Reflections from Guests to Lesotho

Mar 29, 2022

Annually, Help Lesotho welcomes a group of international guests to visit our work in Lesotho. These 12-day trips are an incredible opportunity to participate in an authentic and deeply meaningful experience in rural Lesotho. Three guests who visited Lesotho in 2019/2020 share their favourite memories below.

Information about future trips to Lesotho can be found in the Information Package. The 2021 and 2022 trips were cancelled due to COVID-19, but we hope to welcome guests once again in February 2023.

Deb Ruse, 2019

My trip with Help Lesotho was a wonderful experience and I would love to return. As a member of Kingston Grandmother Connection, I was familiar with Help Lesotho but until I saw their programs in action I didn’t understand how they all worked together to empower their participants. Now I understand the way the participants are expected not just to learn for themselves, but to share their learning with their families and villages, becoming true agents for change.

Everyone we encountered was friendly and appreciative. Seeing the way Peg and Help Lesotho are so respected in the country was revealing. One day we were visiting the Pitseng Centre and as the schools were closed, several young people were using the library to study. When Peg introduced herself, their faces lit up with wide smiles! Everyone seemed to know her name, wherever we went.

Of course the focus of my group in Kingston is the grandmothers, and I loved meeting them, serving them lunch in Pitseng, listening to their songs and stories. But one of the most moving experiences occurred when our group sat in on the last day of a Herd Boys’ gathering in Mohlanapeng. After congratulating them on their efforts, Peg asked the young men if there was anything else she could do for them before they broke up. One brave young man stood and asked “Can you give us soap?”. When Peg asked “why now? I offered this before and you said no”, he responded, “now that we are going back to our villages, ready to be heard, we want to be seen as respectable and we want to be clean.” Oh my! With a donation from one of my fellow travelers, Peg was able to commit to their request, and went on to purchase laundry soap, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. And, a couple of soccer balls (their last request). Afterwards we gathered outside and the young men sang and celebrated with us. Many photos were taken!

If you ever wonder “should I go?” GO! You will not be disappointed.

Nona Mariotti, 2020

When my “kids” said in August 2019, “You have to get away for a holiday this year,” I knew exactly where I was going to go! LESOTHO and South Africa! I had been a member of the Kingston Grandmother Connection for almost fifteen years; consistently devoured Peg’s descriptive letters from Lesotho, and dearly envied other members of our group recounting their special visits to “Help Lesotho.”

The email informing people of the opportunity to visit Lesotho and integrate a Help Lesotho donation magically came at the right time. I immediately forwarded the email to my sister Dianne in Halliburton with a query, “interested in going with me?” She immediately responded “sure!” I knew it had to be another great sign for me. Little did I know at the time this was to be truly an emotional experience for us both.

Dianne did not know much about Help Lesotho but had complete faith in my choice of experience. She suggested that since we were going that far, let’s do some sightseeing as well. Precisely what I needed! As I was to later discover this was to be the prescription I needed as I continue along the road of life now chosen for me.

Our arrival to the Hlotse Centre was such a sincere welcoming. Each of our private bedrooms had a personal note or hand drawn picture. Any concerns re where we would be housed immediately disappeared as our shared adjoining apartments had all the perks of home! No one could ask for a more dedicated hostess than Peg and her “crew”. Even though Peg and staff prepared us for the days ahead no one could prepare you for the different emotional reactions we were all going to experience.

It was such that by mid-day of our first day at the Pitseng Centre we could look into each other’s eyes knowing we were both feeling the same emotion. It was Saturday and the Centre was alive with dozens of children and youths, ages two to twenty-two. There were mini soccer games, board games, coloring and painting with the older students brushing up on their computer skills and applying for college/university. None of us will ever forget the circle dancing and singing we did with all the children as they expressed their joy of life.

