Greetings from Lesotho,
Every day so much happens that I don’t know where to start. Almost every interaction I have is with someone who has a story of paralyzing concern and yet, so much hope has been restored. It is remarkable.
For example, a priest from one of the villages came to ask for our help with his church council. I offered our local staff to give his council training in leadership and conflict resolution. I was taken aback when he totally changed the subject and started to praise the young mother’s group in his village, and regal me with stories of how these pregnant young girls and young mothers’ lives had been fundamentally changed by our program. The girls who had graduated from the program no longer tried to be invisible. Now they had a support network and were generating a small income. He said that they now speak up and tell the community what they need. They no longer accept the abusive way men treat them and are working together to motivate the community to be respectful.
It was both touching and encouraging hearing this unsolicited feedback from a male religious leader in a village.
I called ‘M’e Shasha over to hear his comments – she leads that program and deserves this praise. “M’e told us about the recent graduates who were so proud to receive their baby boxes. They say that now they have real baby supplies like other mothers and a proper bag to carry them in instead of a ripped plastic grocery bag.
A couple of days later, I attended the Young Mother Day at the Pitseng Centre with our new group of young mothers. The girls are selected with help from the chiefs and local councillors and must be either pregnant or lactating, which maximizes the chance for pre and post-natal impact. It was such fun. Those babies are so adorable, but those girls are far too young to be mothers. It breaks my heart to know that their futures are drastically changed forever!
We held our quarterly staff meeting with our full-time staff, professional interns, part-time granny leads, cook, driver, and security guard. It was so evident that our country director, Shadrack, is a wonderful leader – passionate, dedicated and hard-working. Together, we review policy and procedural changes and share times of reflection – I give workshops for the staff at these times. Staff presented their program impact reports via delightful dramas and songs. Truly, their singing is ethereal. One would assume they were professionals! I never tire of it. I am deeply moved by the faith of our staff – it is an inspiration and increases our resilience in dealing with the endless challenges of our work. Lesotho is primarily a Christian country. Every meeting begins with prayer and a praise song. To share faith with these fine people is a blessing to me on many levels.
Shadrack and I went to Maseru to visit with the Country Director of UNICEF and then with Queen ‘Masenate. We will work together with the Ministry of Social Development to engage Princess Senate as the Champion for the Child Early and Forced Marriage Campaign. Many of you will remember the Princess from her visit to Canada. She is now a beautiful, poised, and confident young 16-year-old who wants to help her peers. It was lovely to visit with Her Majesty, as always.
Last week, we hosted Manuela Clement-Frencia from Montreal and Maria and Dominique Cabrelli from Paris who came to develop a photo and story exhibition of our work with girls’ education to be displayed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts). They were lovely guests, so interested in all that we are doing. They will provide us with all the photos and documents to use, which will be very helpful. I can’t wait to see the exhibition.
In mid-January, the new school year begins here. Lesotho instituted free primary education in 2000 but the steep fees for high school remain – they are absolutely prohibitive for so many. January is also when the standardized exam results come out for the previous year. In 2017, we had two of our sponsored students in the top ten high school graduates for the whole country and three in the top ten for grade ten, the two years they sit for standardized exams. Without sponsorship, these hard working students may not have had a chance to excel.
Almost every day a former sponsored child contacts me/finds me – Help Lesotho is home. They want to tell me how they are. They remember that we expect them to try their best, to take leadership among their peers and to create a better society. They are so grateful. It pours out of them without provocation. They need me to know that their lives could not have been improved without that sponsorship. This week I am meeting with the former sponsored children who were selected for our intensive Leadership in Training Program that runs daily for two months. In March, I will meet a larger group of them in Maseru.
It is hard for us to imagine what it would be like to be so young with more heartbreak than any human being should have to deal with. We are that life-line – from the minute they join us and every year thereafter. We are their family!
This year, we committed to sponsor 50 new students, chosen by their schools as those who are in dire need but have potential to succeed and make something new of their lives. Our thanks to each person who has stepped forward to sponsor this year but we urgently need 15 more sponsors for the girls and boys on our list who daily and anxiously await a sponsor. Please consider sponsoring one of these young ones. You can build a relationship with them or not – it is your choice.
And finally, this week, we received the long-awaited computer classroom container at our Hlotse Centre donated by the Bountiful Hope Foundation in Denver, Colorado. It came complete with 22 small desks and computers. This is such a blessing – the waiting list for our computer and life skills classes is over a year and we have had to stop applications. We shouted with happiness to see it finally arrive, it was so exciting! We know what this will mean to the hundreds of people who will learn there – who will become part of our ever expanding family. We deeply appreciate this gift! Thank you to our friends in Denver.
Thank you for walking this journey with us – your support keeps us going in so many ways.
Stay warm – spring will indeed come at some point!
PS – let us know if you prefer a boy or a girl to sponsor.
As Help Lesotho’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Peg Herbert spends at least two months a year living and working in Lesotho. As a Canadian exemplifying what good international development looks like, Peg shares her experiences through ‘Letters from Lesotho’ so we can all get a glimpse of what makes Lesotho such a special place.
If you would like to connect with Peg about her letters: