Today I woke up and had a Cliff bar and banana. I read in my bed for some time then got ready to go. I waited for Samuel and read some more. Samuel arrived around 11am and we left to go to Mohalalitoe. This is a foster home close to Maseru, the capital city.
Samuel and I had a wonderful conversation on our way there. We discussed the troubles that are facing Lesotho. We discussed similarities in our lives and our countries. He told me about a young boy who he is trying to help, he is about 11 yrs old and he is addicted to glue. He also sometimes smokes marijuana, which is a big problem in the country. Many young children smoke it or the glue. He is trying to support the child because he is living on the street and is living a rough life. He is trying to get him into a rehabilitation centre but there are not many resources for addicted children. It breaks his heart to know that a young child has such a rough life already that he has found drugs to cloud his pain.
It made me think of my relationships over the years with many friends and family members who have also struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. The difference was, in Canada the resources are overflowing. If you are willing and ready to get help in Canada, there are many places you can go to get support, resources, get clean and turn your life around. What many people don’t understand if they have never faced addiction or have never had someone go through it, is that it is a life long journey and it can be a daily struggle for people to stay clean. If you, or someone you know is looking for help, there are many resources to reach out to. Please visit: http://www.drugandalcoholhelpline.ca/
We continued to talk about other, lighter things, maple syrup, our families and his new baby girl. We then arrived at the home. This home, Mohalalitoe has one mother, ‘Me Masamuel and nine children. There are four older boys - Tsoanelo, 22 who is in his last year of trade school to become an electrician, Tsepo, 19 who is in his last year of trade school for carpentry, Moshoeshoe who is in trade school for plumbing, Ralineo, 16 who is very brilliant and in a very good school. There are five younger children, Nthabiseng, 11 whose mother passed away and whose father left her stranded until he also passed away, Mpho, 8 and Rethabile, 6 who are siblings who had a very young mother who left them unattended, Boitumelo, 6 who is new to the homes who got lost trying to find her relatives when her mother left her and Relebohile, 5 whose mother passed away and was left with an abusive aunt.
When I arrived I was greeted by the Pastor and his wife. They told me they thought I was still an “Ausi” until they saw my wedding ring. Ausi is a term used for young girls. After chatting with them, we wandered to the home, knocked and said “Coco, coco” which is knock knock. We then met ‘Me Masamuel once again. She greeted me, very excited to see me again. We smiled and hugged. She was very excited to show me, she had made for me a Canadian flag. She made it from plastic and an old flour bag. She creates many designs and sells them. She was very proud, and I was very grateful to have this amazing piece from her!
We all sat together, and began discussing the needs of the home. There are many repairs to be done, painting, curtains to be put up, a new fridge needed, repairs to the external walls and some electrical work.
We wandered outside and they showed me the two gardens they have with spinach, rape and other greenery, they showed me the peas, the dried up tomatoes and other crops. It is now the fall and the growing season is over but they had a plentiful garden this year. We are grateful for the support of the Givesome team and our ongoing donors for helping us expand the gardens in our homes.
She also showed me their chickens and rabbits that are to be sold to support the foster homes and sustainable food security. Each foster home will have five chickens and a hen to ensure that the homes have eggs for protein and can sell the chickens for funds. We also discussed ways of creating more growing space without needing the ground. I told them about vertical gardens in pallets, and garbage bags full of potatoes.
We chatted for some time and I began asking ‘Me some personal questions. I wanted to know what life was like for her as a girl. She told me that the pressures she faced as a young girl were that she wanted to follow her dreams of helping people by becoming a nurse but her father and mother did not allow her to go to school, so she got a job as a maid. There was no money in the family for her to go to school as well as her siblings. She later married a wonderful man, but they could not have children. She said it was very difficult to live in a world where there is much pressure for women to have children, and not to be able to. This struggle tore at her heart, but eventually led her to the job of becoming a foster mother.
I asked her what her favourite part of the job is, and she said simply that the children are what makes her so happy. They are loving, and the little ones cling to her side. She said they know that she is there for them, and she is a safe person who they can trust. When I asked her what was most difficult about the job, she said that all of the children have such different personalities and it can be hard to get them to stay on task.
A regular day for her is to wake up, pray, take a bath then wake the nine children up to have a bath as she makes them all breakfast. When she gets them all ready and off to school, she cleans the house and by 1pm she begins to make them lunch for when they arrive after school. She also has a lovely hobby of sewing designs into flour bags with plastic. She has different colours of plastic and makes things such as flags, and flowers out of them. After school she says the house turns into a disaster with clothing, shoes and book bags every where (sound familiar?). She gets the children food and they change out of their uniforms and into street clothing. The children wash their uniforms, do their homework, go out to play, they come back in for dinner and pray before all going into their bedrooms for talking and sleep.
When I asked her what she wanted to tell people in Canada, she said “Please, love your children. They need love, support, encouragement. Love your children, they are everything”.
As we finished chatting, we began to hear little voices come in. My heart jumped! Relebohile and Boitumelo came around the corner with big smiles and their adorable school uniforms. We said hello and they were happy to see me. The children continued to come in, and all of them got changed out of their school clothes, had some pap pap and were ready to play. Nthabiseng then brought out all of her schoolwork to show Samuel and I. She showed us her last four tests, scoring 100% on three and 80% on one! She was very proud, and she should be, smart little cookie!
