Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #6

Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #6

Khotsong (peace to you all),

As I prepare to leave Lesotho, there is much to share.

A staff meeting with the parents of sponsored children.Staff has been holding meetings with the guardians of our sponsored children in various locations. Whether older siblings, single parents, grandparents or distant relatives, they implore us to thank you for the sponsorship you provide that allows their child to continue going to school.  One of those mothers is 34-years-old with two children aged 16 and 13, the latter whom we sponsor. Her husband was an old man who cheated her into marrying him and then left her with three children, no job or skills and no hope. Despite being in a room full of strangers, she wept uncontrollably in thanks for the assistance Help Lesotho has provided in sending her youngest to school. She has no one else to turn to.

So many rose to humbly thank Help Lesotho for the sessions we are giving to help the sponsored children with their grief and loss and to recognize them as someone with a future – not a hopeless person sitting at home. Each in turn gave thanks for the school fees, the uniforms, the shoes – confessing to all that these items are completely beyond their capacity to provide.

The graduation from the Leadership in Training was this past week as well. Sixty new friends, fortified with knowledge, passion, hope and purpose. After two months together, they just don’t want to leave!

Graduates from 2018 Leadership programs pose together for a photo outside of the Hlotse Centre.

On Saturday, I drove to Maseru to visit with 20 girls who have graduated from our leadership programs, most of whom are now in university or college. We spent four hours together – laughing, encouraging each other, sharing challenges. I have known most of these wonderful young women for over a decade, through camps, gender conferences, leadership training and child sponsorship. Life is never easy in Lesotho and so I am even more proud of them for the integrity, determination and commitment they exhibit to keep themselves HIV negative, unmarried and pursuing their education. They have learned to wait – that women need to establish themselves before they submit to a relationship that could potentially deprive them of all they have worked so hard for. I endeavor to see as many as possible each time I come.

I first met Kananelo Molapo in 2006 when she was a tiny little thing in primary school. She is a double orphan who lived with her grandmother in a stick house. She got sponsorship from my next door neighbours and from that day, she has worked hard to succeed. She was in our Basotho Girls’ Leadership Corp throughout high school and is now doing exceptionally well in third year nursing. She is still tiny! She is a solid, smart and focused young woman who is exactly what we hoped our programs could develop.

Kananelo Molapo a Help Lesotho beneficiary over the years from 2006 - 2018.

Mat’sepiso Nceke, one of our first sponsored children in 2005 was living with her grandmother, was smart as a whip and a born leader. Pregnant at 14, she had a baby at 15 (a daughter who is now 13) and had to leave high school. She had another child, who died in infancy. Mat’sepsio forged on, eventually graduating from university as a teacher and has remained a single parent. There are many roads to one’s future but she is the epitome of our slogan: Leaders Never give Up! 

Mat’sepiso Nceke, one of Help Lesotho's first sponsored children.

In 2007, Sr. Alice, then principal of St. Charles High School in Seboche, advocated for me to include a young girl named Tebello Sarele in our camp. Her parents, both subsistent farmers, had love to share but no means. Thus with Sr. Alice’s insistence that this child was bright and worthy of a spot, Tebello joined our family. Each year, my mother, Dorothy Parnell, sponsors ten children to go to camp who could not go otherwise – now over 110 children – and Tebello was one of those girls. What Sr. Alice did not tell me was that this young lady had the voice of an angel! Listening to her sing is breathtaking! Tebello and I have kept in touch often as she graduated high school, then became a pharmacist, then an assistant lecturer at the University of Swaziland and now, at 27, an employee at a hospital in Maseru and a student in a Masters’ program. She is a wonderful mentor to younger women and an inspiration to me.

Tebello Sarele from 2006 - 2018.

During my last days in Lesotho, Shadrack and I met with UNICEF, World Vision, UNFPA, and the Ministry of Social Development to plan a joint offensive against gender-based violence and child early and forced marriage with Princess Senate as the youth Champion. We are responding to several requests to submit proposals for funding and are hopeful. We tried to fit in as much as possible. In fact, I was interviewed in the car for the national newspaper on the subject as I left for the airport!

