June 18th, 2017

A starting note: If you read last nights post Emma would like me to mention that everything she said last night she meant for tonight. That being said happy Father’s Day to all the fathers reading this!

Today we started building the playground for the children who live near our lodging. Although this project may not last forever and won’t change any serious problems for these people, it holds a special place in my heart. There is something about giving a child the ability to smile or even a place to go when life feels hopeless that brings me reassurance in being here. One thing in particular that stood out to me was the willingness of the local children to help us. Actually, I am not sure the word “willingness” is the right choice because these kids were never asked to help. In fact, kids ages 3-16 jumped into the process  without any expectation to do so or asked to do so, and it was amazing. These children knew that this was a project for them and the other community members who visit the Soup Kitchen. Therefore these young children who did not even have to help made various water trips, helped mix cement, and collected hundreds of rocks. The message these kids sent was a pretty strong one and the best part is that it was unintentional.

In addition to the starting of our playground a group of us attended mass. This was a very interesting experience. The ceremony was beautiful. I loved seeing such a mix of the Basotho culture and the traditional Catholic church ceremony. It brought such an element to mass that I have never seen before and I am glad I was apart their worship, even if it was just for one day.

So as I close here is my shamless plug: Dad, Bruce Wallace, if you are reading this I love you very much! Hope you are having the best day on the beach! See you soon and thank you for your part in allowing me to be apart of this journey in Africa.

-Rachel W.

June 17th, 2017

Today was our first full day off of construction. We split into two groups that alternated between hiking and horse trekking. It was really nice to have a chance to explore the area surrounding the community we have come to know so well. The views were incredible. Imagine riding a horse through a stream with endless mountains surrounding you in every direction. The plants and rocks were particularly fascinating. White crystals are scattered about the beautiful landscape. The views were inspiring and beautiful all right, but our ride was not as graceful. The horses knew what they were doing, but we did not. There were a few scary moments going up hill or crossing a deep spot in a stream, but we all had a great day, and no human or horse was injured.

Today is also Father’s Day, and many of us found ourselves thinking fondly of our dads back home, perhaps more so than ever before. After learning about the history of Lesotho and the unfortunate lack of men in the area do to almost no local job opportunities, we have come to appreciate the presence of our fathers even more. Many men here are forced to seek employment in mines far away from their wives and children. They hardly ever see them as the trip back home is long and expensive. I cannot imagine life without the influence my father, and my heart goes out to the children and mothers of Lesotho for continuing to be strong and resilient in a society with so little male presence.
Happy Father’s Day from all of us. We sincerely appreciate you, and we are fortunate to have you in our lives.
Love you dad
-Emma

June 16th, 2017

Hi everyone!

Let me start by saying I’m writing this from a cozy bed in a cabin with a view I could never have imagined before stepping foot here. The view of the mountains is the kind that takes your breath away. I know pictures won’t do it justice but I feel so lucky to witness it.

Today makes a week and one day since we left for the trip, and a little under a week since we arrived in Ramabanta. How it’s only been 8 days of this journey is kind of mind blowing… I feel like it’s been so much longer. Our days start around 7 AM (for someone like me who usually takes on the day around 11 AM this is new) and we have breakfast then head to the work site.

As I’m sure you’ve been reading, we started building a home with Habitat for Humanity on Monday and today was our last day at the site. As an addition to the home itself, we decided to plant several peach trees and create some seed beds so the woman living there can provide some of her own food. Mommas, you’ll be proud to hear I did help with the planting and I’ll be ready to work when I get home :-) To celebrate the end of our part of the project, the Habitat for Humanity workers held a ceremony to turn over the home to its new owner. This was one of many moments that really demonstrated how this effort is so much bigger than ourselves. A few days of hard work, and a couple of blisters and sore arms along the way, provide this woman and her family with a completely new life. Through this process we learned how to communicate in creative ways, find the most efficient techniques, and work alongside the Basotho to get it done. They thanked us immensely for our help, yet we could not have completed the project without their guidance.

One of the best parts of this experience is getting to know the Basotho, young and old, and getting a glimpse of their lives. We have had the chance to meet children around our trading post and at our work sites; it’s an amazing experience to work and play with them. At our Habitat work site, I have gotten to know a girl named Mamaliehe (Ma-Mah-di-ye) and we quickly bonded when she started making fun of my American accent. The first day I met her, she deliberated with friends for a few minutes and then came up to me and said, “You are my friend.” Every day when she comes home from school she rushes up to me, grabs my hand and we stand together. We don’t say much, but I know I will remember her far beyond this trip. She is just one of the many children who have touched my heart over the past few days.

