October 2022 arrived, and a large team of AFL Johannesburg ladies descended on Cape Town.  We were welcomed by our Cape Town branch, who had done a fantastic job at arranging a quiz evening at Fat Harry’s in Claremont.  Great fun, great food, excellent service and amazing support saw the team raise close to R18 000 for the projects in Cape Town.

Bright and early the next morning, we set off to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, where we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the turtle sanctuary at the aquarium.  We learnt tons about turtles and how endangered they are.  What an amazing team that taught how important nutrition is for these rescued turtles.  Understanding the diet, foraging behaviour, gastrointestinal anatomy, digestive efficiencies, and nutrient limitations of sea turtles is essential to managing their overall health while caring for the aquarium.

We fell in love with these little hatchlings, adopted number 77 and named him “AFLie”.    AFLie’s diet consisted initially of small pieces of pilchard or white mussel fed using tweezers when unable to dive. Once weight gain occurs, foods with higher nutritional value will slowly be introduced into meals to promote a well-balanced and healthy diet. He will then move onto gel food blocks, incorporating nutrient supplements, a range of proteins (pilchard, white mussel, hake) and vegetables (broccoli, carrots and baby marrow) set in gelatine. 

The goal of feeding the hatchlings is to help them grow consistently throughout their rehabilitation, with active pursuit diving after food noted as one of the release criteria. As the hatchlings gain strength and appetite, their food amount increases and is adjusted according to their body weight.  Little AFLie now weighs in at 442g.

A fundamental question was asked: why is it necessary to rescue these turtles? And the answer is simple: fewer than two in a thousand turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood. As these species are threatened, improving their survival chances is a crucial way to ensure the survival of their species. 

From there, we made our way to Langebaan, where we enjoyed the finest restaurants and food and didn’t forget the wine.  Traci Whitehead arranged for sponsorship from the owners of the beautiful Khoisands Lodge, where we rested our weary heads after days of great fun. 

The first welfare project we did was at the West Coast animal sanctuary.  A beautifully kept shelter for abandoned dogs and cats.  The cattery’s storage area needed love and attention, and the girls jumped in and painted the storage house.

One of our recreational activities was Yoga on the Beach, and Alicia of Mindfully Yoga lovingly gave the class.  This left us inspired to take on our AGM, where many of our other members who could not make it joined us via Zoom.

Our major welfare project for the trip was at the Siyabonga Care Village, a beautiful care centre developed by Chrisna du Plessis, who explained the centre’s history. 

“As if it was yesterday! I still remember the moment when God spoke into my heart.  It was December 2002.  A Saturday morning.  In front of my clinic, a sick rustha man was lying on the pavement, waiting for help. At that moment, everything stood still inside me.  I could see his hair lying in the sand.  He was short of breath. Fighting the killer disease AIDS.  No one to care for him…..

The commitment was all I could give God.  No money, business skills, or knowledge of starting or running an NGO.  Many times when challenges came like waves one upon the other, my spirit was tested to the fullest.  If I could measure the tests God put me through in tears, the sea would overflow.  I remember clearly I asked God for help because I had no food for the patients. God replied: “How can I trust you with plenty if I cannot trust you now with little”

Today after ten years, Siyabonga is still caring with a passion.  Still depending on the grace of God.  Still believing that Love can change everything….”

We were fortunate enough to visit some severely disabled people and leave some care packs for them and a shelter for abused women, fed 80 little children at the nursery school, and painted some of the store rooms and a beautiful hopscotch mural for the children.

Giving to the people who have so little and face life so bravely is a privilege, and at AFL, we love being able to do it.

Another excellent adventure for the team of ladies who love to give.