People often ask to use our modules. I have always refused because, given the sensitive nature of our programs and the vulnerability and depth of issues of our populations, I feel that without proper training in our facilitation approach, it is not responsible to allow people to use our modules. Our facilitators are carefully trained over many processes and years to handle the emotional trauma experienced by our participants and the raw truths that emerge during the sessions. In response to requests to share our lessons learned, materials and impact, we have developed an initiative called CHANGE4ce, which is a process to train facilitators in our methodology before they are allowed to purchase modules. Our first client is the Sawubona Project in South Africa, set to start next year. Hopefully, this structure will allow us to raise some funds and to train others in Lesotho and elsewhere to do the kind of intensive, emotionally laden work we are known and respected for.

These past months while I am in Lesotho, I am grateful for the Canadian staff who continues to manage everything in Ottawa.  My thanks to Lesley Griffiths, Marlene Caicco and Taylor Holmes for being such a terrific team. Our exciting news is that Kate Lambert and Dave have adopted a newborn boy, Joel Parker Lambert. Kate will be on maternity leave until January 2019 but will still be looking after the child sponsorship file. We are delighted for them and know you will be as well. For those in Ottawa, I will be having a drop in for people to meet Joel so let me know if you want to come.

Help Lesotho staff member Kate with her husband Dave and new son Joel.

As I packed to leave, the days are cooler, and fall descends – and with it the Basotho fear of the cold. I don’t remember it ever being so cool at the end of March. Sitting in my 3” bath water, used for the third day in a row, trying to rinse the suds from my hair, the water stops. I vow that when I get home, I will be more appreciative of water and electricity – I will be more careful.

This has been an eventful season, with lots of wonderful visitors, graduations, encounters and surprises. Thank you for joining me and for caring so much about our work. On behalf of all our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries, I send you a hug and our gratitude.

Best wishes, salang hantle (stay well)


PS We are hosting a ‘Brunch with Peg’ on April 21 in Ottawa. There are limited tickets left. If you live nearby and can join us to see some photos and hear the stories of my trip – please reserve your ticket soon by clicking here.

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:



Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #5

Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #5


I just returned from our wonderful Pitseng Centre. This jewel in the middle of nowhere helps over 3,000 villagers of all ages feel a sense of belonging, love, fun and learning every year. In June, it will be ten years since the opening. I so clearly remember the construction phase – it was brutal. The property was re-claimed from a section of a cornfield on donated land from the Anglican Diocese of Lesotho with funds passionately raised by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association of Ottawa. Every time I go there, I wish each one of the 14,000 teachers who contributed from their salaries could see it – they would be so happy. Each time, I feel grateful for the people who annually support the activities that go on there – for young mothers, grannies, little ones, students, and out-of-school youth. It is the most wonderful place! Our centre supervisor, ‘M’e Thoala is doing a fabulous job.

As I continue to visit various programs, meet with staff, write funding proposals, and review activities and plans, I am struck again by how many people it takes to provide this kind of compassionate, effective programming to over 15,000 people every year. We have been so blessed to have Shadrack Mutembei as our country director for the past seven years, providing continuity, passionate and compassionate leadership and strong financial oversight. The administrative structures and processes required to implement and account for such intensive and extensive programming is often overlooked in reporting our work and impact.

We employ a large, totally Basotho staff, building capacity at all levels. We create so many jobs but also offer our staff – many of whom join us in their twenties – a chance to deal with all this pain and to develop the professional skills they need to become independent, confident, and happy. When I think back over the years to how many interns and staff we have trained – who have moved on to populate other organizations with their ethical, gender-committed values, it helps me to realize that our cumulative impact on this country reaches ever further and wider. We have developed some of the finest program facilitators in the country – admired and often poached by the much larger international development agencies in the country.

Because of the high degree of psychological insight and expertise required to deliver our programs, we have really struggled to hire people from other organizations who meet these standards. Our solution has been to develop our own feeder system. Our most intensive leadership program (Leadership in Training – LIT) has become an effective mechanism for selecting the best and brightest for our two-year Professional Internship Program. We have two months during the program to watch these young people, most of whom have some or have graduated from post-secondary education who meet our highest selection criteria. These young people have addressed their staggering grief and loss, had the time and support to heal their own wounds before they attempt to help others, and understand key issues in personal responsibility. They have examined gender-based issues from multiple perspectives, including personal behavioural choices and biases. They know the power, purpose and responsibility they have to help their communities and their country – and the skills to do it.

