From mission partner to mission co-ordinator

Jaki writes...
I served in Cape Town for 11 years, from 2009 to 2020, working with the homeless, in the local church and in a township primary school. I’ve now swapped over, from mission partner on the ground to mission coordinator behind a desk/Zoom screen. I work as part of the Crosslinks London office, organising short-term mission partners and projects. Here’s a little snapshot of my life in Cape Town during my time at the primary school.

My working day began with a Ben-Hur style drive to Mitchells Plain, which is a township on the Cape Flats. Over 300,000 people squeeze into a mix of corrugated iron sheds, terraced houses built in the 1970s and shabby duplex housing. The roads are incredibly well maintained and pretty wide, but the taxi drivers (12-seater VW mini-buses that over 20 people cram into) seem oblivious to any rules of the road. We would rumble and joust, but I always conceded to them as they blasted through another red traffic light. I drove over to my boss (Yolanda) to pick up her and her daughter, as well as another staff member. Yolanda hated the taxis as much as I did (she valued her life)!

The first job of the day was always coffee and a catch up with the rest of the teaching and operations staff. We would touch base about how we were doing as well as pray together before the day’s work kicked off. After that, every day was different!

Mitchells Plain

One morning, Yolanda and I visited Child L’s grandparents. They looked after L because his parents were addicted to heroin and unable to care for themselves, let alone look after him. L’s Grandma was worried about everybody − especially Granddad, who had major medical problems. We offered advice on fostering Child L in order to get the associated assistance (social care and increased funding) with that changed status. We also offered to visit the Department of Social Development with them in order to push their case forward. Finally, we prayed with them (both were committed Christians) before driving back to school.

Jaki and Yolanda

After the home visit, Yolanda and I debriefed and also updated the system so that Child L’s therapist and the principal were aware of what was going on. But halfway through, we were interrupted − Yolanda was needed to sit with a child who had been removed from class. While Yolanda went to look after Child Z, I spoke to one of the teaching assistants.
She was another grandparent heading up the household. Her granddaughter also attended the school. She was worried about her grown-up children (again, lots of social problems, including domestic abuse and addiction), but she was also worried about her grandchildren and her own health. We talked through her worries, before she asked how I was and we prayed together.

By then, it was already 2pm. We had a speedy late lunch before we drove to the rehab. A single mother with children at the school had gone into rehab for heroin addiction. This was her second attempt to come clean (multiple attempts are not unusual). We sat with her and talked about her progress and future. After praying with her, we drove back to the school.

Yolanda and I debriefed again. We were tired, but it was soon forgotten as we played with the kids who were waiting to be collected by drivers and parents. Finally, I dropped off Yolanda and anyone else who needed a lift − before taking on the taxi drivers one more time.

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Jaki North

Jaki is part of our London office team. She's involved in all aspects of sending short-term volunteers: interviewing candidates, organising placements, providing training before departure and debriefing people on their return. She organises placements for church and gap year teams as well as individuals and couples. She also looks after our project partners.