Greetings Help Lesotho Family,
How inspiring to be part of these last high delivery weeks in Lesotho! I’d like to shine a light on some elements of interest, indicative as they are, of our community impact.
Legacy celebration events held for Peg…
The celebration events were great expressions of joy and appreciation for ‘M’e Peg and for Help Lesotho participants, donors and programs. While I met many amazing people at these events, three were particularly memorable.
Sister Agatha, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Pitseng, and an alumnus of the Computer and Life Skills program, is proudly in her 8th decade of life. Still teaching at the high school level, she found the skills gained from the course not only valuable to her personally, but important content she shared in her classes. With her humour and acumen she is an impressive ambassador of the program.
Ntate Ts’olo Mahase is an alumni of Help Lesotho’s Leaders in Training (LIT) program, and a model of civic responsibility. Since he graduated from LIT, Ntate Ts’olo Mahase now also holds an MBA, and is a lecturer at the local business school. Growing up, Ntate Mahase experienced the gulf in communication that existed between hearing and deaf children, and he took it upon himself to learn sign language. At the Help Lesotho Hlotse event, children from St. Paul’s School for the Deaf were present as longstanding participants in Help Lesotho programing. Their translators signed not only the speeches but the song, dance and drama that was featured. Can you imagine how wonderful this was?
Part of the way Ntate Mahase now ‘pays it forward’ is to stay connected with the children at this school. He returns periodically to visit and offer encouragement, indeed ‘M’e Kate Lambert (Director) and I bumped into Ntate Mahase again after the Hlotse event on his way to St. Paul’s, with treats in his car for the students. I was moved by his personal philanthropy, and how he embodies the personal leadership that Help Lesotho programs endeavor to foster.
Last, was the privilege of meeting their Majesties; King Letsie III, and Queen ‘Masenate, respected constitutional monarchs of Lesotho, and long time supporters of Help Lesotho and Peg. It was greatly appreciated by ‘M’e Mamoletsane Khati (Country Director), ‘M’e Peg and I to meet them informally in advance of the event, to share and appreciate their keen interest in positive development work. How supportive at the celebration event to hear the King’s expression of ongoing support for Help Lesotho’s programs ahead.
As ‘M’e Peg’s retirement events in Canada approach, I am looking forward to meeting those of you who can attend in person (please click for more information). These legacy events in Lesotho and here in Canada provide the Help Lesotho community the opportunity to celebrate that together we are part of something bigger, and a powerful force to make a positive difference for vulnerable people.
Highlights from program delivery
If I didn’t already know that the LIT (Leaders in Training) youth are visionary, articulate and full of promise, sitting in on their graduation would reveal the same. Graduation was a high emotion day as they, with characteristic powerful expression, shared experiences of growth and the program through dance, poetry, song and speech. As one graduate put it “I woke up to something exciting every day. Help Lesotho taught me to make an invitation to visit myself, befriend myself, introspect myself.” He thanked facilitators who “who were so active and free and made me feel free.” Participants talked about learning skills, building community and reflecting differently on their own lives. Many of the graduates were returning to the Hlotse Centre for Get a Job training and considering volunteering with Smart Kids.
Smart Kids is a program where Help Lesotho alumni can give back. It was designed during COVID when schools were closed. Help Lesotho’s Smart Kids program is to help pre-school to Grade 7 kids have fun while learning and feel supported as they navigate challenges. It’s been so impactful it hasn’t stopped.
A group of us visited a Smart Kids program in Lipohong, all of the homework club were present to engage with us in the open field. ‘M’e Tumisang Mohapi is the lead facilitator of this group, a multiple-time Help Lesotho graduate who happens to be trained in home economics, and who was looking to be useful during COVID. For the past two years, in this makeshift open air classroom, ‘M’e Mohapi has been impacting children as consistently as the department of education – coaching over 40 children every afternoon and Saturday. They’ve been a vibrant learning community; working through the designated workbooks and beyond, and enjoying the positive rapport between students.
For our visit, we were treated to a poetry recital. (Note reciting poetry – like acting, demands heart.) One student recited Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” from memory. Another shared a self-crafted praise poem to Help Lesotho. All of us visiting were wowed by their delivery, and their explanations of Smart Kids. Their facilitator ‘M’e Mohapi can aptly be described as a phenomenal woman herself for her investment of heart into this program.
It is an ongoing pleasure getting to know Help Lesotho staff, and to highlight here the work and contribution of ‘M’e Felleng Lethola, Senior Program Officer with Help Lesotho. ‘M’e Felleng is one of the calm process leaders who holds the emotional centre of groups of young people or adults with great effectiveness as they navigate psychologically tricky landscapes such as grief, addiction or assault. ‘M’e Felleng has developed ways of connecting and promoting ease and engagement with a group; using her voice with effect; creating individual bonds with people in a large group before she starts to facilitate; having relationships she can draw on and pull into strategic moments. She also uses humour and her own stories and experiences to create connection in the groups.
It’s exciting to see the mastery of ‘M’e Felleng and how she creates with quiet authority an environment for learning and healing. Wonderful also to hear how she is savouring working with Help Lesotho; the staff community, and the training and coaching staff receive to develop and grow. Good professionals want to work at Help Lesotho, and Help Lesotho in turn invests in its staff and their professional development and growth.
Widening the Lens: Help Lesotho in context
On this trip, I was struck by the political economy of the region, and in particular of South Africa, and how this impacts development options for Lesotho. In recent weeks, the mood in South Africa has been somber. South Africa’s stock market was grey listed at the end of February, a reputational blow to its ability to combat state capture and corruption. The mood was further dampened by months of daily load shedding (hours when electricity is rationed) as the country’s demand for electricity exceeds its ability to supply it. This is not unrelated to Lesotho, as South Africa’s Gauteng province purchases much of its water from Lesotho, and South Africa’s decaying water storage system and leaking water pipes are signals of break down and crisis in their overall management system.
As Lesotho provides South Africa with water, minerals and human resources, this regional insecurity has profound impacts. The high unemployment, health and food insecurity and climate change which affect and compel Help Lesotho’s work are regional legacies as well as national issues.
In Lesotho, however, there is an air of optimism, as Prime Minister Sam Matekane nears the end of his first six months in office. A successful entrepreneur who is bringing a business mindset to the country and has presented his goals in last month’s budget speech. This will be a defining year ahead to determine how these goals will be achieved, and how Help Lesotho programs can make their contribution in this new context.
Over the last five weeks, I have gained a deeper understanding of Help Lesotho’s offering: building resilience, strengthening mental health, as well as providing tools for healing and decision making. These are new orientations in the workplaces of the world, as well as in the development landscape. Help Lesotho’s long track record of providing leadership development programs with a focus on personal health is a strategic and sustainable offering both for the districts in which Help Lesotho works and beyond.
Leaving Lesotho, the kingdom’s mountains and their distinctive sandstone crowns, is a lasting image. Layered also, the moments and experiences of the weeks. People were so moved to be together in these beautiful places and special times that phones and cameras were used in overdrive to capture surely a million pictures. Could it be though, that the best place to hold these feelings of wonder is in our hearts? And, by staying connected to Help Lesotho’s important work ahead.
Please feel free to drop me a note by email, or connect with me on Instagram at julia_mthompson. You are warmly invited to Peg’s Canadian retirement events if you live nearby.
– Read Letter #4 from Lesotho
– Read all other 2023 Letters from Lesotho