Our drive to Berea to visit grandmothers was so memorable as they sang and danced to welcome us to their domain. Each grandmother face etched a different story yet radiated with hope and thanks as they greeted us and their ‘M’e Peg. It was such a privilege to serve them lunch and know they in turn were appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the grandmother programme offered by Help Lesotho.

The Young Mothers Support Programme introduced us to young moms and their tots. They were so willing to inform us about what they had learned and provided us with the opportunity to visit their homes. A true lesson for all that home is where the heart is as these wonderful ladies shyly showed us their simple living with such pride. Again, it was so evident that they had gained such respect not only for themselves and their child but for the opportunity to be part of this support programme. One sensed these moms and their babies’ experiences, through HL, would truly generate a healthier lifestyle for the family.

The scenario of riding a horse in the mountains in my 70s was never on my wish list! Being led on horseback by a herd man, into the setting of Majara Primary School was so exciting. The children were outside along the roadway to greet us singing! We all felt like royalty! The opportunity for me to see the school setting, classroom environment and speak with the students demonstrated their awareness that education was a privilege, something to be truly valued. They certainly expressed ambition for their future when asked.

To truly understand how HL achieves success one has only to be given the privilege to sit in class with the youth participating in Leaders in Training. These young adults welcomed us into their group, even shared their private lives and concerns. The staff were so professionally supportive and challenging to these young adults that the students themselves were comfortable communicating their struggles. This comprehensive programme will develop leaders in the communities if not in the country.

The closing memories I hold dearly is the short time I got to spend with our sponsored student Makoenane Mokhethi. She had taken three buses to come to the Holste Centre to meet me as she had been to Maseru to try out for the Provincial Volleyball team. I do not know if she made it onto the team as with COVID it probably was cancelled. She was only 16 yr old and most girls there were 18yr+. She was again having to take 4 buses home into the mountains of Thaba Tseka.This was an experience worth repeating for sure! An experience I only wished I could have shared with my husband, grown children and grandchildren.

Thank you Peg and staff of Help Lesotho in Canada and in Lesotho! Khotso

Hilary Barrett, 2019

I and seven others visited The Mountain Kingdom in March 2019 as guests of Help Lesotho. We met the people, and learned about Help Lesotho’s programs through visits around the country. What was memorable? Just about everything!

Sitting outside the Hlotse Centre and watching the young women and men, members of the GIRL4ce Movement, perform a play – with a social message. In Lesotho, violence against women and girls is endemic and this particular drama showed how young girls can be sexually abused, and later forced to marry a man they do not know. GIRL4ce stages this and other dramas in rural areas to start conversations within the community, which can be therapeutic for those who have suffered, and those who did not realize it could be changed. The enthusiasm and commitment of the actors for their cause was wonderful to see.

Going up into the mountains to Thaba Tseka. At first the road was good, but as we got higher and higher there were switchbacks and precipitous drops. The view was spectacular – green mountain ranges behind which more mountains faded into purple hues. The pavement ended and became quite bumpy. Ntate Motsamai asked, “Are there any dirt roads in Canada?” Indeed, there are!

Riding up a very steep mountain on horseback to visit Majara Primary School. The village struggles to feed its people as there is not much land for farming. As usual we were welcomed with singing and dancing. A local councilor rode up with us, very concerned about the state of the school and seeking support from Help Lesotho. The tin roof had blown off and, although the villagers had done their best to patch it up, part of the school was unusable.

Visiting the Khanyane Pre-school, near Hlotse, where even the youngest children could sing the Lesotho National Anthem. When I got home, I quizzed both my English and Quebec school-age grandchildren, and none of them could sing their own national anthems!

As I went through the airport on my way home, I was asked by the checkout lady what I liked most about Lesotho. I said “the singing”. She replied “We do not sing because we are happy, but because it helps us to deal with all our problems.” As a singer myself, I understand this.

Many thanks to M’Peg and all the staff who make this well-run organization such an inspiration, and to the people of Lesotho for their gracious welcome!