I have seen these fine young people weep with abandon as they face the powerful and debilitating hurt poverty and injustice has wreaked in their lives – and then grow in confidence and experience as they practice every day how to articulate their needs, solutions and ideas for a better future.

One young man, Obadiah, who was chosen for the Professional Internship Program and now for a junior staff position working with youth recently wrote to me:

Leaders in Training graduate Obadiah speaks to the impact the program has had on him.The good thing about LIT program is that it doesn’t tell us what to do but shows us that we have potential to do important things. I learned that I am still useful to the people around me. It showed me that I can do something and be a leader everyway I am, that everyone is a leader not just the people ruling us. I did not bother taking action for the benefit of others but after attending the training I felt the importance of taking action for the benefit of others, valuing life of others matters, not just only myself. I am a different person now I can stand up for others, anywhere I see people mistreating others unfairly for example, and it has made me to care not only for myself but to also care about other people. 

Another LIT graduate, who is a professional intern in the Hlotse Centre writes:

A Leaders in Training graduate speaks to the impact the program has had on her.My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an achievement. They bring to mind something else, too –  that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.

My name is Rethabile Khasane from Mapoteng, aged 27, a very passionate young woman when it comes to change other people’s lives and helping them build resilience. As the eldest in a family of three children. I became a responsible young girl at the age of 12 when I was tasked with caring for my siblings after the death my mother and due to my father’s mental illness. We had to move from our home to my grandmother’s house. We faced so many challenges as it was a big family and our lives were horrible as my grandmother struggled to support us financially. Sometimes I had to help people with house-chores after school to get money for my soap and such and to provide for my sibling’s needs.

With God’s grace, I got sponsorship from World Vision to pursue my studies in secondary level. I worked very hard at school. I had to be strong for my younger brother and sister and to work very hard to achieve my goal of being a teacher and empowering other orphaned and vulnerable children. I consider myself a warrior because I have been through so many challenges throughout my life but I didn’t give up!

After completing my grade 12, I moved in with my aunt as her daughter since she didn’t have any but only two sons. My grandmother agreed, hoping things would get better in the family. I didn’t hesitate as she was promising to take care of my needs and my siblings as well. Things didn’t go that way.  I became a domestic- worker in her family. I was vulnerable and helpless. I didn’t know what to do, but wait patiently for my grade 12 results to go to tertiary.

Fortunately, I got good results and was admitted at National University of Lesotho under Special Education Program. With the scholarship I got, I had to support grandmother and my younger brother and sister’s education since I was and still am the bread winner in the family.

After completing my Bachelor Degree, I went home to face the challenges of unemployment. My life was terrible. I needed help me but there was no one to nurture my vulnerable heart. Through this hardship journey, I didn’t forget to pray, I always trusted God to change my life at every obstacle I met.

My aunt, the same person I needed as a mother, the same person who promised to be there for me turned out to be a stranger to me.  She pressured me to marry an older man I was not interested in, telling me that he can change my life and siblings’ lives. “You are now old, you don’t have work, you are struggling to survive in your family and if you can marry this man, your life will change. I don’t want to see you anymore in house if you refuse to marry him.’’

What a tragedy! I was not ready for marriage! I was only 25 and I didn’t think marriage could change my life anyhow. What I needed was parental love and a supportive family. I turned down her proposal and she furiously kicked me out of her house. I didn’t know what to do, my vulnerability made me to kneel down before her and asked for forgiveness on something that I didn’t want to do. She didn’t want me to apologize but to say yes to marriage proposal. I respected her so much, but I had to stand for myself and speak out for what I believed in. Even though I was struggling, marriage was not an option. I believed that I was strong enough to stand and change my life. I didn’t believe in men. I wanted to be a hard-working woman and support my siblings before I could commit myself in marriage. Ultimately, I wanted to marry someone I love when time is right, not someone I was forced to marry.

