Traditional Basotho Dress

Traditional Basotho Dress

Basotho Blankets

The origin of the Basotho blanket goes back over a century. In 1860, King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of  of Lesotho, was given a wool blanket as a gift. The King loved the blanket so much, he abandoned his traditional leopard-skin kaross in favour of the blanket.

The Basotho people soon followed suit and to this day the blanket is an inherent part of their lives and culture. You will see blankets of varying colours and patterns at all important life events, from marriage to childbirth to the coronation of kings.

Women wearing Basotho Blankets

Versions of the Basotho tribal blanket, or ‘Seanamarena’ in Sesotho, are also worn in every day life by herd boys, grannies and even children to keep warm. Lesotho is the only nation south of the Sahara that identifies the culture of an entire country through a nationalistic article of clothing like the Basotho blanket.

Many people in Lesotho live in farming and animal husbandry based communities and therefore wear clothing that is suitable for this lifestyle. For example, herd boys wear large rain boots, referred to as gum boots, to wade through the muddy mountain terrain with their animals. 

Herd boy in Lesotho wearing gum boots

Most herd boys also wear woolen caps or balaclavas year-round to protect their faces from cold temperatures and dust blown around by the strong mountain winds.

Herd boys in Lesotho wearing blankets and woolen caps

Women usually wear long dresses and skirts in vibrant colors and patterns with blankets around their waists, and for special occasions (like church or weddings) they wear a traditional Basotho dress called the seshoeshoe. Seshoeshoe are worn in endless varieties of designs, patterns and colours. Wearers purchase seshoeshoe fabric and then work with a seamstress to create their preferred design.

Woman wearing traditional Basotho dress called the seshoeshoe

Young men and women usually wear more casual clothes like jeans and t-shirts.

Young men and women in Lesotho wearing jeans and t-shirts

Basotho Hat called a Mokorotlo is another traditional item of clothing worn in Lesotho

Basotho Hat (or Mokorotlo)

The Basotho hat is another traditional item of clothing worn to this day. The conical woven hat with a top knot is made of local mosa grass and can be seen and purchased all across the nation. The mokorotlo is also the national symbol and can be found on the Mountain Kingdom’s flag.

Mount Qiloane (below) is said to be the inspiration for the mokorotlo.

Mount Qiloane is the inspiration for the mokorotlo.

School Uniforms

In Lesotho, school uniforms are mandatory. You’ll see school-age children running around in uniforms (colours and styles vary by school), until they change into their street clothes after school.

School children in Lesotho wearing mandatory school uniforms

2016 – Letters from Lesotho #6

2016 – Letters from Lesotho #6

As I traversed the tarmac in the rain to the small plane that would take me from Lesotho to Johannesburg, the skies were foreboding with a steady rain.


So little, so late. I am haunted by the sight of the fields, especially in Thaba Tseka. Corn that should be shoulder height is less than a foot; fields that should be bursting with produce are unplanted or dying well before maturity. The sight of the dry streams and river beds, women washing in shallow muddy puddles, and children pushing wheelbarrows up and down the mountain roads to find water makes the issue clear and terrifying. As I leave, the nights are cooler; the mornings crisp. Winter will come – as inevitable as the sunrise and with it cold and hunger.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation recently issued a warning that the state of malnutrition for under-five-year-olds in Lesotho is critically high. According to the report released last week, the national malnutrition rate has risen to 33% of children suffering from malnutrition and 50% from anaemia.

I will miss the sound of cows, sheep and horses waking me up. I will appreciate my showers more. I will be more grateful for what I have.

A generous partner foundation in Denver, Colorado has purchased a brand-new computer lab for our Pitseng Centre with 22 new computers. It is so exciting to think of how this will revitalize the community and give students, youth and adults a chance to learn marketable skills. Of course, they will also take life skills during their two-month course – that is the deal! The chief and local counselors have already signed up! Discouraged and disengaged out-of-school youth, always so hard to reach, will have a purpose and a chance to change their lives and behaviour. Young mothers will begin to believe they can move on with their lives. We expect the delivery in a few weeks.

The community cannot wait – this is the most exciting thing that has happened since we opened the Centre in June 2008!

