Wednesday, June 17, 2009

During the 1950’s the Methodist Church organized youth camps in Zululand to build churches, schools, hospitals and manses for the ministers. This was a great opportunity for young people to serve. During my years at University I was able to go to some of these camps and they were a highlight of my life at that time. It was quite safe for us to move around the area living in tents. These camps probably had an influence in my decision to work for the Department of Bantu Administration and Development after graduating. Had I still been working in the bank I would of course not had this opportunity.

We often traveled in Ella an old Ford army bus. When it was bought it had Congella written on the side but the Cong was partly obliterated so it became Ella. The start of these work camps originated through the work we were doing at our youth camp site at Botha's Hill. In about 1946 the Methodist Church organised 'Camps' for the Young Peoples' Guilds at Kearsney College during the Easter vacation, and at Epworth Girls High School in Pietermaritzburg and a permanent campsite was developed by the guilders themselves. Work parties were organised, and rondavals and dormitories were built together with a leader's cottage.These camps continued into the 1970's. From this sprang the Sanctuary Singers and Wesley Singers, choirs which continued for many years, singing at various churches and on other occasions. The momentum gained from all this activity resulted in the work parties to Zululand. Our prime mover being the charismatic Bert Haley.

The first camp I was part of was to Manguzi near the border of South Africa and Mozambique in Maputoland, a large sandy area north of the Ubombo Mountains that was fairly sparsely populated. We were to build nurses quarters for the Hospital where Dr. Schwalbe was the resident doctor.

I have a number of old slides which have become very faded and lost their colour but they are clear enough to tell a story.
All these years later many have remained good friends and I am still in contact with some of them. Several couples married. Two of the 'girls', Colleen and June, have visited us here in New Zealand. Some are no longer with us and the rest are in their seventies and eighties. Those were good days,the best of days.


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