I know I’m not alone in stories like this. Before coming on this trip, I knew the Basotho had no word in their vocabulary for stranger but that is so obvious when you get to know the citizens here. Children and adults are eager to not only get to know us and learn from us, but also show us bits and pieces of their culture. Whether that comes from games with the children where we circle up and take turns dancing in the middle, or from the Basotho men showing us how to mix cement, we are learning from them daily.

Tomorrow we have a day off of work, so we’re going horseback riding and hiking during the day. I’m excited to see more of this beautiful country!

I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity. I can’t quite describe the feeling of peace here, but love is all around us and it’s clear. I can’t wait to talk about our experiences with friends and family back home!

Moms, I promise I’m safe and loving every second!! Tell the puppies I’m missing them (And you of course) and I love you more!

-Caitlin Cahoon

June 15th, 2017

Hello everyone!

Today was my favorite day i have had in Lesotho. There are three men from Lesotho that teach and help us build the house. At the beging of the week the men were extremley shy and did not speak much, automatically  i assumed  that they did not speak English. But today they spoke more than they ever had before. They were asking us questions about people on the trip and making an effort to get to know us. I thought it was extremley cool that they were opening up and becoming our friend.

There is a girl who i met at the worksite around the age of  8 who does not get to attend school with her other friends. I have been able to form a close bond with her. The first day on the site she was by herself just watching us so i aked her if she wanted to help me pick up rocks for the house. She and i spent about an hour just picking up rocks and laughing . I learned later that she felt a sense of purspose helping me simply just picking up rocks. She now tells all of her friends that she has a new best friend named katy. I over hear her talking about me quit often and sometimes i will catch her in the moment and she will just smile at me. At the end of the day for they past four days she has taken my hand and walked me back to the buses, she smiles and waves until i am completley out of site. I cant help mself but smiling every minute i am around her, she has found a special place in my heart.

Another best friend i have met on the trip is a little four year old boy. The first day i met him him was difficult. I couldnt get him to even come close to me, he was extremley scared of  our group at first. It took me about twenty minutes to even get him to come close to me. Eventually i got him to sit on my lap and make him feel comfortable With me. But the past two days he has waited at the gate for me to arrive and play with him. Today we did our normal routine where he would just sit on my lap and watch all the kids play while i give him his favorite hand massages. Before i knew it he was completley passed out and snoring, i could not get the little guy to wake up. So the kids in the community had me follow them all to the littles boys house while he stayed asleep in my arms. I was a little nervous and hesitant to show up to his house and explain to his mother why he was asleep in my arms. But before i could even talk the mother was continoulsy thanking me for getting her son home safe and sound. I had felt a feeling that i had never felt before, i felt over joyed and happy with this bond i have now formed with this family. This little boy means so much to me already and has brought a whole new happiness to my life. Everyday i now wake up excited to see my favorite little man waiting for me at the gate to run up and give me the biggest hug. I already can’t wait to see him tomorrow.

The kids here have been stealing our hearts. I have never met happier children in my life. They have already given us so many laughs and memories that we will never forget!

Lesotho has already been filled with so many experiences and i can not wait to see what else it has in store for me and the rest of the group!

- Katy Baumgartner

Also hi family and friends i love you all so much. Everything is going extremley well here. Say hi to belle for me:)

 

 

June 14th, 2017

Hello there!

Mom @ J2 I’m alive I promise :-) I can’t believe that tomorrow is a week since leaving, but yet it feels like I’ve been here for so much longer.

today was day 3 of working on the house for the family the community deemed most in need. That is something that I love about this project – Rosenberg makes sure to have the community agree on who is in the greatest need of a home at the time, which goes to show the support of the community for our help.

My back has been tested because i have a hard time Lifting and bending due to my lower back injury, so today i (and my kind friends) made it a point to find jobs that would work for me. We started helping the Mme (mother) gather water from the little puddle where water is available. Man is that hill steep and the mother is lapping us straight up. the water availabiliy was sparse, so the mother would scoop a bowl into the pond and then into her bucket then into our jugs only halfway full because we are weak, yet she would carry the bucket on her head probably 10 times a day up the steep and unstable hill. She’s iconic.