The past two months in Lesotho have been packed. What stands out the most though is the tremendous efforts our communities and beneficiaries expend to show how much they love and appreciate our work.  We get constant messages, letters and speeches from our beneficiaries of all ages – more grateful and heartfelt than you can imagine – to thank us – to thank you –  for caring so much about them and their lives.

One example is a speech a young woman made at the intensive Leaders-in-Training graduation last week:

Help Lesotho Leaders in Training graduateThe Help Lesotho staff have always seemed to understand that attitude is contagious. Thanks for your positive attitude when we found ourselves dwelling on the negatives of life. You help us count our blessings instead of our troubles. Your optimism was contagious, it gave us the courage to dream and the faith to believe that our dreams can come true. Thanks for the lessons about life. By your words and actions, you have taught us about love, discipline, hope, courage, responsibility and more. One of life’s greatest ironies is there’s so much to learn in so little time. That’s why we value the wisdom you’ve shared with us. You cared enough to teach, and we won’t forget.

Thanks for your care, your concern, your help and your kindness. Even in your busiest moments, you always made time for us. Through your words and deeds, you have taught us a lesson that will last a lifetime; the power of compassion. We will be forever grateful.

Thanks for listening to our dreams and thanks for believing in them. When we summoned the courage to confide in you, you supported us, you encouraged us and you trusted us. If you harboured any doubts, you hid them. Please know that your faith was effective. Because you believed in us, we can have faith and believe in our dreams, too.

— Ramotheba

When I meet our grannies, as old and poor as they are, they are dressed neatly in their finest Seshoeshoe dresses with gifts of song and dance. They are bursting with speeches to share what they have learned and their plans to make life better for themselves and their children. They write songs of thanks. They hold my hands as if ever to let them go.

Our Help Lesotho family is enormous and loving – it is amazing. Just one example was the reception we had at a mountain school a 50-minute horse ride up into the clouds. We were met by the entire community with traditional songs and dances. The 156 children in this tiny primary school wore the track suits we had provided last year – to replace their threadbare clothes. They wore the Toms shoes we had distributed instead of bare feet. 

I took our international guests to a VERY remote village to meet some grannies. The whole village turned up – a village of old grannies and children. One rarely sees a man or youth. The men have died or left and the youth have gone to seek work and a better future. With the help of our local staff, I had pressed upon them beforehand that they should not prepare food. The Basotho are so generous and hospitable but it is too painful to take food from their meagre supplies.  I struggle with how to graciously keep them from making these enormous meals when I come. After a wonderful visit, a spokeswoman from the grandmother group in that area handed me the equivalent of CAD $5 in small bills for us to purchase drinks in town to compensate for the lack of opportunity to provide us with a meal. I know very well how much that money represents to them and was almost in tears to accept – which I must. They gave us handmade pots and brooms. Such generosity is beyond humbling – the widow’s mite!

As I return home to Canada, I am racking my brain to think of more ways to engage people in this amazingly powerful work. It truly matters – and the Basotho are counting on us.

We so appreciate the few large donors we have. Their consistent, generous donations help to reduce our reliance on the often uncertain availability of grants and ensure we can provide the services we know are needed so badly. Finding more such large donors is a constant challenge that keeps me awake at night. I believe completely that if people could see our work they would be so happy to support it. This is what each person who sees our work in person tells me!They proudly showed us the repairs to the holes in the concrete floors of their classrooms. They ask for nothing. They cheered and made a public announcement when I told them they will soon be receiving solar lights for their dungeon-like classrooms and for every student to bring home, thanks to your generous support.

So much has been done since my first visit in August 2004, and so much is yet to be accomplished. I am very excited as we complete our strategic plan for 2016-2019. Our growth and implementation has been targeted and successful. We know what we need to do and how to do it. We are ready!

Thank you for walking this journey with us – it is such a privilege to do this together ….. and as this little mountain school says:God Bless Help Lesotho 2016

God bless Help Lesotho 2016!

With my love and appreciation,


Read Peg’s other 2016 ‘Letters from Lesotho’.

