So, I’ve been asked to write an article about how things have changed since volunteering in South Africa 6 months ago.

Things have changed. Now when I hear about ‘developing countries’ I think about the townships I visited and the shaky tin shacks I drove past. When I see an advert for a charity I think about the children I met and their utter delight in simple things – a sandwich or running water. Going to South Africa changed how I think – it lessened the divide between me and the 870 million people worldwide who don’t have enough food to eat. It made everything more real.

One of the last nights before we left South Africa, we drove through the Durban red light district. There were girls in 2s or 3s standing on the edges of the pavement. Some were sitting down arms crossed over their legs waiting. As we quietly drove past I noticed these girls weren’t that different to me. They were my age. They were so close. The only thing separating us was a car window. But these girls and I were not that similar. I went back to my room, and they stayed out all night. I was free, and they were trapped.

That journey didn’t just change my thinking. It made me want to DO SOMETHING. I first found Red Light jewellery – a charity that works on the very same streets we drove through to give hope and an income to the girls I saw. Then I found Sseko Deisgns that sells shoes to provide employment and scholarship opportunities to women in Uganda. One website at a time I found more and more ways that I can make a difference and keep myself close to the people and poverty across the other side of the world.

Now that it’s nearly Christmas I have been swept away with buying gifts that give back for family and friends. I’m looking forward to seeing my little niece wear her new hat from , but even more excited to read with her, handwritten on the label, “Monica” and talk about the “lady who made the hat” being a real person who God loves and has a plan for. There is so much joy in knowing you have helped other people, I think that’s what the Bible means when it says “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” Acts 20:35.

Since going to South Africa God has stirred a love for justice and a hope for people that I wasn’t interested in before. I am making a change instead of hoping to see one. I am praying for the people I have met rather than the statistics I have heard. And I think that through the months I have grown closer to a God who will “give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.” Psalm 82:3

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