This morning we all work up around 5am from Ithabeleng saying it was time to get up. Yes- her internal alarm clock worked!! In the tradition of all teenage girls, the four others said no and that they needed more time to sleep. I got up, got changed and packed up our things. I went into the kitchen where Ithabeleng and I made porridge.
Porridge is a staple for these kids. It is inexpensive, it is easy to make (we mixed the dry bag with some boiling water and small amount of sugar), it makes a ton of food, and it fills the belly. In the homes, the main question for food is, will the kids have full bellies for their day at school. The porridge fills the belly, but there is little nutritional value to it. These kids lack a lot of the nutritional content still that we take for granted in North America. It is much more expensive to serve yoghurt, fruit and healthy omelettes for breakfast. For those things, you also need a fully functioning fridge at all times. Our foster homes are well equipped, but at times, there is no power to the fridge here and right now it is being used as a storage container.
After our porridge, the kids got dressed in their uniforms and school outfits and we were off to walk them to two different schools. The older kids left on their own to go to high school. Bokang and Khotso posed, very proud in their uniforms, while Ithabeleng tied everyone's ties for school.
On our way we sang the "One day" song that 'Me sang with the kids frequently. "One day, one day," then the kids echo, "my mother said", echo, "stir the porridge, stir the porridge" kids then echo again. You repeat and change the words to "cook the porridge" and other things. It gets very lively, loud and always ends in giggling. On our way to school we talked about their classes, their teachers and how we would write to one another.
We dropped Khotso off at his Catholic school, and Bokang and Ithameleng were persistent that they wanted us to meet their principal. Little did we know, their principal lived in a house close by the school. Bokang went right up to her door and knocked loudly. She came out in what looked like a house coat and a blanket, shocked to see us. We thanked her for meeting us, shook her hand and she said that the girls are great students, they come to school with clean clothes and are always polite. It was nice to hear the praise from the principal (especially after we knocked on her door and interrupted her early morning).
We said our goodbyes and I think I hugged the girls at least half a dozen times. I knew this was the last time I'd see them for a very long time. I turned away from them with a lump in my throat, holding back the tears, and put my sunglasses back on so they could not see my eyes. These girls, in just a day, had become a part of me, and had stolen my heart.
We continued to walk, and Ithumeleng asked if we wanted to see Khotso, Seboka & Litsiso's school, so we turned and went to visit. We met Khotso's teacher at the gate, and she brought us up in front of hundreds of children from the school. They asked me to give them some advice. I first thanked them for having us at their school, and we were so grateful to meet them all. I then told them to work hard in school, to love one another and to also remember to play hard. The principal then asked if any of them wanted to thank us, and four children were chosen to come up, shake my hand and say thank you. They then began to sing and stomp their feet to a song that means something along the lines that they are soldiers of Africa and that they sing and walk in support of one another. They sing this song until all of the children are in their classes.
It was amazing to see all of the kids in unison singing and stomping. We met with the principal and some of the kid's teachers. We then got to say goodbye to Khotso, Seboka and Litsiso. This goodbye was no easier than the last one.
Ithumeleng then walked us back to the Foster Home. On our way, we talked about her life, her dreams and her goal of someday becoming a doctor. She goes to a school where homework is assigned to her, and she needs to complete the tasks from home. She can go to the school to work with other students when she can get there, but she is often working from home. That day, Samuel was coming to bring her to school, and she was ecstatic. She waited anxiously at the door for him. Time with children her age right now is rare, so when she has the opportunity to attend school with other girls her age, she jumps at it. It was a wonderful day for her.
When we returned to the home, the babies were up being bathed. Once they had been bathed, they came outside full of smiles. I got them all a bowl of porridge and sat down to feed Karabelo. As mentioned before, when arriving at the home, she was extremely malnourished. When I sat down to feed her, she was hungry. She ate two heaping bowls of porridge. She is making up for lost time. She then played with my sunglasses and playfully tugged at my necklace.
Andy arrived, and it was time to head out. I hugged Ithumeleng tight. She gave me one of her school photos and we said we will write to one another. She is such a brave young woman. I said goodbye to 'Me, Bohloka, Karabelo and Tsireletso. Before hopping in the back seat of the car, I gave Ithumeleng one more hug and told her to continue to work hard and that I was so grateful to have had the time with her. Once again, I put my sunglasses on and walked to the car so she could not see my eyes. I am so grateful for the time I have had with these amazing children. I would have been happy to stay there, frozen in time, feeding those babies, walking to school in the morning and singing praise songs under the beautiful Lesotho sun.
We got in the car and made our way to Maseru. Our next stop is the Mohalathitoe Foster Home to meet eight more amazing children.
Stay Tuned for Part Two of Tuesday...
For more information or to connect about Bracelet of Hope and our children, please visit www.braceletofhope.ca or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.