very beautiful and meaningful celebration. It began with Holy Mass celebrated by our Comboni Father Jude. After that several refugees related their stories as to how they got to Mercy House and how their lives had changed since then – as one refugee put it: his life “turned downside up!” These were very powerful messages. After this Father Jude released some helium-filled balloons which rose up into the sky as a sign of the blessing we would always like Mercy House to be. Then there were refreshments, and a lucky dip, followed by lunch. It was just another of those really joyful Mercy House celebrations.
Easter is always an occasion of joy at Mercy House. We always have the raining down of chocolate eggs from heaven – this “heaven” being the garage roof! But that was not all. No one expected an even more joyful blessing: our former Comboni Provincial, Father Jeremias, who was a great supporter of Mercy House until he was transferred to Rome, suddenly appeared at our garden gate! He had come to SA on a short visit and remembered our Easter celebrations well. It was a great joy to see him and we thank him for taking the time to pop in. The photo shows Father with some of our Mercy House family on that occasion. We hope for this blessing again and know that Father Jeremias continues to follow our progress with interest and affection from a distance.
In our last update, we mentioned that two of our school boys had just written theirmatric, and that Ivan desperately wanted to be a teacher. The problem was how to finance a four-year degree in education, by no means a small challenge – so it seemed like mission impossible.
We advised Ivan to try to get workand save to do the degree of his dreams later on. However, at the beginning of this year, we approached Holy Family College, an excellent private Catholic school, to ask if there would be any chance of him getting a learnership at their school. To our great astonishment, he was very well received. The school principal, Mr Frank Sobreira, accepted him as a learner teacher and the school will pay for his entire degree, even gives him a small allowance for transport etc. It is remarkable.
Ivan started his job in January this year and has already started a Care group at the school. On the 18th of June, he brought the group to visit Mercy House and meet some of our scholars and students. It was an extremely joyful occasion, as the photo shows. They also brought foodstuffs with them. We thank Ivan and his students for giving us this joy.
Ivan has already been greatly praised by the principal for his excellence in everything he does. He deserves what he has got and we wish him every blessing in following his dream career, and of course, the school will benefit from having him. A very sincere and heartfelt thank you to the principal, Mr Frank Sobreira, who facilitated this amazing miracle! The blessing will return a hundredfold!
(from left to right) Fleury, Geetendra, and Shanelle
In our last update,we related our young Burundian Fleury’s sad history. But the story did not end with those tragedies. First of all, he found a home in Mercy House, but now a beautiful new beginning has happened in his life. Shanelle Beharie, one of our co-workers, and her husband, Geetendra, decided that they would like to take him to live with them permanently as part of their family. It all happened earlier this year. At our 25th birthday celebration, Shanelle expressed her joy, saying she sees why God has not blessed them withchildren until now – that this was God’s way of getting her to “adopt” Fleury. He moved schools and is now in grade 11, and they live only a few houses away from Mercy House. So, the story has had a happy ending for all. Thank you Shanelle and Geetendra. You see how God has blessed you after all! See photo of the three.
On Tuesday, 26th April, six of our Mercy House scholars visited the American International School (AISJ) in Pretoria, which, as usual, they enjoyed very much. But the real highlight and fun was on the following day, when a large number of the AISJ pupils, with several of their teachers, visited us in Bez Valley. Many of our scholars attended this event. It is a wonderful exchange for both parties, each having so much to share and enrich the other. Most of the scholars at AISJ are diplomats’ children, so live very different lives from our refugee children, who have truly heart-rending stories to tell, if they are able! Our visitors came laden with loads of bags of second-hand clothing and tasty goodies for refreshments. Great fun was had playing games of different sorts. The photos reflect the spirit of the day.
We thank AISJ very sincerely for their tremendous support of Mercy House, also for the fact that they sponsor two of our children at school. Special thanks also to Nozizwe, our co-worker, who works there and arranges all these special events. What a blessing!
(from left to right) Diana, Father Jeremias, and Steven
We are happy to introduce our readers to our Kenyan co-worker, Steven Wanyoike. Diana met him at a retreat weekend in 2016, and, in the course of the conversation, told him about Mercy House. Being a Central African himself, he was very interested and expressed the wish to help. That was a gift that fell straight out of heaven! Steven has been managing a Kenyan company in South Africa. He has used his business skills to help our high school students with accounting, business studies and economics for several years. He dedicates every Saturday and Sunday morning to this service and it is a great help to our young people. His advice in other fields has also been invaluable. What is also very important is the father-figure role he fulfils with our young boys who do not have this stabilizing foundation in their lives. Sadly, Steven’s company is closing down and he will be leaving the country towards the end of this year. A huge loss to us, but we are grateful to have had him with us for these past few years. In the photo he is seen with Diana and Father Jeremias, former Comboni Provincial and a great supporter of Mercy House. Thank you and go well, Steven!
In late July we were able to give Esperance new hope (which of course is the meaning of her name!). We had been able to obtain a donation for her to start a small business, which she plans to call: Safari Foods. She has high hopes, but for now, started modestly, as seen in the photo, renting half a tin shanty structure. She sells dry food there and any second-hand clothing we can get. We were also able to get her a deep freeze and she takes orders from there for fresh meat, which she supplies.
Life has looked up for Esperance at last. She was only 18 when soldiers killed her parents in the on-going violence in Burundi. She and her brother were being forced into the army, which they refused. They had no option but to flee and had to abandon their studies at university – her brother doing third year medicine and she was in first year.
Esperance ended up in Cape Town where she did waitressing and amazingly managed to save enough money to do a degree at the University of the Western Cape in Social Science. This got her a job at the SOS Children’s Village in Cape Town. Due to certain unhappy circumstances she had to leave Cape Town and came to Johannesburg. Once here she found it extremely difficult to surviveand did not even have enough money to pay her rent, let alone support her only child. This went on for some time…
It was then that Esperance found her way to Mercy House, where we tried to find ways to help. She was overjoyed on hearing the good news in July that we had found funding for her to start a small business and texted: “I am so happy that I am laughing!” Well, it is a wonderful experience to bring a smile to the faces of people who are really desperately in need. We thank the kind gentleman who provided her with the funding to get onto her feet. So far, her little business is doing well and we wish her everything of the best. May Safari Foods prosper and grow!