Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8: Lesotho

This morning in my West Bay Rotary meeting a woman involved with Qholaqhoe Mountain Connections gave us an update on a project that my club helps sponsor in Lesotho. We sponsor a child who is attending high school in a rural region of this third world country surrounded by South Africa. Almost a quarter of the people in this tiny country have AIDS, and many of the children the non-profit sponsors are AIDS orphans. She told us that some of the kids walk two hours one way to get to school, because they know that going to school and doing well is their only chance to rise above the poverty and hunger that surrounds them. Because high school is tuition-based, many children cannot attend without scholarships, instead staying home to work to help their families. The scholarship for a year of school is $250. That seems like nothing to us, but some kids who had to leave school and work were only earning the equivalent of $7.50 a year. I'm pretty sure I heard that correctly.

As I was listening to the presentation and seeing the slides of the beaming students in their crisp uniforms, I couldn't help but think of my niece attending her first full day of kindergarten today. Despite all the crazy ups and downs of the economy and our current political scene, we are still so fortunate, so privileged--and it's rather sad that it takes exposure to life in a third world country to drive that fact home for me. We take our schooling--at least through high school--for granted. We take our water for granted, while this village had just built a water containment thing that now meant the kids didn't have to walk two hours to fill gallon jugs from a creek to water their gardens. Some of the children who are orphans live with relatives or family friends, but others live alone in what was their family home. I think of some child arriving to an empty cinder block house after a two-hour walk from school, having already eaten her one meal of the day at school (maize-based mash with kale for protein). What can her dreams be? Does she have any hopes for her future? Does she dare?

I think of Lesotho and love my niece, thankful that she is one child in the world who is well-loved and well taken care of. She'll get a good education. Opportunity lies before her. She won't go hungry. And maybe when she's older, she'll help some of those, like the children of Lesotho, who are less fortunate than she. Forgive me if this all sounds a bit melodramatic. But these children are real. They're out there, millions of them.

Poor crops, hungry child.
As we harvest fall bounty,
let's not forget her.

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