I woke up from the crazy rooster this morning around 4am. For some reason they like to crow to the other roosters and get the dogs barking. I am now wide awake with no way to get back to sleep. So, I picked up kobo and began to read. Here’s hoping I can fall back asleep. I ended up sleeping for a couple hours and woke up around 8am. I got ready, ate some banana and headed out into the sun. It is so funny, whenever I speak to Basotho they say “it is getting so cold”. Today it is a bright 23 degrees outside. I have sported a t-shirt every day since I have been here, and I have often seen people dressed in sweaters and light jackets. I remember last trip, ‘Me Mahlompho would always sit near the fire in the bar to warm up.
As I walked around I met three young girls who were in highschool, they were on their lunch break. I walked with them for a while and talked about their lives. They asked me where I was from, and I said Canada. They said “so far! Why are you here”, so I told them about Bracelet of Hope and AFMSDD and our foster homes. The one girl said “yes, I know of one close to here! What good work you do! Thank you ‘Mme for your work”. These girls were so sweet and so happy to chat. I made way and continued to take a nice long walk down the red dirt paths and admire the mountains and blue sky.
I returned to the White House to check on some emails and connect with both Help Lesotho and the Ministry of Health. I then had a Skype call with the Chair and Vice Chair of the board from back home. It was lovely to speak to them. I am truly blessed to work for an organization with such a passionate board, volunteers and staff. Samuel arrived in the afternoon and we were off to Lerobane. I was so excited, I had thought about the kids at Lerobane all night the day before.
Off we go!
Before getting to Lerobane, we saw Mamokhele walking home from school so we picked her up and continued to drive to the high school where Makhauta goes. Makhauta is a very special little girl who has been with Bracelet of Hope and AFMSDD for many years. She is HIV+ and on more than one occasion we have almost lost her. She now lives with a nutritionist and her husband who care for her. We drove up to the high school and picked up Mahlohololo, who is from Tlhakuli but stays at Lerobane for school. We hopped out of the van, and got a beautiful smile and greeting from Makhauta. We said hello, chatted a bit and took a picture together. It was wonderful to meet such a strong, brave young girl.
We said our goodbyes, and drove up the mountain to the Lerobane foster home. The children and foster parents were so happy and excited to greet me. Little Ntaoleng and Justice ran up to me, hugged me and started laughing and screaming, Ntaoleng was so excited. I have thought about her so much since I last left in September. She has a very bold personality, she directs the other wee ones and has a silly little voice and thinks the world is a place for joy and laughter.
I then got to actually chat with Mamokhele and gave her a big hug as well. Mamokhele is about 16yrs old and was the head of the household, caring for four siblings and two nephews at a very young age. Her parents died and her sister was very ill. When her sister passed away, she got a job but had to bring baby Justice with her wherever she went. When the Ministry of Social Development took them to the Lerobane foster home, Justice could not walk due to malnourishment. Since then, the children have been well cared for, they are healthy, happy and they are going to school. Although their lives had been changed by being cared for at the foster home, Mamokhele had a difficult time letting her guard down, and allowing the parents to care for her and her family. She was so used to caring for them that she had difficulty with the foster mother. Eventually, she began to trust the mother and father and she has now been able to reclaim her childhood. Mamokhele dreams of being a social worker to help children like her. She would be remarkable at that. She is remarkable. I am blown away by her strength and courage. She has so much faith, a very big heart and continues to shine and grow, with one of the best smiles you’ve ever seen.
Devastation hit the family again just this past December when little Khotso, Mamokhele’s 5yr old nephew fell out of a tree, and after about a week in the hospital, consistently losing strength, he also passed away. Khotso was a beautiful little boy. He was happy and loved playing with his siblings. His eyes sparkled and he had a way of looking at you that you knew he was about to do something silly.
Today my heart was filled by seeing these beautiful babies, but there was a deep hole left by little Khotso, and his presence was dearly missed.
We played with balloons which made the little ones squeal with laughter and the older children played the ‘don’t let it touch the ground’ game. After a short time I also brought out the bubbles for them and at first they didn’t know what to think, but after a while thought they were quite magical. These children saw the bubbles as I see these children- beautiful, dynamic and more than anything, full of magic.
