In Chokwe, a few hours’ drive from Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, a teacher’s daily routine became the lifebuoy for an orphaned girl.
“One of my colleagues who I trained would after school pass a family’s home and ask for water. Finally, one day she asked the girl who always helps her ‘every time I pass here, I find only you and your brother, where are your parents? Upon which she answers, ‘both are dead’.”
Sybil Baloyi, Director of the non-profit organisation Hlauleka in Chokwe and an associate of Petra Institute, grew up in Malamulele in Limpopo, South Africa. She was in the process of obtaining her nursing qualification when a visit to Mozambique in the early 1990s changed her life’s course. And that of many others in the years to come.
During her trip to Mozambique, Sybil saw a need in the country regarding children. But at the same time, she wanted to finish her studies, and ‘not be part of fixing the need’.
When she was still working as a staffing nurse in Limpopo a lady who received training in children ministry at Petra Institute came to the hospital to provide training to the personnel. They needed a translator. Against her will Sybil started to do the translating as she was the only one who was available at that moment.
“I started to translate for her. The first session I translated, my eyes opened. What is needed in the lives of the adults, is needed in the lives of children. They need Jesus, as I see adults need Jesus.”
Sybil finished the training sessions and decided to go back to Mozambique.
“There the Lord told me I should work with the children of Mozambique.”
She completed the three-month training course at Petra Institute in 1995.
In the book Destined to be change-agents (Richter & Bull, 2020:182), Sybil shares her journey when she started her work in Mozambique. She notes that because of her training at Petra Institute she was better equipped to address challenges children faced, and no longer faced a wall of not knowing where to start.
“When I went back to Mozambique, I was so structured – making plans for the children’s clubs and knowing where and how to start training people. I had courage and was no longer afraid”
(Richter & Bull, 2020:182).
Then and now: looking to the future
Fast-forward 26 years to 2021, Sybil now orchestrates a preschool, primary and secondary school, together with children and youth clubs in Chokwe.
Sybil explains when she first arrived in Chokwe, schools were limited and children couldn’t finish their education. Adults living exemplary lives for children were lacking greatly. Together with recovering from war, poverty, floods, and diseases, children were neglected. In many cases children become orphans.
When she compares the present with the past, she does realise some things have changed for the better.
“The government is building more schools. And the economy of the country is rising. The church is slowly changing and creating more exemplary adults for children.”
But due to ongoing natural disasters, conflict, and diseases there are still a lot of orphans today.
“So, whom do you stay with?” the teacher asked the girl (13), who always had a glass of water ready for her after school.
“It’s only the two of us” the girl replied.
She and her brother (7) stayed alone. The orphaned girl explained their circumstances to Sybil and the teacher. She would wake up in the morning and think what family can she give herself as a slave; clean their house, stump the corn or cook porridge, anything, so that when they eat they will count her and her brother to eat with them. She said each and every day she had to give herself up for free labour, so they can eat. Consequently, she was not attending school at all.
Sybil explains ‘when some children come to the school you can see they are orphans. Some do not complete their homework, they are tired during class, they are unkempt – they live on their own or with grandparents who cannot take care of them.’
Facing this orphaned girl, and many others, Sybil and her team at Hlauleka is constantly changing the destiny of orphans.
“We have a very busy program for orphans and vulnerable children. They come to our preschool and school for free. For some, we have built houses and for some, we buy food each month and make sure they are educated until they get professions” says Sybil.
Standing at the starting point of 2021, Sybil is aware of the need for an orphanage in Chokwe.
“Losing a mom is painful, and worse if you can’t find serious people who can take care of you. We are thinking of building a home for them. We just don’t know where to start.”
It’s similar to when Sybil’s journey in Mozambique started: she knew the needs of the children but did not know how or where to start.
But she did start. And today thousands of children benefit from the passionate work Sybil does and what she passes on to others.
Today, the orphaned girl, who crossed paths with Sybil and the teacher years ago, is a graduate midwife at the local military hospital.
“We took the children in our program, and we took them back to school. They started to come to the children’s club. We’ve built a house for them. When she passed 10th grade she asked to become a nurse. Her brother will be doing 9th grade this year” Sybil voices proudly.
Sybil Baloyi’s personal journey is available in the book written by Fanie Richter & Laetitia Bull, Destined to be change-agents, ‘Ordinary’ people serving significantly, (2020).
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