Because of insufficient funding my parents and i have decided that our school should close.The decision to close our school was taken in December but the magnitude of our choice only hit home today. Made me kinda teary as I realised just how much the school project has shaped my life and dare I say, my identity. I guess the reason why its only got me today is because when I have a difficult decision to make I usually pack my emotions out of the way so that I can deal with whatever is at hand with a clear mind, only after everything has been done do I sit back and deal with the emotional aspects of the situation.
Friend, when something that has been a part of your identity for years is taken away it takes a while to deal with all the emotions that come with letting go. Today I choose to deal with it in writing.
A month before I turned 21 in 2006 I moved, (with my parents blessing) to live in a rural area of South Africa called Nkomazi. I had been invited by my friend Sally Mckibbin to come and work in her organisation called: Thembalethu Home Based Care(THBC). The Nkomazi region is known to having one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in South Africa. When I arrived in 2006 it was estimated that 36% of the population was infected, today those numbers have risen to 50% with a population of around 334,421. THBC is involved with helping people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS through community development projects. (www.thembalethu.org)
When I arrived in Nkomazi I had no experience with community development much less HIV and AIDS. All the experience I had was a year of running a Sunday school with 100 children every Sunday all by myself but Sally and her sister Heather saw potential in me and offered me a position in the organisation.
My responsibilities where: to run an After School Program for orphans and vunerable children in 4 surrounding villages. Basically I had to travel weekly to these villages and monitor how the volunteers in charge were running the After School Program and distribute food to the centers. Every Saturday I was part of a group heading a kids club for about 150 -200 orphans and daily i was involved in tutoring 4 orphans from the THBC orphanage. In total each week I came into contact with around 300-350 children. At the same time I was studying via correspondence (BA in community development). I found time early in the morning and late at night to study, in fact whenever I found a spare moment at work I was busy studying. It was hard work but I loved it, I learned so much from THBC.
At the end of four months I had my first experience with burn out and decided even though I would be letting a lot of people down I had to go home.
Upon my return home, I found that my dad was saddened at seeing orphans playing in the streets instead of going to school so him and my mom had decided if no one was keeping track on the welfare of these orphans they would. With that decision my mom found 4 pieces of sack cloth and 4 long sticks and made a shelter from where she taught about 20 children. In the meanwhile my dad(without any promise of financial help) started a building project, so that eventually the children would start learning in classes. When I heard about what my parents had started I got very excited and after a much needed holiday, i decided that I would join them to run and establish the school. There was no special word from the Lord, neither did I spent days in prayer I simply saw a need got excited and jumped in.
From there I looked for volunteers in the church my parents where establishing(they plant churches). At that time there where teenagers in our church who needed financial help to go to school. We decided that if they really needed the money they could spare a couple of hours a day teaching at our school. The school grew from 20 kids to 100 in a couple of months. From the school came many other sustainable projects that I started in order to help the children in our care. Some where amazing such as our kids club, foreign volunteer program, gardening and bakery projects. Others started off on bumpy road such as our construction program( building homes for orphans) whilst others where resounding failures e.g selling frozen drink packets. When I started running the school, there where no desks, chairs, text books…pretty much everything that is needed to run a school but that didn’t bother me I was determined to give the children a chance. Wherever I went I spoke about my school and my love for the children. people began to visit and donate, money, their time and material to keep it running.
My dream has always been that our school be the best in our community teaching and training children from a young age the importance of community development with Jesus as the heartbeat of all we do…its sad letting go of that dream.
sally and my parents will always be my inspiration, I will forever be grateful to them for believing in me and giving me full reign to projects that other people may have thought I would have been incapable of running.
For the orphans, the bakery, kids club and construction projects will continue they run well without me, possibly more projects will be started. Personally, I really don’t know what’s next for me, as of January I was without any responsibility, a strange place to be for someone who has always had something to do. These days I just quietly wait believing that, surely the new season with its new set of responsibilities will eventually come my way.
Friend, I know this has been rather long, I hope you don’t mind.as always with much love