At that exact time, I was enrolled in Leaders in Training Program at Help Lesotho and I learned to understand things differently. I moved out of my relative’s home to find a place to live. I stayed at my friend’s place until I completed my training at Help Lesotho. I cried almost every day. I didn’t understand why all this happened to me. Fortunately, I was selected to be one of the professional Interns at Help Lesotho and I am proud to say this program has changed my life. I have managed to rent a place, to take care of myself and also to help my siblings needs with the stipend I get from Help Lesotho.

I would like to thank Dr. Peg Herbert for bringing Help Lesotho in our lives because many young girls and women are facing so many challenges concerning child, early and forced marriage. Help Lesotho is playing a crucial part to eradicate gender based violence. I have built a resilience, and through psychosocial support and the intensive training Help Lesotho equipped me with, I am capable to empower other young girls and women out there to make good decisions with their lives and to become resilient too.

I WILL pass it on!

And thus it happens – with your support – one valuable life at a time. … growing and then influencing hundreds more. That is what sustainable development looks like over time and from where I stand!

Thank you – Rea leboha haholo.


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:


Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #4

Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #4


As I look out the window now, the ground is completely saturated with water. We have been having some unbelievable storms of late and finally the ground is absorbing the water. In all my years here, I have never experienced storms of this ferocity. Last night the wind was so forceful, it ripped a wall mirror off and smashed it three feet away. Another night a massive branch broke off our enormous eucalyptus tree. The earth is vivid green, flowers are blooming, even the cosmos I love, but the crops will not have time to mature. Water in the Katse dam is about 40 feet below what it was.

I have just come down the mountains and bid farewell to our special guests: Sandra Hellyer (Toronto); Barb Bonner and Jean McNabb (Guelph/Rockwood area); Lisanna Sullivan (Whitehorse); Julie Sullivan, Bill Austin, Mary Dawson and Lynn and John Graham (Ottawa). We really had fun. Not to be boastful but we had internet, however faint, almost all the time, and only lost power and water a few times. Each guest was flexible, intensely interested, open-hearted to this new culture and fun to be with. For more information about Help Lesotho Donor Trips, click here.

The 2018 donor trip guests gather in front of the Hlotse Centre for a photo. Each trip lasts 12 days.

We danced with the grannies, visited with herd boys, held those adorable babies during the young mothers’ day, ventured on horseback to granny huts and one school so high that one could imagine we were at the top of the world. We sat in on youth sessions on domestic violence and grief and loss, computer and life-skills classes and played with children. We dined in style and in fields. We travelled up to over 10,000 feet above sea level and had a lesson on making brooms. Our three board members met with staff and the district administrator (like the provincial premier). We explored the local market and ate at a convent. Not your average fare!

Interest in these trip is such that one is already full for 2019. If you are interested in joining me on the second trip, March 17-27, 2019 please contact Marlene Caicco for the brochure.

One of the things that has touched me deeply on those travels was our encounter with about eight herd boys who were among the 150 who graduated from our program last October. These boys are typically painfully shy and reticent to socialize with people, especially foreigners. They are treated as less than animals and pariahs. I had asked Ntate Sello, the Herd Boy Program Officer to rally some of the graduates to meet me up in Thaba Tseka. One of them made a speech to the entire school, Sefapanong, twinned with Turnbull School in Ottawa. I had a very special visit with them afterwards. They asked great questions but the one that has reverberated with me most was: “What were you thinking that you would come here and help us?” Herd boys are so often overlooked; they found it astounding that we would care about them enough to put this program on in such remote areas. They were so appreciative and assured me that now their new-found knowledge has allowed them to stop many unhealthy behaviours and live with more self-respect. I had a long hug with each one and several shyly and surreptitiously planted a tiny kiss on my cheek. It was all I could do not to cry – they have so little and were so grateful.

Herd boys gather for a photo. These young men spend a large amount of their time isolated in the remote mountanous regions of Lesotho herding animals to provide for their families.

