As I look out the window now, the ground is completely saturated with water. We have been having some unbelievable storms of late and finally the ground is absorbing the water. In all my years here, I have never experienced storms of this ferocity. Last night the wind was so forceful, it ripped a wall mirror off and smashed it three feet away. Another night a massive branch broke off our enormous eucalyptus tree. The earth is vivid green, flowers are blooming, even the cosmos I love, but the crops will not have time to mature. Water in the Katse dam is about 40 feet below what it was.
I have just come down the mountains and bid farewell to our special guests: Sandra Hellyer (Toronto); Barb Bonner and Jean McNabb (Guelph/Rockwood area); Lisanna Sullivan (Whitehorse); Julie Sullivan, Bill Austin, Mary Dawson and Lynn and John Graham (Ottawa). We really had fun. Not to be boastful but we had internet, however faint, almost all the time, and only lost power and water a few times. Each guest was flexible, intensely interested, open-hearted to this new culture and fun to be with.
We danced with the grannies, visited with herd boys, held those adorable babies during the young mothers’ day, ventured on horseback to granny huts and one school so high that one could imagine we were at the top of the world. We sat in on youth sessions on domestic violence and grief and loss, computer and life-skills classes and played with children. We dined in style and in fields. We travelled up to over 10,000 feet above sea level and had a lesson on making brooms. Our three board members met with staff and the district administrator (like the provincial premier). We explored the local market and ate at a convent. Not your average fare!
Interest in these trip is such that one is already full for 2019. If you are interested in joining me on the second trip, March 17-27, 2019 please contact Marlene Caicco firstname.lastname@example.org for the brochure.
One of the things that has touched me deeply on those travels was our encounter with about eight herd boys who were among the 150 who graduated from our program last October. These boys are typically painfully shy and reticent to socialize with people, especially foreigners. They are treated as less than animals and pariahs. I had asked Ntate Sello, the Herd Boy Program Officer to rally some of the graduates to meet me up in Thaba Tseka. One of them made a speech to the entire school, Sefapanong, twinned with Turnbull School in Ottawa. I had a very special visit with them afterwards. They asked great questions but the one that has reverberated with me most was: “What were you thinking that you would come here and help us?” Herd boys are so often overlooked; they found it astounding that we would care about them enough to put this program on in such remote areas. They were so appreciative and assured me that now their new-found knowledge has allowed them to stop many unhealthy behaviours and live with more self-respect. I had a long hug with each one and several shyly and surreptitiously planted a tiny kiss on my cheek. It was all I could do not to cry – they have so little and were so grateful.
Several people have asked me to elaborate on my comment in my last letter about our deficit this year. We are down 15% or $90,000. Among other things, we will cut food for participants in programs, two granny days and the two winter food parcels for the grandmothers, a gender conference for boys, orphan and grandmother relief (occasional items we provide to help truly suffering children or grannies who need emergent medical or other help), our expansion plans for GIRL4ce, our school-based YES Clubs, distribution of sanitary kits, our alumni conference, teacher training and our program for adolescent girls. These cuts are heart breaking and any help you can provide would be appreciated.
We are also seeking a Canadian professional volunteer, specifically a recently retired school principal, to build local capacity and create manuals and documents on what they are doing here to develop our staff so that afterwards we can continue their work.
Two days ago, the younger sister of one of our newest staff, Tsoakae, died. Tsoakae is 28 and has been the head of her household of four younger siblings since the death of her parents in 2011. Her sister was in our leadership training program and was killed in a taxi accident on her way home. Another sister was operated on last week and it did not go well. One wonders how such a young woman can cope with so many responsibilities and sorrows. Our staff here are all prayerfully searching for ways to support her through the autopsy, funeral and such. The emotional and financial burden must be unbearable. Death seems to lurk in the shadows here.
I close with a huge shout-out of our Basotho staff. Each one is so helpful, passionate about their work and supportive of each other. I could not manage these trips without them and yet they never fail to respond cheerfully and thoroughly. Each one is a gift. Each one has his/her own responsibilities, struggles and dreams and yet they put them aside so willingly to welcome guests, support beneficiaries and those in need. Very special people indeed.
I just returned from my first weekend off – and was off line the whole time! Hurrah!!
A hug to you and my thanks for caring about our work.