Our apologies, we literally cannot believe so much time has passed since our last post. Back then at the end of September ‘20, it appeared that we would not get home to Scotland in the foreseeable future, particularly annoying as our daughter and son-in-law, Ruth & Justin, were expecting to have their second child in mid-October. To our surprise, however, a travel window opened up at short notice and we made it back on the same day our new grand-daughter, Ivy, was born. In fact, we were sitting in Heathrow Airport, having a socially distanced 6am breakfast, trying to get one of our four phones to recognise at least one network when we got the happy news!
We were a bit concerned that the breakfast was about the only thing socially distanced in the airport. It did seem like the pro-longed process to check our undertaking to quarantine at home, in ‘flight connections’, was designed to ensure that Covid-19 was systematically spread to the four corners of the UK. After so much time away from the family, the need to quarantine at home with a new baby in the family was doubly difficult for us and that was a strange two weeks indeed.
Following our quarantine period, we were able to have ‘garage visits’, walks and firepit chats with family and friends, sometimes in minus 3 temperatures but observing all the Covid restrictions just like everyone else. We formed “one household” for a time so we were able to see our grandchildren who are growing and developing fast. We were fully aware that many people had not seen family or friends who lived nearby for many months and we had managed to fly halfway round the world and still were able to spend time with our loved ones.
One of the other reasons for aiming to get back to Scotland was for Lorna to have her annual oncology review appointment at The Beatson. Unfortunately, due to Covid this appointment was cancelled but our local GP was not happy with this and was very quick to order blood tests and numerous scans which fortunately all came back clear. Some of the tests could not be done in the timescale so were performed on our return to South Africa and were also clear. Don on the other hand had been diagnosed with a Basel Cell Carcinoma on the side of his nose in September but the doctor had advised him it was not serious or likely to spread so he waited until we returned in January to undertake the full depth skin graft which was required to repair the damage. We are so grateful that we have access to private medical services here and are acutely aware that most people in South Africa rely on a struggling government medical system for health provision.
We managed to return to South Africa despite our initially pre-booked flights being cancelled, on the 1st of January 2021, being ‘adventurously expectant’ for the uncertain year ahead. The Covid restrictions are not so tight here now as the case numbers are significantly less than the UK and it seems that the extremely strict initial lockdown, travel ban, and nightly curfew may have done their work. It will be interesting to see how the existence of the so-called ‘South African Strain’ of Covid-19 influences the timescales on re-opening flights from here back to the UK when that time comes.
When we had left South Africa in October it seemed that the timing was going to be problematic for Don as the large Early Childhood Development centre in Khayelitsha, much awaited by the UBU team and referred to in previous posts, had just started on site. But this is Africa and having just completed the foundation excavation and having ordered pre-mixed concrete for the pour the next day, they were stopped in their tracks. It came to light that the City authorities had approved the ‘change of use’ application based on the wrong site address. You might think that this being a bureaucratic error it could be resolved easily, but no. UBU and Nokwanda, the ECD principal (and about 60 children) are still waiting for this to be resolved though it looks likely to be ‘soon’, whatever that means in Cape Town. At the same time, we are anticipating cost approval for two other projects: a new building for an Early Childhood Development centre in Gugulethu (a demonstration project for Breadline Africa who develop ECD’s and hopefully to be the first of many), and two semi-detached houses for CORC (Community Organisation Resource Centre) a first significant step to establish an entirely new community, Vusi, on land adjacent to the UBU base. The occupants of these houses will act as caretakers for the Vusi community hall which has already been created in an existing building next to the UBU Base. However, as we wait for resolution of issues/cost approval, the efforts to build UBU into a sustainable social enterprise capable of employing many people and creating ‘places of belonging’ in Cape Town goes on.
NewDay United, on the other hand, is motoring with a return of most of the programmes over the last few months ensuring they are meeting the Covid rules in order to keep all the staff and beneficiaries safe.
One of the new ideas that has developed recently, and Lorna is spear-heading, is individuals growing vegetables and fruit to help people be more self-sufficient. This has been well received in the local community and now seeds can be planted and cared for in a couple of yards and once they grow into seedlings, they will be given to others to grow in their own yard and so the process will continue. In time, it is hoped that more and more people will become involved and many of the verges and dump sites will be filled with vegetables turning the Cape flats into the Green flats.
Over the time Lorna has been in Cape Town, NewDay United has grown and the team has expanded. This is hugely exciting but, as with all structural growth, policies and practices need to be reviewed too and so Lorna has been busy looking at some of these in order to promote further development and therefore benefit more individuals in the community.
We are so grateful for the people both at home and in South Africa who are part of our lives and faithfully keep in touch and encourage us, especially when times are hard. We are part of a life group here which met on zoom weekly for most of last year and now restrictions are lifted we can finally meet in person. This is a diverse group who have developed deep friendships as we navigate through life together, encouraging, praying and sharing together. We are the eldest pair in the group but certainly not the wisest. Also, we have a Core Group of 4 friends from Bearsden Baptist Church who faithfully zoom call us once a month to keep in touch, offer wisdom and share any news or prayer requests with the wider church. We are in our 5th year here in Cape Town and their continuous support, wisdom and listening has been invaluable to us.
If we are being honest (and we do like to be) the longer we are away from home the more difficult we find the frustrations and pressures of being here to deal with. However, we look to Him who gives us life, for the inspiration we need and get on with what is in front of us. One of our sons, Mark, and his partner Cheryl are currently walking the West Highland Way sending us regular pictures of wild hills and unbelievable sunsets…’jealous’ doesn’t cover it!
I will keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16: 8 (NIV)