The rest of the day was spent building the floor of the house and the group absolutely killed it. personally, i was the wheel barrow girl and ran piles of dirt, rocks and concrete up to the house which really worked my quads. Seeing everyone find different jobs and complete their part by the time they were asked to was incredible. it’s amazing seeing how everyone is figuring out how to communicate with the construction workers including them laughing at our ridiculous construction, which helps break the ice for sure.

In the afternoon, i helped gather water again, and by the time we were finished (which trust me, was not fast but didn’t take us 4 hours) they had been done with the  floor. The rest of the afternoon on site was spent hanging out with the kids who flock over after school. We play their games, they play our games and we all share a common language of laughter. When the kids tried to teach us their game, we could not catch on. It was frustrating but awesome because we were feeling how they feel when culture is imposed on them. In our nightly meeting tonight, Rosenberg said “culture isn’t stagnant,” which i thought was a great parallel to draw between any culture really, but obviously more relevant to the Lesotho culture with our own currently.

After we returned, like what happens every day, the children right outside where we are staying chased our busses until we entered the gate. After going to the neighboring village for some snacks and to check it out, we went back to the kids and we were absolutely swarmed. I didn’t realize this until tonight after asking Rosenberg and i feel totally awful — but one of the girls i have connected with over the past week saw me then went back to her house and came back with a full jar of peaches for me. I thanked her emphatically, but denied it because i wanted her to have the food. I felt so awful once he told me that to the Basotho people denying a gift is seen as impolite, so I am definitely bringing her something tomorrow.

I cannot imagine leaving here and leaving these children. The beauty is absolutely unreal here. The people are beautiful inside and out. The smiles here are electric and truly genuine. I wake up excited to grab a cup of joe and take in the surreal mountan views and feel like our work is worth something  being here is truly mind boggling, i don’t know how i can leave.

I can’t wait to facetime and show you a fraction of the beauty that i am fortunate enough to be experiencing right now.

 

All my love,

Chlobra ~ aka Limpo (meaning many gifts, given to me the first day on site by one of the Habitat for Humanity women.)

 

 

Kelsie Arlin and Carly Detar

June 13th, 2017

Dumela (which means hello in Sesotho),

Today was our second day at the work place. We are building a home for a family that is in need of a new house. Yesterday when we arrived at the construction sight we were given the opportunity to see the home in which they live in now. It was honestly shocking. I grew up in a beautiful home with my family and my room was bigger than this woman’s entire home. She shares this home with her four kids and her brother. Today we continued to build up the walls and layed the entire foundation for the floor. This involved carrying lots of large rocks and shouveling for hours. We all worked really hard. It is important to remember that the longer we work, the sooner these people will be able to move into a new home.

In our meeting at the end of the day we discussed how amazing it is that the Bosotho people are so friendly and kind. They open their arms to us even though we are strangers. The children smile and laugh at just the sight of our bus coming their way. They run along side the bus and wait at the gate for us to come play. It is a reminder that happiness is not something we can buy. Happiness is something we get to choose. And even though these children have ripped clothes and sometimes no shoes, they are some of the happiest and loveable children I have ever known. It consumes your heart. Wle also talked in our meeting about how the image Americans have of African children is the sad, starving child. But we noticed and appreciated how these children each showed their own personality and shared with us the little that they had. Being with them reminded us that there is humanity in every person, everywhere, and that so often this is lost in stereotyped imagery.

At the end of the day, this trip is changing our lives.

From Carly: hey mom and dad. Love and miss you. Thank you so much for everything you have ever done for me. Your love to me is allowing me to love these children. I wouldnt have been able to do that without you. P.s.. Thanks Dad for being the first to contact the school LOL I owe Dr. Rosenberg a beer. Love you both so much.

From Kelsie: Hi mom! Hi dad! This trip is everything I imagined and more, thank you so much for always supporting me and helping make this a reality. This trip is changing me and allowing me to change the lives of others here. Im so thankful, I love you guys! Also, hi inky I miss you and love you too I cant wait to read the journal to you and love bear is with me 100% of the time.

Salla Hantle! (stay well)

June 12th, 2017

Hello!

 

Today was day 2 of work and we began building a house for a family here in Ramabanta. We started the day with breakfast and language lessons before heading out to the site. We met the family we would be building a house for and saw the little home where they were currently living. It was a room about half the size of my bedroom at home, it was completely made out of tin, and six people lived there. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. No part of the building was easy, even with the help of the people from Habitat for Humanity who were working with us as well. At one point, a few of us went with the woman we were building the new house for because we needed more water to mix the cement. We had to walk down the side of a mountain and then back up while carrying jugs halfway full of water– it was one of the hardest things we’ve done. All of us struggled to not trip and drag the water back to the building site. The woman gracefully carried an entire bucket full of water on top of her head, without showing any signs that it was difficult. It was pretty amazing to watch. A few of us put the jugs on our heads as well and attempted to carry it up the mountain like her. Rosenberg and a few of the workers laughed at us because we were so much less graceful.

