Saying Goodbye

June 8, 2011

This was our last day with the kids.  I cannot express my sadness at having to leave them.  They were all the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen.  I have to admit, I cried like a baby.

The worst part is that I will never know what will happen for them.  What will they look like when they grow up?  Will they succeed?  Will they even survive?  South Africa literally has the highest HIV rates in the world.  Will my kids be a part of that statistic?

Their success in life particularly has my thoughts.  Trust, for example, is very smart and seems to be a good leader among the kids.  He was even helpful to us.  I can see this kid becoming a politician who may impact the world.  But, he’s 8 years old and still in a preschool.  He still can’t write his alphabet.  Will he move on through school or will he still be stuck in the same place?  The same problem is there for Emihle.  She is brilliant.  She’s got the alphabet down and can write her name, understand instructions, and the like.  I could see her becoming a scientist or doctor.  But will she?  Red Hill is not the best settlement to grow up in.  It has such limited opportunities, and I hope that these kids will be able to make something of themselves!

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and type out all of my sorrows to you all.  These kids were amazing and this was a wonderful experience.  I definitely grew as a person while I was here, and I need to say thank you to everyone involved.

This afternoon I went to the Masi library and we played BINGO with the kids there.  It was pretty adorable.  Most of the kids didn’t know their numbers, and some of them didn’t understand English enough to understand the game.  One girl shouted “BINGO!!!” every time she got one number, but she never got it.  One of my kids did actually win a prize once, though!

Tomorrow we’re leaving for Johannesburg to start our adventure tour.  I really wish I could stay here!  Everyone here is so… kind.  To exemplify this, I have to tell one story.  Tonight our driver, Chris, decided to tell us about his secret project.  His story is amazing.

Chris learned that a place called Capricorn had one of the highest rates of unemployment in the area, making it an extremely poor place.  One morning he went to Capricorn and surveyed school children who were walking to school.  He found that 90 percent of them did not eat breakfast.  In speaking with teachers, he also found that performance was extremely low.

So, Chris put together a program to feed these kids.  He started with only 50 or so kids being fed one or two days a week.  After some very generous chance donations, he is now feeding 300 students five mornings a week.  He gets up every morning at 4 to begin preparing the breakfasts in his own kitchen.  By 6:30 he reaches the church that allows him to use their property to serve food.  He and one helper serve the students who come in.  He then has to leave to show up for his job as a driver while his helper does the dishes.

In the years that he has done this, performance at the school has drastically increased.  Students are able to pay attention and generally do better in class.  That isn’t even the best part.  One morning Chris noticed a little girl, probably only six years old, with three full bowls of the porridge he was serving.  Now, that’s a lot of food, even for adults, so he asked her “Why are eating three bowls of this food?  You know, some other kids might like to have some, too.”  The little girl looked up at him and said “Sir, my family is very poor, and we don’t have any food.  I didn’t have dinner last night, and I don’t know when my next meal will be.”  He told us that just knowing he was able to provide this girl food made the entire effort and his own sacrifices worth it.

Everything here in Cape Town is so beautiful.  I really don’t want to leave!


About jessinsafrica

Hi, my name is Jessica MacKinnon. I am driven to work to make the world a slightly better place. I was really excited to take that motivation to somewhere I thought really needed improvement. What actually happened, though, was that I instead became a better person.
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