Several people have asked me to elaborate on my comment in my last letter about our deficit this year. We are down 15% or $90,000. Among other things, we will cut food for participants in programs, two granny days and the two winter food parcels for the grandmothers, a gender conference for boys, orphan and grandmother relief (occasional items we provide to help truly suffering children or grannies who need emergent medical or other help), our expansion plans for GIRL4ce, our school-based YES Clubs, distribution of sanitary kits, our alumni conference, teacher training and our program for adolescent girls. These cuts are heart breaking and any help you can provide would be appreciated.

We are also seeking a Canadian professional volunteer, specifically a recently retired school principal, to build local capacity and create manuals and documents on what they are doing here to develop our staff so that afterwards we can continue their work.

Two days ago, the younger sister of one of our newest staff, Tsoakae, died. Tsoakae is 28 and has been the head of her household of four younger siblings since the death of her parents in 2011. Her sister was in our leadership training program and was killed in a taxi accident on her way home. Another sister was operated on last week and it did not go well. One wonders how such a young woman can cope with so many responsibilities and sorrows. Our staff here are all prayerfully searching for ways to support her through the autopsy, funeral and such.  The emotional and financial burden must be unbearable. Death seems to lurk in the shadows here.

I close with a huge shout-out of our Basotho staff. Each one is so helpful, passionate about their work and supportive of each other. I could not manage these trips without them and yet they never fail to respond cheerfully and thoroughly. Each one is a gift. Each one has his/her own responsibilities, struggles and dreams and yet they put them aside so willingly to welcome guests, support beneficiaries and those in need. Very special people indeed.

I just returned from my first weekend off – and was off line the whole time! Hurrah!!

A hug to you and my thanks for caring about our work.


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:



Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #3

Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #3


There can be something electrifying about starting a new adventure.

Throughout my 5km run this morning, I noticed a steady stream of people moving toward our centre, one adult and one small girl at a time, excitement clear on their faces. Occasionally, I stopped to say hello – to an old man limping with a walking stick and a timid child at his side, a granny and granddaughter, a teenage boy with his sister’s orphaned daughter, a sister with her small charge. Today is the gathering of the guardians of the grade seven girls who started our Pearl Program this month, headed by ‘M’e Neo. Many are dressed in their finest for this auspicious occasion – not knowing what to expect but realizing this is one of those rare chances in life that something significant could be possible. Some came as many as two hours early – travelling 60-90 minutes on foot, not wanting to miss a moment. The guardians will learn about the program, our approach, what the girls will learn and how they can support them.

The girls cluster together, not knowing each other well yet, being only their second weekend here, but somehow feeling safer in this new situation. They are making new friends. These girls will have a year of training and support to learn about their bodies, their choices, their rights and their minds before getting to high school. Some are so very tiny and timid – one feels protective.

The best metaphor I can think of is this empty room, filled with possibilities, awaiting their arrival  and then seeing the room filled with expectant faces. These young girls have a new chance – to become a better version of themselves.

For those who buy our Pearls4Girls jewelry – this is where much of the money goes. When you wear those lovely pearls, think of these girls and how much you have contributed to their futures. (Learn more about Pearls4Girls – and shop! – here.)

A Help Lesotho staff member prepared lunches for the Child Sponsorship guardians.

Staff preparing sandwiches for the guardians and girls.

I was touched yesterday when I asked one of our staff what might be on her bucket list.

She said she has been longing for years to sponsor a child.

She cannot think how she could but this is all she wants, other than to live to see her grandchildren grow up. I know that on her salary, this would not be possible. But it is a lovely thought. I asked her if she has thought of emotionally supporting a child through high school. She is wise, strong, kind and loving – some lucky child would thrive under her mentorship. Money is not the only solution.

Sponsoring a child has such a profound impact on not only the child themselves, but on their family.‘M’e Mokome, our Program Manager, met this week with the guardians of the sponsored children from various schools. She said that the majority of the children are being raised by grandparents, older siblings and extended family members and that for some, they have no relatives and are entirely alone.  Many walked long distances in the rain to attend these meetings – in gratitude that their charges were going to go to school this year.

