Hilary Evans, our Deputy Director, and I have been in hot, sunny Lesotho for over a week now. It is very exciting to have Hilary here – her first time in Africa. The busy days allow little time to put thoughts to a letter.
We left on the wings of our December Anniversary Celebrations in Canada. We were thrilled with the results of the many events and gatherings in Ottawa, Toronto and Kingston. It was a joy to thank so many individuals who have supported us over these past 10 years and to share the impact of our work with many new people. Our CHANGE HER LIFE campaign is making a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of girls and women already.
Each one has a new chance at a future – because of those donors.
Because we have such a small staff, it took an army of volunteers to pull it all off. Each one did a great job – rallying to the cause and time pressures.
- Behind the scenes board members
- Christine Matheson
- Joan Gregorich
- Kristie Kennedy
- Anne Richards
- Linda Champagne
- Sheryl Selwyn
- Marilyn Rennick
- Joanne Beveridge played key roles.
- Jennifer Parr hosted our granny, ‘M’e Makatleho, and Girl4ce Leader, Felleng in Ottawa.
- The Hellyer’s hosted me, ‘M’e Makatleho and Felleng in Toronto.
- Merdon Hosking helped our staff in so many ways.
- The Pearls4Girls volunteers were amazing as always!
It was a real privilege to host Her Majesty, Queen Masenate and Her Royal Highness, Princess Senate for ten days.
They were a delight to have – accommodating, engaging and just lovely. I will meet with Their Majesties tomorrow at the palace and am bringing photo books to the Queen and Princess commemorating their visit. We are so appreciative of their support.
Here in Lesotho, our staff come in from various locations across the mountains to share and to learn together for two days each quarter. At such a meeting last week, we showed the videoed speeches from Rogers TV from the anniversary. The staff were so proud and delighted by the Queen’s message of support for Help Lesotho. When I told the girls in our leadership program about the events they too were ‘over the moon’ as they say here.
Felleng told them she was moved by how humble we are in Canada, contrary to her expectations. She whispered:
“Tell them about the fun part – the tobogganing”!
She told the group about the time she and the Princess went together; they loved throwing snow balls and making snow angels! The other girls were incredulous! They went into gales of laughter when I told them that our Board Chair, John Graham, shoveled the walk after a dinner so that Her Majesty would not get her shoes covered in snow! Walter Raleigh look out!
I love to see our staff and the Centres busting with children, youth and grandmothers. I was keen to see our intern, Stephanie Vizi, a budding journalist and photographer. Her blog is excellent and being well read. Steph is half way through her year here and doing a great job. Pat Foreman, a retired school principal, is here for the third time. By next month, she will have spent 15 months here supporting our staff, building capacity and helping in her kind, insightful and gentle ways.
I knew I was really back in Lesotho when my first day brought a visitor: I knew and loved that beautiful smile.
Mats’iba was a shy young girl in grade seven when she was chosen ten years ago as one of the 16 girls sponsored by St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, Ottawa, for their entire high school education.
Dubbed the St. Mary’s Project after the hostel in they lived in, it was our first project and therefore our first attempt to help vulnerable girls in Lesotho. I am so eager to know what has happened to our girls as time goes on and am delighted when they find me. Mats’iba, now 25, had been waiting for me to arrive.
Mats’iba wanted to volunteer at Help Lesotho. She said Help Lesotho was her mother while she grew up and she needs to give back. Mats’iba is head of her household of a younger brother and sister and takes her responsibilities very seriously. Neither sibling had the chance to go to high school and therefore have no prospects for employment. All her life, her mother has worked as a domestic in South Africa and occasionally sends some small amounts of money home. Mats’iba wants to be a social worker and has the marks to get into a local tertiary school when she can save enough money. Life is still not easy at all but she is managing and still has dreams of furthering her education and making a contribution.
Because Mats’iba was a sponsored child, she was able to graduate from high school in 2011 – the first in her family to do so. Because she had her certificate, she was able to get a job as a cashier at a local clothing store.
She was eager to tell me how she was doing and to thank Help Lesotho and her sponsors for all they have done for her:
She said that because of the sponsorship, leadership camps and the gender conferences, she was HIV negative, unmarried and healthy.
She has had a steady job for three years which she would never have had otherwise. She knows how to work hard, to communicate and knows how to stay safe. She ardently confessed,
“I can stand for myself. I am strong. I know about AIDS and that girls matter. I can make my own decisions and will not get into trouble. I can look after myself and solve my problems. Even in my family I make a difference. You can see that I know not to marry until things are better. I will not have children until I can afford them and send them to school.”
Three days later, at our staff meeting, Makhabo, another youth I have known since she was a little girl was there. She too was in the Child Sponsorship Program. She too finished high school and is saving to further her education. She will wait to have children until she finishes her education. Makhabo lives near our Pitseng Centre and has gone there daily since grade eight.
It is no exaggeration that the programs there, the leadership camps and youth training have kept this bright, determined young girl on the path to a solid future.
She is now 24, happily married, and working as a Youth Volunteer at the Pitseng Centre – a coveted position with a stipend. She is healthy and happy –beaming with gratitude that life has not abandoned her. She has purpose and love in her life for the first time, and she feels blessed. Her goal is now to give back to the children in her village.
You see, Child Sponsorship really does make a long term difference. Each life matters and no effort is wasted. This month we are selecting children for the sponsorship program for the new school year. If you can support a child, I urge you to consider it. Just ask Mats’iba and Makhabo.
I will be in Lesotho for two months as we prepare for our 10th Anniversary Celebration here and welcome some Canadian special guests. ….. stay tuned!
Best wishes – Khotsong