On Wednesday, we bid farewell to our four special guests from North America, Gail Helmcken, Judith Manley, Jan Miller and Patti Giffin. It truly was an amazing experience to travel around Lesotho with them and see people, places, customs and landscapes through their eyes. They were such a pleasure to have. I marveled at their reactions to watching traditional dancing, hearing the unbelievably magnificent singing, and reading to the most adorable children you have ever seen.
- They met young mothers and played with their babies.
- They built key-hole gardens with grannies.
- They watched a weaving demonstration by disabled women, and participated in our leadership training on sexual violence and grief and loss.
- They heard grannies, children and youth open their hearts about their troubles and how they have learned to overcome them.
- They traveled by horseback in the tops of these majestic mountains to one of the most isolated and poorest schools you can imagine.
- They met a fine young man in Thaba Tseka, one of Gail’s sisters’ sponsored children, who is 17 years old and starting grade eight. He is over the moon to be able to continue his education.
- They attended church in the middle of nowhere.
- They were greeted by traditional chiefs, local councillors and villagers with grace and warmth.
- They received a unique dance from a witch doctor.
- They served grannies their special monthly lunch.
- They learned a bit of Sesotho.
- They laughed and occasionally cried.
This was only the second time I have led a group to Lesotho to experience the ‘mountain kingdom’. We feel this is an important way to show our donors the enormous impact of their funds. Yet regardless of what we say, visitors are never prepared for the depth of gratitude, the magnitude of our work or the gentle loveliness of the beautiful Basotho people. Our guests cherish the authentic activities with our staff and beneficiaries. It truly is a life-changing experience. We were all deeply touched by their passion for our work and the bonds they formed with the staff and beneficiaries.
We have decided to do another trip next year to coincide with our Grandmother Conference, where we bring all 200 grandmothers from our Grandmother Support Program together from all over the mountains. It is five days of learning, sharing and empowerment. Guests of this next trip will have the unique opportunity to spend time with grannies at this inspirational conference in addition to visiting rural primary schools, touring the beautiful countryside, and meeting children and youth at our Leadership Centres.
If you are interested in joining me for the Mountain Kingdom Experience in 2017, please contact email@example.com. It will be at the end of February 2017 for 12 days.
We have been working tirelessly to develop a measurement and evaluation database that will greatly increase our capacity to track our beneficiaries and most importantly – our impact. We hope to have Phase 1 complete this month. As you know, our work is complicated because we are encouraging change in human beings. Capturing such change is complex. Our database is now up and running and holding our most precious information.
For the first time ever, we have somewhere to input pre- and post- program survey information that will show the extent that Help Lesotho’s programs are helping vulnerable children, youth, and grandmothers to build their resilience, improve their self-management, and take action for the benefit of others. While data is rarely ‘exciting’, we are very excited!! Phase 2 of this project is to improve our reporting capabilities based on this data. With so many multi-faceted indicators, we require separate software to maximize the reporting capability for all this new information.
I am hopeful that someone out there will be as excited about reporting our impact as we are, and will want to help make this next phase a reality. We estimate needing $15-$20K, but will submit a more formal project outline to prospective donors. If you, your company, or someone you know is interested in helping, please reach out.
Finally, this week we held the graduations for two of our most intensive programs – each lasting two months. Our ceremonies are very special and the attendees proudly come dressed in their finest! Ntate Shadrack gave a rousing speech at each group to inspire them to become leaders. At one, there were 85 Computer and Life Skills graduates, including the police I have been writing about. The chief of police was among them and I was petitioned to train more officers from other areas – hundreds of them! The very next day, in Shadrack’s mail box, there was a letter of appreciation from the Chief with a list of 19 more officers he is hoping we will accept for training. They were so appreciative and humble in their closing remarks.
The other group was 60 graduates from our Leaders in Training Program (LIT). This is our most intensive program, involving the entire organization to pull it off when we have so much else going on. As they ate their celebratory lunch, I was able to speak to each and every graduate. I almost had to leave twice to fight back the tears.
They were so appreciative – intently telling me how their lives have changed and how much they want Help Lesotho’s programs to continue and reach their families and friends. They praised and thanked the staff for their kindness and support. They repeatedly asked me to thank the donors who made this possible. They pledged to return to their families and communities to step up and speak out against injustice, gender inequity and violence against women. If you could have heard the men in their commitment to change to protect women.
Words fail me in describing how deeply I was touched.
I started this annual program in 2006 and estimate that we have trained over 500 youth to date. Imagine the cumulative impact of these fine young people all over the country! One young man tweeted during the day:
‘M’ Peg said, “we believe in you. We have put our hearts and souls into you; the best of everything we have has been offered to you”
Reflecting on today’s events @helplesotho ,
‘M’e Peg said to us “it’s all for you and now you need to go out and make it all for them”
A special thank you to all the Help Lesotho family for taking us through this journey that is LIT. Now it’s our turn!
I guess that pretty much says it all! Wishing each one well from Lesotho.