I then pulled out the bag of things I had brought with me. I blew up balloons for each of them and their eyes lit up.
We went outside and started playing with the balloons and bubbles. Boitumelo squealed each time I blew bubbles with such joy. Rethabile loved the bouncy balls, and he remembered a trick we did when I was here last, we bounced the ball into the air and caught it in our shirts. He was so silly.
They walked me around the property and introduced me to their dog, “Flexy”. He is a little white mutt and was adorable! The girls are still a little afraid of him but think he is “cute”.
After some time with the balloons and bubbles, I took out the skipping ropes. They were very long which was perfect for the group. We started with one rope, and then I asked Moshoeshoe if they had ever seen “Double Dutch”. They didn’t know what it was so I showed Moshoeshoe how to hold and move both ropes. The girls we so excited, they all tried jumping through and eventually they got the hang of it. Moshoeshoe tried but did not succeed, he was far too tall for the ropes the girls were swinging and they had a hard time getting the timing down so it often turned into two twisted ropes.
We played for some time, I took some photos and got a nice group photo of the family as well. I brought out the flash cards I had brought for spelling English words and Samuel was thrilled. They need more support for spelling and English, so next time I come I promised to bring many more flash cards and educational tools.
We then went inside and ‘Me prayed for us all. We then gave hugs, high fives and said goodbye again to the gorgeous children at Mohalalitoe. It was so amazing to see their little faces and hear their laughter once again. I wish I could bottle it up and keep it on a shelf. They bring such joy and light to my life.
As we drove away, Samuel and I talked about the kids. He said that recently Relebohile had been asking him for tights to wear to school. He did not know why but she was adamant that she needed them. This was her first year to school and she was so proud. The other girls had been talking about wanting dolls so badly. I asked Samuel if we could stop at a shop on our way back. We popped into a store where I found four dolls and a pair of tights, it was less than $5 Canadian, and my treat for the girls. He was smiling ear to ear and said the girls would be so excited. They would make new dresses for the dolls, do their hair and play. We walked out of the store and on the road there were a few people roasting corn over coals. He asked me if I had ever eaten it that way and I said no. We split a corn and enjoyed it on the way home. It was delicious!! Hot off the coals.
We began driving and talking again. We talked about his little girl, Bohahle who will be turning one in May and how she has changed his world. He said if someone told him he had to walk hours to get to her, he would run. She is his everything. He said he didn’t think he was ready to have a baby, but when she arrived, it all changed and something in him became ready. He said she has filled his heart. Just as we were talking about her, his wife, Dee called and told him that today, she had walked for the first time! He was so excited. She was going to send him a video. It reminded me so much of my little niece Parker. When P was born, Danny turned into a weeping mess. His heart grew ten times the day his little girl was born. She will be turning one in June and she has brought such joy to his life (and all of ours). I’ve never seen him happier than when he is with her. Children are such a joy, and bring such magic to this world.
As we continued to drive, he talked about the history of Lesotho, and how King Moshoeshoe was a peaceful king who brought people together. We discussed living wages and how much it costs to have a home in Lesotho. He told me on average, a nurse in Lesotho may make about $18,000 a year, and homes in general cost about $30,000. I told him about the current housing market in Toronto, Guelph and Kitchener and how it is getting so hard for people to buy homes, even when they have great jobs. He said many of the same things are happening in Lesotho and South Africa. There are many educated people who do not have a job, and it is hard for them to earn a living. Many of them go to South Africa for the opportunity of making more money. We continued to talk about life, babies, and the different difficulties we face as young people. It is truly amazing to have time with Samuel to talk about life. He is a true friend.
He dropped me off at the white house and I excitedly ran up the steps. I was able to text my mom, siblings and husband today via What’s App and was finally going to call my husband! I got in the door, put down my things and instantly called. There he was, in his car on his lunch break, just a normal Thursday afternoon for him. It was remarkable to see his face and hear his voice! I told him about my time here so far, and we talked about his busy days and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Us Canadians take our hockey seriously- it does not matter that I am half way around the world, I still need to know how our boys are doing in the playoffs! We talked for a while and he had to go back to work. My heart was full. I needed to see my person, even just for a few minutes. He gives me strength, makes me confident and happy.
I then worked on my computer for some time writing blogs, trying to find a way to create a personal hotspot from my phone to my computer. I ate fruit, had some water and by 10pm was off to bed.
Today was a great day. Seeing the kids faces, getting to play with them, see in person how they are doing and meet our new little girl was remarkable. Getting to spend such great time with Samuel has been wonderful as well.
I am so blessed to do the work that I do. Bracelet of Hope and AFMSDD are not simply supporting kids to live in foster homes, we are working together to ensure these children are taken out of vulnerable situations and given an opportunity to excel at life, to be given back their childhood that was taken from them. Give them a mother to love them, bubbles to squeal at, and balloons to pop. Allow them to get 100% on a test and be proud of it. To learn, excel and grow. To develop sustainability through gardening, raising chickens and giving them a life without worrying about food or if they will go to school and who will care for them. Our children are happy, safe and loved. For that I am grateful.
I fall asleep with a full heart.
For more information about Bracelet of Hope, please visit www.braceletofhope.ca