As I begin my 145th and last letter from Lesotho, I am filled with cascading reflections from the past nineteen years, of visitors and volunteers, donors, wild experiences, challenges and the thousands of incredibly special people I have met and grown to love.
It is the time of Janus – looking backward and leaning forward. I hope I am able in some small way to convey the impact of this time of transition. I am filled with both gratitude for all this and excitement about the next chapters for Help Lesotho and for myself.
Our marvelous guests (Joanne Beveridge and Campbell Osler, Jennifer Parr, Deb Ruse, Nicole La Prairie, and Varsha Koneri Grant) were each a pleasure to have. We had lots of fun, power outages, water cut-offs, horseback rides in the mountains, time with kids, grannies, herd boys and young mothers. They loved Thaba Tseka – as we all do.
It was a blessing to share the opening of the Pitseng Library and celebration of my retirement with them. The tributes, traditional dancing, singing and surroundings in those breathtaking mountains were incredible. I, of course, lost it and struggled to regain my equilibrium.
Having my eldest son, Jesse, Lesley Griffiths and Kate Lambert there to share the events and staff celebrations was so special. As I write, Jesse is completing his mountain bike trek to raise money for students to finish high school. As of today, he is able to fund 20 students.
The event in Pitseng was more traditional, highly emotional and something none of us will ever forget.
It was important to share all this with my dear friends Sr. Alice and, at the Hlotse Event, with King Letsie III and Queen Masenate, and those who have supported me from the beginning. Photos with King and Queen? Due to the presence of Their Majesties, the Hlotse event was more formal. Both were streamed live on Facebook and covered by Lesotho radio and TV and print media. Sr. Alice spoke and danced at both events with passion and aplomb!
The key elements for me were that together, so many on both sides of the waters have worked faithfully, accountably and effectively for 19 years to build something that we are all proud of and totally committed to its continued growth – in impact and influence. When His Majesty addressed the media and audience in Sesotho, he commanded them to do everything possible to ensure the organization flourishes going forward. The estimated 1000+ people we hosted in total came from so far, took the days off work, and at their own expense. Many who couldn’t come sent personal greetings and messages. You would laugh to hear one speaker, a school principal with whom I have worked all this time, repeatedly allude to “celebrating Dr. Peg while she is still alive”!!!! Frankly, it did not seem that far from the truth to think of this as a type of eulogy – beyond what one might ever hear in one’s lifetime – truly humbling. We will send out a compilation of the event photos and videos in May for you as well.
One highlight was a speech but a former sponsored student, named Mathata Tlhabi. I so clearly remember my first meeting with him in a little room I used as an office in Thaba Tseka. He heard about me and came to ever-so-softly tell me about his fervent dream to be a doctor and the impossibility of achieving it, given his personal circumstances. Although I have heard that many times, I instantly believed him. I got him some anatomy books and a sponsor. He went to leadership camps and formed life-time bonds with other amazing young people. Here, about 16 years later, stood this soft-spoken, dear man in front of national radio and TV as a graduate doctor specializing in family medicine with yet another dream to study gynecology to help girls and women in his country. One life, filled with gratitude, purpose and care, given a chance becomes a force for good to help hundreds more!
I was delighted to see so many alumni and former staff – all still feeling deeply bonded to Help Lesotho. Such an overwhelming confirmation of how much people love Help Lesotho was profoundly moving. Without exception, the respondents – whether partners, royalty, beneficiaries, staff or community leaders – made solemn commitments to taking up their personal responsibility to ensure that the future and culture of the organization thrives. The staff worked tirelessly, despite a pounding storm the night before the Hlotse event, on top of their regular responsibilities – and always found time to check in with me to see how I was doing. I love each one of them. I am so proud of how much the staff have taken ownership. It is a dream for which we have worked each and every year.
I left with a deep sense of peace at what a wonderful team we have to take Help Lesotho forward under Julia’s and ‘M’e Mamoletsane’s leadership. Sharing the past month with Julia was important to us both. She takes on the role with enthusiasm and dedication.
This staff photo, minus some key staff who were up in Thaba Tseka at the time, followed a tearful, tender and soul drenching time with just the staff at which we each confessed to our mutual admiration, love and respect and the importance of our journey together.
There is always so much to say, people to mention, experiences to describe but there will be other opportunities. The staff have made a comment section on our website for people to leave notes and stories through which I can respond https://helplesotho.org/comments-for-peg/.
There are also events in Kingston, Toronto, and Ottawa in April for us to share some time and stories together, get to know Julia, and visit with Kate. Please come if you can – we would love to see you.
Thank you for following these letters for so many years and for your advocacy for our social media posts over the past two months. Julia will write the next and last letter from Lesotho in this series and you can look forward to her future letters in the years to come.
I send each one my thanks and a hug,