There is so much going on here that I hardly know where to start.
Our Canadian trip guests and I have been up in the mountains of Thaba Tseka since Thursday and came down on Sunday afternoon. It was a spectacular trip – the scenery is breathtaking and the welcome extraordinary.
On Friday, we rode horses straight up a mountain path for 50 minutes to one of our remote schools.
Our guests read to the children and then traced their little feet on a piece of paper so we would know what sizes were needed to provide a new pair of shoes for each of the 132 children.
It was a lovely visit – the children sang and danced for us and the community came out to welcome and participate. They are so grateful to be part of Help Lesotho’s family. When we partner with a school, its status skyrockets!
The road to the school and neighbouring communities was completely impassible for vehicles – creviced by rain and erosion. I told the local counsellor and the herd men who accompanied us that I would write a letter to the clerk of the council petitioning for a new road to use whatever influence I might have. A couple of people have died coming down to the hospital. One young mother ended up having her baby between the rocks half way down because she just could not make it to the clinic.
When we came down from the school, we went directly to the little store in town called ‘Pep’ – like a very small Zellers – to order the shoes and a pair of socks for each child. Now that is direct impact!
Saturday, we went to Sefapanong Primary School, twinned with Turnbull School in Ottawa, for a morning with the children. It was such fun. The children ran down the side of one mountain and up the other to welcome us with signs they had made. Our guests tutored the children in math, English and science. As I chatted with the principal, Ntate Lebina, the chief and numerous community representatives came over the mountains with a herd man and a sheep in tow.
The chief presented me with the sheep as a token of their profound appreciation to Help Lesotho and Turnbull School for changing the lives of so many in the area.
We have programs for herd boys, young mothers, grandmothers, teachers and the school partnership in that area. This year alone, Turnbull School raised enough to purchase math supplies for each student and classroom, in addition to uniforms for many of the 532 students at this remote school. We were very touched by the generous gift of the sheep but less enthusiastic about taking the poor thing home tied up in the back of the truck on the 5-hour drive. Now it is here at our Centre, waiting its destiny!
We had a chance to visit with one of the herd boy program graduates – he is a 22 year old handsome young man – in tattered blankets and frayed pants. He was articulate about how much the program had meant to him – that he got information about how to look after himself, how to treat women, how to be respected by others and the importance of herd boys valuing themselves. It was such a pleasure to speak to him. Frankly, it was the longest conversation I have ever had with a herd boy because they are so shy.
The program officer, Sello, who runs that program was once a herd boy himself and the impact of his leadership was evident. I so wished the Canadian family who had sponsored that program could be with us to see the results of their generosity.
Our entire staff has been preparing for the Grandmother Conference which started yesterday afternoon.
While we wish all 200 grandmothers from the two-year Grandmother Support Program could come to the conference, some grannies are not able to make arrangements for their orphaned grandchildren to be looked after by someone else for these few days.
Seeing 125 grannies arrive in their colourful blankets and Seshoeshoe dresses– singing, ululating and dancing all the way up the walkway into the Centre was extraordinary.
Some of these dear souls have never been out of their villages. Others had never been on stairs. Some are too old to climb the stairs; some are too frightened.
‘M’e Mampaka, our Grandmother Support Officer who is in charge of the conference, wore her Kingston Grandmother Connection t-shirt in honour of some of the Canadians who give so generously to the program. Our trip guests made beds on the floors for the grannies – 16 to a room – and served them dinner. What a happy crowd!
I was almost in tears to see them all together like that.
As much as our staff are totally prepared to run conferences such as this, there are always challenges. The cook told me there was sadly no meat available in town to serve the grannies. The water is off and on – I got up at 5:30am to quickly wash my hair before the grannies started their bucket baths. The lack of water may even further complicate the task of feeding these grannies three meals a day.
You have a very special opportunity to see a live broadcast from the grandmother conference later this week. On Thursday, March 16, I will be live with the grannies on Help Lesotho’s Facebook page at 12:00pmEST (6:00pm in Lesotho)! This is our first attempt to deliver live coverage of one of our programs – now we need to hope it does not rain so our internet connection cooperates! Details about how to view the live broadcast are below.
We are leaving right now to go to the Young Mother Graduation for 150 pregnant girls and young mothers about a 30 minute drive away. It will be wonderful to celebrate all that these young mothers have accomplished over the last year – more on that later! This evening we will re-join the grannies.
Another good day!
Thank you all for caring so much about the Basotho – you would be so proud to see where your funds are going and how deeply appreciative the beneficiaries are.
My very best wishes,