As the discussions progress, many mention that their families had been changed by the children themselves. It is the norm that our sponsored children attend our five day camps in December. The guardians said that when the children, formerly depressed and uncommunicative, returned from camp, they eagerly shared what they had learned and how the families could do things differently. They said that now they are all talking together regularly, without anger and resentment.

One grandmother, Tsepane, shared about raising a grandchild whose parents passed away after she was born.  She said her granddaughter was so happy to go to school, even to walk the hour and a half each way, knowing that she can get an education.

M’e Mokome was visibly moved by the gratitude of these guardians who are doing their very best to raise other people’s children. It was inspiring.

Guardians of sponsored children gather to learn more about the Child Sponsorship Program and their role in supporting the children they take care of. Many children are raised by grandmothers, having lots parents to HIV/AIDS or work in South Africa.

Guardians of sponsored children.

We have been diligently preparing for our trip guests. The staff are excited. John and Lynn Graham return. John is our wonderful board chair and I think this is his fourth time.  Our board members, Bill Austin and Mary Dawson are here for the first time. They are all from Ottawa. Bill’s wife, Julie, joins us with her daughter, Lisanna, from the Yukon. Sandra Hellyer, from Toronto, comes for the third time. She and her husband Paul have been huge supporters since day one. Jean McNabb comes from the Guelph area. Over ten years ago, Jean started the Amazin’ Mamas group which caters luncheons and weddings to raise funds for our granny groups. It is so exciting that she can be here to see the impact herself. Her friend, Barbara Bonner also from the Guelph area, is with us for the first time and we look forward to getting to know her. I leave early in the morning to fetch them from the airport.

In preparation last week, I went on horseback to visit four grannies who will host them for an afternoon. ‘M’e Thoala, the Pitseng Centre Supervisor, ‘M’e Thato and I had a great afternoon. Both ladies were terrified to be on the horses but in the end very much enjoyed the experience. This is really the way to see Lesotho. It is incredibly beautiful with vistas that vary constantly.

There are multiple programs going on at once here – even as I write. Each one has important successes. Each day I learn something new we have done to help our beneficiaries and reach more people.

For example, during the herd boy program, as well as having them test for HIV and STIs, we were able to help the boys to register to vote!  

The deaf children who frequent the centre every day are so happy that they are playing with hearing children – as their lives are isolated in a silent, unwelcoming world. Our famous Girl4ce Movement has done nearly 50 performances since ramping up and been on the radio three times and on TV advocating to stop child early and forced marriage and gender-based violence.

Sadly, we are not going to be able to meet our budget this year. There are almost no funds coming into Lesotho and so we have been unable to raise much money here. For various reasons, our fundraising is below expectation this year. Shadrack and I are meeting to see what we can cut. We always run so lean that this is a terrific challenge. When we cut from a program, we are well aware that individuals will suffer. This is only the second time since 2004 that we have not met our budget. We have four months to our yearend on June 30 and we will live in hope that the funds will arrive. You can imagine how hard this is.

Despite our inevitable challenges, every day the impact here is visible, exciting and gratifying. I hope you know that.

Be well.


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:



Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #2

Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #2

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.

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).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:



Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #1

Peg’s Letters from Lesotho 2018: #1


Ottawa visitor Ken poses outside of the Pitseng Centre with a Help Lesotho beneficiary.I have been in Lesotho almost two weeks now, arriving just 30 hours before our first guest! Ken Rutherford, a retired businessman from Toronto, came for a week to explore our approach and learn from our staff and beneficiaries. He was a great guest and is looking forward to returning.

It is lovely to be back – to see staff and once again realize how many people are part of the Help Lesotho family. I am deeply touched by their welcome – signs everywhere and happy wishes.

The past months have been unusually hot and no rain has fallen. This is the cycle of climate change. Even the Cape Town reservoirs are close to empty causing stringent water rationing. Just as I arrived, it started raining. My third night here, we had one of those horrific thunderstorm Lesotho is so famous for. It brought such heavy, impenetrable sheets of water that not even the persistent bolts of lightning could illuminate the air.

As I lay in bed listening to the deafening torrents of rain hit the tin roof immediately above me, I thought of the herd boys marooned out in the mountains, frantically trying to shelter their animals. I had images of isolated grannies with holes in their thatch roofs. I recalled the makeshift one-room concrete block homes of many of our beneficiaries – the ones roofed by scrap pieces of tin held down strategically by large rocks.