2015 – Letters from Lesotho #2

2015 – Letters from Lesotho #2


As I write, Hilary and I are in Thaba Tseka. The morning light is creeping over the mountains outside my window. I hear a rooster and people chatting as they walk about their business. Someone is whistling. In the distance a young girl carries a huge container of water on her head. I can almost feel the morning dew on her bare feet. Another day dawns.

Peg with their Majesties of Lesotho

I visited the palace last week to see the King and Queen. Her Majesty came in first so that we could have a few moments alone. It was fun to greet each other and reminisce about her recent trip to Canada. I was delighted to hear that the Princess had a marvelous time. When His Majesty joined us, they both perused the photo books I brought for the Queen and Princess as mementos of their time with us. As always, they were lovely and interested.

Their support has meant a great deal to me, to our beneficiaries and to our donors. I am delighted to confirm that they both will be attending our 10th Anniversary Celebration on March 13 in Hlotse. It is very unusual that they both attend an event and we are honoured.

For years we have struggled to help the grannies with their various eye problems.

So many have glaucoma, cataracts and serious eye infections. Many need glasses and surgery. It has been a real challenge but our Country Director, Shadrack, has finally found a way to help them with the support of some medical missionaries. These ophthalmologists are holding clinics in three locations to examine our grannies and their husbands.  Several grannies came a week early – dear souls!

However, last week on the appointed day, of the 62 people (50 grannies; 12 husbands) who patiently waited in the Centre to be examined:

  • 30 needed glasses
  • 9 required mediation for infections
  • 20 will require surgery, some urgently.

For the latter, time can be of the essence or they will go blind. We do not have the funds to help them. On average, the surgery is $165 per person. Rounding it up to include their transportation, we need CAD$3,500 or $175 per granny. Again, this is one of three groups of grandmothers who will have this precious chance to regain or retain their sight. If this is an average, the total cost will be $10,500. We will prioritize the urgent ones first as funds allow. If this is something you can help with for one granny or more, or if you know a service club, book club or association who could, please let us know. One imagines how much harder life will be for them and their orphans if they lose the rest of their sight.

Peg and Sr AliceMany of you know that my dear friend, Sr. Alice, was in a truly horrible car accident 14 months ago in which one nun died and Sr. Alice was badly injured. Suffice it to say that she now has a reconstructed cheek and jaw, new teeth, and pins in her head, arm and hand.

It was pure joy to see her this time doing well – back at her job as Principal of Pitseng High School and having gained a bit of weight. She is looking forward to our Anniversary and to greeting our Canadian guests. Sr. Alice remains a leader on our local Advisory Council here and is a huge Help Lesotho advocate.

Our trip to Thaba Tseka has been excellent. It is fun to show Hilary my world up here and introduce her to many principals, children and partners – many of whom have been good friends over the past years. As she finally sees for herself the incredible impact of our programs, I can see the tears in her eyes.

For example, we were at the mission hospital yesterday and a young woman came up to the truck. She introduced herself and told us that she was one of the youth trained in leadership up here and now she is in her second year of nursing at the wonderful little nursing school beside the hospital. She just wanted to say that Help Lesotho had made such a difference in her life.

As we visited schools – on the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Flag – you would have been proud of these flags flying faithfully in appreciation at three of our partner primary schools.

We traveled to a little school high in the mountains on the worst road I have ever been on – and that is really saying something! We traveled for a long time, mostly going straight up on rough tracks, dodging boulders and deep ruts, and navigating narrow passages and intense inclines. Our staff here have been working with the families in this isolated community for months to build keyhole gardens, grow potatoes and learn about AIDS and health related issues.

We have been holding life skills training for the children – so many children. Many of the children had never seen a white person. The principal walks an hour from the road each way – every day for 15 years. There are 156 children in this little primary school from grade 1-5. There are three classrooms in all with two sharing grades. One class has 56 children. Many of the children walk two hours to school over this impossible terrain – just to learn a little while sitting in a dirt classrooms with little light and no resources.

children at school in Lesotho

I gave them a copy of my children’s book and they could not believe that there was a beautiful book featuring THEIR lives! It truly was a humbling day.

Words pale in telling you how much all these beneficiaries appreciate the work we are doing – because of your support. Thank you so much – again and again!

Best wishes,


Read Peg’s other 2015 Letters from Lesotho