Once we had played for a while, I interviewed the foster mother and Mamokhele about what life is like as a woman and a girl in Lesotho. ‘Me Mamosebetsi told me that she had a bicycle as a child that she loved. She learned how to drive as a young woman and absolutely adores it. She told me she wished that more woman drove, because it is so much fun. I asked her if she could have anything what would she want, after much of her laughing and saying anything at all is a gift, thank you, she finally told me she would love a winter jacket to stay warm. When I asked Mamokhele what it was like to be a girl, she said her childhood was very difficult and hard, she did not go to school and she had to work very hard to keep her siblings and nephews alive. She enjoys school and looks forward to becoming a social worker so her and her friend who wants to be a teacher can help others.
After the interviews I walked down the path and Ntate Bohlokoa and Pastor James showed me the new pig barn. It was fantastic! It has multiple stalls for piglets and grown pigs. Their plan is to grow the ten piglets and sell them to market, use the profit to purchase more pigs and eventually start a savings plan. The funds will go back into the foster home to support food security and children’s needs.
They also showed me the new borehole that is now pumping clean water to their tank. Eventually they would like to get a small heater to add to the tank so the children can bathe in warm water much quicker in the mornings.
They have also created a small barn where they will bring in chickens to grow to slaughter. Outside the barns there are several very large gardens that have produced corn, tomatoes, spinach, greens and other vegetables. Their goal is to have a small tower garden for each foster child so they can learn about growing their own food at a very young age. Together with the piggery, chickens and gardens, these projects will support food security and sustainability for the home, while also teaching the children about growing and tending crops, caring for pigs and chickens.
Lerobane has remarkable potential to be a place a great growth.
Before I left, I ran back and forth across the yard with Ntaoleng as she giggled and held my hand. We played with the balloons and the bubbles and took a group photo. I was then beginning to say goodbye and Ntaoleng wrapped her arms around me and would not let go. She wanted to stay with me, and my goodness I would have scooped her up and kept her had she not such a wonderful life with her siblings and foster parents. We hugged for what felt like an hour and finally, I said goodbye and Kea Leboha to everyone. I put my sunglasses on so they could not see my tears. I know I will see them again in a few months, however it is so hard leaving them. Every single one of them has a beautiful heart.
We drove back to Hlotse where I went to the hotel to meet ‘Mme Makhlompho and Andy. We had a great dinner and laughed so hard throughout the meal. It was so amazing to see good friends again in Lesotho. Before I left I packed some treats, some maple syrup and some boxes of Kraft Dinner as ‘Mme told me last time she loved Kraft Dinner. We all shared stories of our childhood and being naughty, and how the youngest always gets away with everything (Andy is the youngest, and yes I mean you Christopher haha). I told stories of growing up with summers in Apsley catching frogs, fishing and catching snakes. We talked about catching chipmunks and squirrels and laughed. ‘Me and Andy told a hilarious story of wearing shower caps into the lake on her trip to Ontario and how she nearly drown as she had never swam before, but jumped in expecting to touch the bottom. ‘Me is so funny, she brings such laughter wherever she goes!
On Monday ‘Me is going to pick me up and we are going to pick fabric to make me a traditional Basotho dress. I am so excited!
We had a great dinner together catching up and telling stories. They drove me back to the “White House” and I called my mom. I was surprised to see she was with my nephew Cam and cried so hard when I saw him, happy tears. I should not brag so much but I am truly blessed to have remarkable nephews and nieces. I was so happy to see his happy little face. We talked for some time then they arrived at Mandy’s house and I got to talk to her and my little 3 year old nephew Brantley. I miss them so much, and I cannot wait to come home and give them all big hugs. They also carry magic with them. They light up my life.
When the call cut out I downloaded the photos from the day, chugged some cold water and blasted some music. It’s a Friday night so I had my own dance party in the “White House”! I read some more of my book and thought about the day.
I cannot say it enough. Our children are full of magic. No matter what they have been through, their eyes sparkle, their laughter brings an instant smile and their tiny hugs stay with me and give me strength to continue to fight for them. Fight for the opportunities they deserve. Fight for their futures. Share their stories. Share their beautiful photos. Continue to spread the love these beautiful babies bring to this world. I am grateful to be able to be a small part of their magical lives.
Tonight I fall asleep with a full heart.
For more information about Bracelet of Hope please visit www.braceletofhope.ca