How did they get through the night? Were the children wet and cold? Had there been enough rain to soak through the ground and saturate the tragically thin mats so many sleep on?

I will never know, but it breaks my heart knowing they are out there in the blackness, having to bear the powerful winds and the rain of these intense storms.

I also thought of Ken, our visitor, sleeping (for his first of two nights) at the Pitseng Centre. The thunder would be louder, the storm more intimate, the solitude more profound. He was a trouper, as I knew he would be. The days have been lovely and warm but these storms have become nightly events, pounding the rigid soil, creating ruts and fissures. I do think the water is gradually seeping in and hope it continues to rain, but more gently. Municipal water is infrequent and we are often forced to rely on our well, which is difficult with so many people here every day. On wakening, one always wonders – will there be internet, water, and electricity for the day?

Mist off the ground after a heavy rain.

In my feeble attempt to get some exercise, I was out this morning for a jog – after the storm last night. It must have looked hilarious – a comedy of obstacles. The only white woman within miles, dodging cow poop, puddles of water of indeterminate depth, rocks, and huge ruts. Along my route I was met by cows, sheep, herd boys/men, groups of grannies, gaggles of little ones, deaf kids waving, and the occasional vehicle. I greeted each person I passed, as is the lovely custom here! A beautiful former sponsored young woman stopped me for a hug. She has graduated from high school and the university nursing program. There are no jobs so she is working at the pharmacy in town. I love reconnecting with our alumni, and we planned to meet again before I return to Canada.

Now, as I write, the cow bells from the field in front of our Centre are so loud it seems as if these bovines will come directly in the door any minute!

Our 2018 programs have started, some in our two Centres, others in the villages. Every day there are multiple programs going on simultaneously.

Last weekend was a two-day training for the Pearl Program. Although there is a new group of grade seven girls starting this month with the beginning of the new school year, this training was for last year’s group for a refresher as they start high school. It was lovely to see them. Children come to the Centre for games and students to use the library. The GIRL4ce troupe was performing out in a village to inspire people to fight gender-based violence and child early and forced marriage. Busy weekend!

A new young mother program group has been recruited and the Grandmother Support Program reconvened for their second and final year with us.

There are computer classes and life skills class running in both centres. One is for new graduates from high school to prepare them for university which starts in August – a heads up chance to succeed. Another class is for youth who dropped out of school, and the last is for community leaders, including police, local counsellors, and government officials.

Our annual intensive leadership training program began with 65 carefully selected young, talented youth. We had the most applicants ever this year and many from great distances. I hear them laughing as they wait for the afternoon class to start, filled with pride to be chosen, making new friends. Their hearts are so heavy with worries about their futures and to laugh with abandon is such therapy.

This is truly a happy place.

I had the opportunity to chat with these youth. Predictably, several asked what made me choose the Basotho, which of course led to the founding story. As I was in the telling, I had an epiphany. The children who had touched me so deeply in 2004 when I first visited Lesotho – tiny, beautiful children who had been brutally orphaned by AIDS – were these kids in front of me. They may not have been the exact children but they would have been about the same age. They were those children who were trying to survive when HIV/AIDS had no treatment or testing, when death permeated each village, family and heart.

Knowing that we had accompanied them in this journey, into their young adulthood, seeing them looking so mature and grown up was a visual representation of how much time had passed, how long I have been in Lesotho and how many tens of thousands of people have been helped.

It is good to just stop once in a while and review the big picture. It will be a joy to watch these youth continue to grow over the next couple of months through our program.

Speaking of the founding story, my dear friend Sister Alice came for a long, quiet visit this week. It was wonderful to reminisce and catch up. She looks terrific and I assured her so many continue to ask for her. She is on a two year secondment from her school to work on convent matters. It was a wonderful visit. As a total aside, she informed me that there is only one dialysis machine in the whole country and it is in our town hospital just down the road. Every once in a while, one example explains it all – how hard life is here and how much work is yet to be done!

Stay warm.

Best wishes,


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: