March 17 – Emmanuel Mission School, Lesotho
I’m considering today to have been one of the most memorable of my life.
First of all, I was coming off of a pretty nasty migraine from the night before and so my brain was a bit foggy. It has been a cold rainy day, which wouldn’t have been as much of a turn around, except we were just in Swaziland, which average temps of 100 degrees. So today in Lesotho, with the temperature around 65 and the wet damp rain that seemed to soak through our skin and into our bones – it felt really cold! Most of us are a sneeze-y, sniffle-y mess. Although, luckily I’ve seemed to have escaped the fever bug that has been going through our group, at least for now.
We left the Maluti Hospital as early as we were able, which ended up being closer to 8am than we had hoped. It was quiet a long drive to get there, not because of the distance but more because of the weather and the road conditions. Lots of rain on dirt roads… you get the idea :)
When we arrived at the school, we all piled out of the bus and gathered around not sure what was happening next. Then out of the high school side of the property came a group of students carrying their chairs. (The Emmanuel Mission School is divided into two sections, the high school and the elementary school). While they were walking from their classrooms to the church, they sang for us and were having such a good time giving us a performance. It was SO FUN! It was also neat to see a large group of all ages of school kids completely happy to carry a chair from one end of the property to another; like it wasn’t a burden, like they were happy just to have a chair at all!
We planned to do one last round of distribution here, but because we had limited donations now, we asked the leaders there to identify the most needy children in the group. What a horrible thing to ask someone to do with this group! They were all so needy, many of them had little besides their school uniforms. I pulled out a water bottle at one point and kids kept asking me if they could have the bottle when I was finished with the water. It broke my heart.
All the school children gathered in the church when we got there and so did we. We were actually put up at the front and some even on the stage. I managed to weasel my way more into the throng of kids, I wasn’t too keen on being in the spotlight. I got a lot of their singing on video, which I can’t wait to watch! I hope it will be as beautiful and powerful as it was in real life. When the singing was beginning to wrap up, Dr. Chittick pulled me aside and said that the principle had gathered a group of ten girls who would benefit from learning to crochet. I walked outside into the rain and there they were. Standing there looking at me curiously. I, of course, was so nervous at this point. This was it! This was my moment to make a difference in someone else’s life. And it was petrifying.
They helped me carry my large duffel bag full of yarn (they insisted! They were so polite and cheerful about helping!) across the property from the church to the high school area. The principle gave us a classroom that was very hidden and out of the way, which was perfect for working with the girls.
I started by pulling out just a bit of yarn from my bag and had them pick their favorite color. Then I went through the steps of showing them how to create a chain. Most of them wanted to make scarves, so I showed them to make their chain as long as they wanted their scarf and told them that I would then show them how to make it thicker as the next step. Each of them got so excited when they were ready for ‘step 2’, they’d call me, jump up and down, yank at my shirt; all sorts of things! It was fun :)
Oh my, it was such an amazing experience. I found that their energy and interest kept me going. I started around 11:30 and didn’t leave that room until around 4pm. Once the first group of ten had been taught, we decided that a lot more girls could learn too – so they started to flood in. I then started teaching them on a ‘come in’ basis. All the way up until there wasn’t any yarn left. And there had to have been at least over 100 skeins. A few girls got more than one, but there were a lot of girls that had to the chance to make something.
(I had knitted the hats to be about the size of a small child’s head, but the way that they like to wear hats here [not covering the forehead], they worked really well for the girls! They wanted me to take a picture with them all wearing the hats – which I was happy to do!)
They hardly let me leave them, when it was time to go. I got at least 2 hugs from every girl (thats A LOT of hugs), tons of ‘when are you coming back’, and even a few – ‘stay with us, we love you!’. They were so cute. And real.
I got really close to a few of the girls, one sister pair specifically (Grace and Jeniet (said like Jeannette)). They were so full of joy and happiness, and they kept chatting with me the whole day. I got their address as well, I’m planning on sending them a letter when I get home with pictures from the day. I also want to send them more yarn.
So my heart is full (my eyes are droopy, my throat is scratchy, my skin is itchy, my brain is fried and I’m exhausted from today) but truly… I am filled with peace and happiness and I just can’t believe how blessed I am to be here and to have shared in such a beautiful experience with the girls here in Lesotho. I don’t want to leave tomorrow morning (we’re headed to Jo-burg in the AM). I will miss them.