Black, white, bright smiles, green, warm hugs, eyes… beautiful eyes, hope, happiness, laughter, I close my eyes and a wave of love floods over me. I still remember that feeling of wanting to keep that memory forever, to treasure each moment.
A day of excitement and anticipation, a seven year journey of partnership and collaboration was about to unfold into reality. With James at the helm we jumped aboard the minibus for the short journey to the Ingane Yami Village. As we approached the main visitors parking area we could see balloons everywhere and a huge “WELCOME” message written with chalk on the pavement. The kids were eagerly waving to us. Excitement levels must have been reaching fever pitch and we couldn’t wait to jump out of the minibus and say hello to the children and the volunteers who look after them.
We were met by the team who run the village, these selfless people who work tirelessly to ensure all aspects of the village run efficiently and harmoniously. Tricia, in charge of the village admin for marketing and fundraising had organised an activity day so we could meet the kids in a relaxed atmosphere. Our activity was a hike through the park area surrounding the village. We were joined by Michele (in charge of marketing and business development) and her family, Scott (the church pastor) and his family, and Bheki who is the village pastor and such a humble and beautiful person! And of course, Ingane Yami kids…….!!!
Before we went on our hike the Pearly Grey team were introduced to the village mum´s;
Ruth (Green House), Ntkozo (Red House), Prudence (Blue House), Gloria (Orange House) and Margaret (Yellow House).
These truly special ladies provide the love, nurture and stability that all children need. Like all proud mothers they were very happy to give us a tour of their houses and some of the children were especially excited to show off their bedrooms.
Finally meeting the children was very emotional and most of us shed a tear or two as we were introduced to them. Tricia had arranged for each of the kids to team up with a Pearly Grey buddy and this is how I met Nana, I immediately fell in love with her.
After we had been given the VIP tour of the houses and met all the volunteer team it was time to head off on a wilderness hike, or it seemed that way. We made our way through narrow steep paths, ducking beneath tree branches and gracefully sliding down muddy slopes, the kids loved it and we had difficulty keeping up with them. But they had an unfair advantage, they’d walked this trail before. Our guides; Sbu, Banele, Sane, Andile, Aphiwe, Sbahle, Amaka, Noku, Mthoko, Vangeli ran and played all the way, not a care in the world, exactly how a child’s life should be.
As our trail came to an end the landscape opened up to reveal two picturesque lakes on either side of the pathway and a large grass expanse that looked as if it had been purposely designed for picnics. Within minutes Tricia & Michele had setup the picnic and it was time to eat, relax and play.
After lunch the kids wanted a swim so they led us all to a hidden waterfall at the end of a secluded trail, seconds later they were all splashing around in the natural pool beneath the waterfall, memories of childhood flooded back and for a moment or two we wanted to jump in and play. Our Gemma decided she was still a child and jumped in the pool although she wasn’t able to maintain her balance very well (to the amusement of her colleagues). If you could freeze time then this was one of those moments. A truly magical day worthy of any authors tale of fantasy and wonder.
The walk back to the village was at a slower pace, tired and weary legs carried along by full and blessed hearts reaching for the sky, thankful for a day to treasure and a hope of returning again one day.
Once back at the village James Foster (PG´s Voice) sang a beautiful rendition of “You Raise Me Up” with some of the kids helping out with the chorus. Not to be outdone, Bheki the pastor gathered all the kids together and they performed a traditional Zulu song and dance. We tried to join in but we couldn’t compete with the dance moves on display, out attempts did bring floods of laughter from Bheki though.
Saying goodbye was extremely hard. We all wanted to stay longer, to know them better and to have more time to talk and to play. Despite the physical distance between us, emotional bonds were created that will stay with us forever and ensure our relationship and partnership grows stronger.
Reluctantly we all got back in the minibus and Vangeli followed us and gave Gemma some seeds as a gift, she returned the gesture with a ring and a very spontaneous: “Will you marry me?” Of course he said yes, our Gemma is quite a catch. These precious souls had touched our hearts deeply.
The entire Pearly Grey team has been raising money for Ingane Yami since 2010 but only a few of us had the opportunity to visit the village. There is a lot of effort and hard work that our colleagues selflessly dedicate to this charity and we honoured it every step of the way.
I am proud of Pearly Grey family´s generosity. We increase the love we have by giving it away.
Black, white, bright smiles, green, warm hugs, eyes… beautiful eyes, hope, happiness, laughs, I close my eyes and a wave of love floods over me. It will stay with me forever.