REFUGEES FACE A BLEAK XMAS IN FOREIGN LAND
While thousands of Zimbabweans make their way home for Christmas, residents of the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg will make do with what they have in a foreign country.
The church, which houses more than 3000 Zimbabwean refugees, is packed with people who couldn't raise enough money to go home.
Deon Mpofu, 19, arrived here a year ago with her six-month-old baby and is still unemployed.
"I will stay here because I don't have money to go home and it's pointless going back empty-handed while I know that I'll find my family hungry. Hopefully there will be something for everyone here in the church on Christmas Day," she said.
Stacy Dube, 24, arrived from Zimbabwe two days ago. She said she could not sit at home and celebrate Christmas on an empty stomach.
"Even if you have money, there is no food to buy. I'm here to look for a job so I can support my family but I've found out that it's not easy," she said.
Bishop Paul Verryn said a midnight communion will be held today and a morning service tomorrow.
"We will also hold a small concert, some kind of a talent show where people will sing, dance and recite poetry.
"We have a lot of talent here. Some of these people were well known musicians back at home," said the bishop.
Verryn said there will be food and visitors which he hopes will improve the mood of the refugees.
Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak makes Christmas even more bleak, he said.
"People here are just nervous wrecks. With new people coming in every day, the risk of the virus is very possible. Therefore, we've deployed people to guard and clean toilets every 30 minutes," he said.