While we were working, one of the women who was in charge at Habitat for Humanity gave all of us Lesotho names. She went around the group, told everyone their name in Sesotho (the language they speak here), and what it translated to in English. The name she gave me was “Seithat,” which means “the one who loves.”

When we got done with building today, I went with a few others to go play with the children from the village we are staying at. They literally waited open armed at the gate for us and hugged all of us as soon as we got close enough. They remembered us from the day before and were beyond excited to see us. Some of them love to dance. There is a little boy who loves to do the shimmy and a bunch of children who are so excited that we taught them the chicken dance– they do it everytime we see them. I’m just at a loss for words at how incredible these children are. One little girl won’t let go of my hand and today she and her brother shared their corn kernel snacks with me. These kids have next nothing– there are holes in their clothes and some don’t have proper jackets– yet, they want to share anything they have. They are so sweet, and kind, and genuine that I don’t think I could ever explain the feeling you get from witnessing this kind of conncection.

I am already experiencing some of the most beautiful people and things here in Lesotho. It is undescribable the kind of work we are doing and learning everyday. I miss everyone at home, and don’t worry, I’ve been paying attention to my surroundings and haven’t had any accidental mishaps. ;)

Lots and lots of love,

Olivia Wilcox

Blog by Olivia Zink

June 11th, 2017

I feel extremely lucky to be here. Not only is the view from my room extremely breath taking, but everything in the compound we are staying in has been wonderful- including all the Basotho staff. Despite all of that, today was paticullarly hard for me. Today was our first real day of service and we spent it painting a few rooms and pillars of a primary school here in Ramabanta. The school is but two small buildings with one room per grade, which I’m told can house up to ninety children a day per grade. It was similar to what I expected to see, but that didn’t make actually seeing it any better. I did enjoy the painting aspect, because I was put in the decoration group and ended up painting a demonstration of a little girl usuing a pully system. What was difficult is that it was also the first time we interracted with the children of the area. These children were ranging from a few months old all the way up to teenage years and they greeted us with open arms ready to play. They were so happy and energetic even though many of them were wearing shorts with a worn jacket, or long sleeve shirt and either tattered shoes, or none at all, and mind you it’s the middle of winter here. It was easy to get caught up in games of tag, or running to catch the children just to spin them in the air, just like I do with my abundance of little cousins. I had fun with them and exaughsted myself in an altitude I am not used to just because their giggles may be some of the purest joy I’ve ever heard.

But then the days worked was done, and we had to leave. I tried to give them all hugs, and even had children run up to me while I was cleaning up just so they could say goodbye. It didn’t matter that there was a bit of a language barrier and it didn’t matter that we all looked so much different than them. These children accepted us as apart of the community  immediately and it was one of the most difficult goodbyes I’ve ever had. When I left it felt as if I had left my own cousins and the conditions in which they live hit me like a brick wall on the bus ride home, and without wanting to I began to cry. I’m only going to be here a month, and then I get to go back to my own town, and my own king sized bed, with a family I never fail to feel loved and provided by. I wanted to feel guilty, but instead I felt something different. I felt like I wanted to stay longer. I wanted to paint more. I wanted to be able to build more houses. I wanted to give more of me and my abilities. It was hard to come to terms that I won’t be able to do all I want to. These people are so kind, these children so loving; they deserve everything I have and more. I dislike that just because of where I was born or the color of my skin gives me more of an advantage in life. That isn’t how the world should be. The world should be just like these children: so open and loving, ready to accept anyone to be apart of their community.

 

Also to my family, yes I went to Mass today. And although I didn’t understand a word of it besides “Hallelujah” it was beautiful and the choir was amazing. During the Psalm they sang quietly underneath the verses, while others sang the verses louder, instead of playin an instrument like the organ I’m used to. I love you all  so much and miss you. I hope you’re all doing wonderfully.

Love,

Olivia

we are here!

June 9th, 2017

We have arrived in Joburg, all in good spirits, we are looking forward to getting to Lesotho tomorrow

10 days

May 29th, 2017

See everyone at the airport in 10 days!