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.
We had a unique feature in our Christmas celebration 2018. In order to bring home the true meaning of the feast, we asked our young people what values this day gives to the world. We then inscribed these onto balloons filled with helium and released them, designating a county for each one. Our children had never seen balloons rise before so they were totally astonished as they rose up high until completely out of sight, sending peace and love and goodwill to the world. It was a great experience and thanks to Santa Shoe Boxes and Rosebank Union Church, everyone got a personalised Christmas gift.
Thanks to our co-worker, Nozizwe Ndebele, in January of this year, the American International School donated two pairs of school shoes for each of the 20 refugee children who are being supported by Mercy House this year. What a blessing that was, given the cost of school shoes today. We thank them and Nozizwe for this magnanimous help. In March they will visit Mercy House and our young people will also have a trip to their school – something they always enjoy so much.
Unfortunately, a very large donation which we got annually in the past – to fund our education project – seems to have fallen away. Hence, we have had to reduce our extensive web of educational assistance, which was always schooling and tertiary, in favour of focussing on getting our young people through school and attaining the prized and essential matric certificate. In spite of this slight disadvantage, we can proudly (and gratefully) say that, thanks to help from our various donors, we are still able, this year, to assist 20 children with schooling, of whom 11 are in high school and 9 in junior school. 3 of the high school boys are in matric. Our tertiary support has been cut, but one donor is assisting a Mercy House boy with completing his degree in law, while we are also assisting another young man with completing a diploma in chemical engineering in April at a local technical college.
We wish also to congratulate Zeng, our website designer: all on his own he researched and found what seems like a dream come true in his life. Zeng has already done 2 years training in multimedia,but wants to specialise in animation and produce animated stories for children on the Bible. He found exactly what he was looking for and even got a bursary to study animation for 3 years to obtain a university diploma in digital animation at the Animation School in Johannesburg. We wish him well and trust it will enable him to shape many young people’s lives in the future.
We extend our warm congratulations to Ivan and Dioscor who wrote their matric at the end of last year and both passed well – with a “bachelors pass,” meaning they are eligible for university training. Ivan would like to be a teacher and we are trying to get a learnership for him at a private school, which would enable him to be an assistant teacher, whilst studying through UNISA for a degree, by distance education, at night. Dioscor wishes to do a degree in supply chain management. Since funding is a problem, we have suggested that they try to get work, so that they can pay the fees, and do their degrees by distance learning. Finding a job is also not easy for those who have just left school, so prayers are needed.
The photographs below show two of our Phoenix College scholars:
Brielle, who is in grade 3 this year
Exorcee now in grade 8, proudly sporting his new school blazer
Claire came to Mercy House as a volunteer in September 2015 and stayed until Christmas. Her parents are South African, but she was born and brought up in Italy
(from left to right) Claire’s husband, Claire, Diana and Mama Berthild
During her stay with us, she did simply anything and everything she could. She was like a ray of sunshine and greatly loved by all. It was hard for her to leave us, but she did not forget us. Soon after leaving us she got married and came back in February this year with her husband and small baby girl, whom she wanted to introduce to Mercy House. We greatly appreciate this sign of her love for, and loyalty to, our work. The photo shows her, with her husband and baby, arriving at the airport, where we went to welcome her back.
Fleury is from Burundi. He was born, as a twin, on 22 December 2000 and has three older brothers. Fleury’s father was killed by soldiers just before he was born, hence his great sorrow never to have known his own father, leaving his mother to struggle on her own. When he was 13, soldiers came to their school and, as was their practise, abducted a truck full of boys to force them into their army. Fleury and his brothers were amongst them. They were taken to a house, forbidden to go out and, among other things, trained to kill, but not with a usual target. They would blindfold one of the boys and force another boy to shoot him. If they failed to comply, they were punished by being beaten with an overheated iron rod. This happened to Fleury too, when he refused to shoot his own brother. After one month, when the soldiers were out, the prisoners broke down the door and escaped to the forest, not being able to go home, since they would be traced there. Their mother used to bring food to the forest where they were hiding, but suggested they leave the country as they could not continue to live under these conditions. They came to Johannesburg in the luggage compartment of a truck, and caught a bus. Once here, they were taken in by an uncle. They enrolled at the English Course for Refugees at the Catholic cathedral and met the teacher, Diana, there. She fortunately was able to take him into Mercy House and he was enrolled at school.
(from left to right) Brother Eric, Mr Ernst Zerche, Diana and Father Joseph
On Tuesday, 19 February, Comboni Brother Eric (left in photo) brought 2 German visitors to Mercy House: Mr Ernst Zerche (second from left in photo) and Comboni Father Joseph Attenburger (extreme right in photo). Father Joseph isassociated with a refugee home in his parish which houses amongst others, Syrian and North African refugees. So it was interesting to hear about a project in Germany similar to ours. It was a very pleasant afternoon and we thank them and Brother Eric for taking the time to get to know us.