This week, I had the privilege of chatting to my dear friend Joan Smith. Joan and her husband Tich are one of the most inspiring, fearless and faith-filled couples I have ever met. Ten years ago, in their native South Africa, they started going into one of the biggest townships in Durban – Amaoti. Joan made lots of peanut butter sandwiches and took them to hungry children. From these humble beginnings grew a feeding programme, a Back to School programme, a holiday club, a young leaders empowerment project, crisis support for families, and 27 creches. The charity that has enabled the incredibly expansion of their work – Lungisani Indlela (meaning ‘the right way’) – has helped literally hundreds and hundreds of children, teenagers and parents to find hope.
Amaoti – the township where the work of Lungisani Indlela has been focused – is really, really poor. The hillside is populated by shacks, densely nestling side by side. One-room shacks house entire families, often without even a mattress to sleep on. No cooking facilities (as we understand ‘kitchens’), no toilet, nowhere private to wash. This is extreme poverty. Into the darkness of overwhelming need, Tich & Joan have embodied hope and brought light, sacrificing much to respond to the vocational call to serve the poor. In 1990, Joan’s husband was murdered in a township. She subsequently met and married Tich, and they are an incredible couple. The pain of such loss should not be underestimated, yet this has not stopped Joan from going into Amaoti most days of the week for over 10 years. Fearless. Brave. Faithful.
Now Tich and Joan have an even bigger dream, one that is starting to find breath and life on another hillside not far from Amaoti. A village for orphans. South Africa has an orphan crisis. 18% of the population is now HIV+ (5.5 million people) and there are an estimated 3.3 million children orphaned as a direct result of this epidemic. That is a lot of children. Social services cannot cope, the government does not know how to respond to this catastrophe. Tich and Joan have a vision – hundreds of villages for these children across Africa. Each village housing children in small homes (six children) with a house mother who is there for the long haul. Each village with a school, a church, a business development centre. Each village with 100 homes, forming smaller clusters (mini-villages) within the larger village.
Last year, the first children and house mothers moved onto the first LIV village. 35 children now called the village their home, with more arriving daily. By the end of this year, 80 homes will be completed. Tich and Joan – unable to think small – recently purchased the farm next door to the village, with funding arriving miraculously at the 11th hour. These are people of faith!
So many lives will be changed through the dreams, hard work and commitment of this extraordinary couple. So many already have.
Busi was aged 17 when she fell pregnant. Her daughter was born and she went back to school, determined to overcome the obstacles and provide for her daughter. She passed all her exams and has given a place to study journalism at university. Her dream was becoming reality. On the way to university, she was killed in a car crash. Her daughter Bongi, aged 6 at the time, was orphaned, hope seemingly disappearing with her mum’s tragic death. Bongi was sponsored through Lungisani Indlela’s Back to School programme, working hard at school, determined to one day become a journalist herself – she had the same dream as her mum.
In December, Bongi graduated from school with six distinctions. She has since been awarded a full scholarship to study journalism at university for four years. Hope beyond hope has become real – embodied in the Back to School programme, embodied in Bongi’s determination to grasp education with both hands, embodied in Tich and Joan’s love and commitment to many, many children in Amaoti and now in the LIV village too. Tich and Joan have become the “hands and feet” of hope to many in South Africa. Such hope has to be embodied to become real. Embodied through house mothers, feeding programmes and holiday clubs. Embodied through the giving of time, expertise and money. Embodied through the sacrifices that will continue to bring hope to some of the 3.3 million orphans in South Africa today.
To find out more about Tich and Joan’s vision and plans, click here