December 20th, 2012

Yes parents I am alive and kicking!!!

Not only did I arrive, but I have been having the most amazing time. We are only on our fourth day and it feels like home. I also don’t even know where to begin…

The first two days as you can glance over from previous blogs, has been quite the physical challenge. I am very aware of my leg muscles at the moment, but it felt great. We built and worked on two different houses for two different families that we met and it was one of the most memorizing moments of my life. Seeing the joy on their faces brought such peace to my heart. We also arrived at Baylor yesterday (also can see the specifics from previous blogs) and it was a day filled with emotions and feelings I didn’t know that i could be capable of. I wish I could describe the day for you in detail, but I couldn’t if I tried. It has been the first time in my life that I have been speechless. You better believe it family…I was speechless. We have plenty more to do and I cannot wait to see what happens next. It’s amazing because it’s always an adventure and always something new to see and something interesting to learn. Cannot wait to show you all my pictures and amazing memories. I’ll email or call soon!!

Love you all—Merry xmas Bobby, Dominique, Mommy, Mike, Teddy, Big Al and Bailey :) xoxoxx

nik-

 

To my family and friends,

I wanted to message you all to let you know that I have made it here safe and sound. It is crazy to think that today marks only the fourth day of working here in Lesotho. For myself and many others I have talked to it seems that we have been here much much longer. I think its the combination of the new beautiful scenery that we come across everyday. The Basotho have opened there arms to us and have taught me something new everyday. So far, my favorite activities that I have been able to experience have been being able to go to Baylor where we were able to host a carnival for HIV/AIDS children. The amount of smiles that I saw on these children and the fun we had, helped me forget that these children are faced with a much tougher challenge. We have also had the ability to build houses for a girl who is taking care of two orphans who have lost parents to AIDS. After learning the story, the motivation to work my hardest to get these houses done has been pouring through me. Days are full with no down time, as we are working hard on projects from sun up til sun down. Mom, Meg, Meaghan, and anyone else that is able to read this: I miss you all and hope that you are all enjoying Chicago. I cannot wait to share all the great memories, pictures, and stories that I have been building everyday.
Talk to you soon,

Trav

P.S. Merry Christmas to the Bordine and Galloway family and to the many other love ones of mine out there!

I Am Only One

December 19th, 2012

This morning we visited the Baylor Pediatric AIDS Clinic in Maseru. Baylor is a free clinic started by the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas that treats children with HIV and AIDS. We went there to have a carnival for the kids; we brought one of those colorful parachutes you used in elementary school gym classes, rub on tattoos, bubbles, coloring books and crayons, and bracelet and necklace making supplies and set to work playing with the children. I’ll come back to our time at Baylor in a minute, but I want to outline the rest of the day first.

In the afternoon we went to Kick For Life and wound up playing soccer with some Basotho kids for about two hours. Now, I have a bad history with soccer. It’s a long story that involves mean little girls–I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I’ve never been a fan since. But I decided to follow the motto “When in Lesotho, play soccer with the Basotho!” (They say that, right? Well…they should.) Like I said, we played for about two hours and it was SO much fun. The children didn’t speak much English, but we could all understand the game (except for the fact that we couldn’t always tell which little boys were on our team–there were a lot, and I’m pretty sure some of them kept changing sides). The kids were very good, but we held our own. We were pretty proud of that fact until we realized that they were a lot younger than us so we should have probably been embarrassed. It was so great to be able to have fun with these kids and give them some new opponents, and I think it helped all of us to bond as well. Plus I scored a goal, so basically it was the most exciting moment of my life because other than that I was pretty terrible. Needless to say, soccer has been salvaged for me.

Back to Baylor. The atmosphere outside during the carnival was so happy and positive and that’s really all I could think about. I just loved seeing their smiling faces and knowing that we were a part of that. I know not everyone felt the same way, but I left Baylor in pretty positive spirits. These were sick kids that we got to make feel special and important for part of a day, and I felt good about that.

I didn’t realize just how difficult the morning was until our group meeting tonight. That’s when the waterworks started–myself and many others included. One thing Dr. Rosenberg told us is that Baylor treats about 3,000 kids, which is awesome. However, that’s only about 10% of the kids who significantly need treatment, and that doesn’t include the many other children who are infected. For a while this morning I was holding this little boy. I saw his sister carrying him around and told her I could hold him for a bit if she wanted to play or make a bracelet or something. As I was holding him, I realized he was very different from the other babies I’ve held. His sister told me he was a year and two months, but he didn’t look like it. His fists were clenched the entire time I held him, and he couldn’t really move his fingers much when he tried. Periodically he would start to shake a lot, and his eyes never really focused on anything the entire time I held him. I knew that this wasn’t normal. This was AIDS.

Everyone had experiences like this today, and I could go on forever talking about our time this morning. There were a lot of emotions today–joy, sadness, anger, grief, guilt. But I have to walk away feeling like we did something helpful. At the end of the day, I think what I will take away most from Baylor is the importance of small acts. It’s true that we can’t cure all those kids. There is a lot we can’t do for them, and that’s a hard reality to face, especially when all of us have so much. But when we were playing with the kids I forgot that they were all there because they had AIDS, and if we could do that for them for even a second, I think our time is worthwhile. During our meeting, a quote from Edward Everett Hale popped into my mind. That’s where I’ll end this post:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

-Emily

The Beauty of Life Rests In Africa

December 18th, 2012

Lumela!

I’m going to talk more about intimate moments/experiences while being here so far in order to kind of give you a small taste of what we’re experiencing. I hope you enjoy!

This morning a group of 6 of us got up around 4:15am to go for a walk outside of Thorns and into the village to watch the sunrise. Little did we know, the sun did not rise until 5:30am… giving us about an hour of waiting around. But as soon as the sun started to rise above the mountains, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. All I could think of during this moment was: “The beauty of life really does rest in Africa”. It completely made the hour wait worth it!

Every morning and every evening, a large group of children from the village meet us at the gates of where we are staying to play before we leave for our work site and when we get home from our work site. This is by far my favorite part of the day. A great number of us have already made individual friendships with certain children and each of us already has wonderful stories to share. Personally, I have made great friends with a 12 year old boy named Tapelo. We hit it off right from the first day, I’m pretty sure it was both of our love of dancing that started it :) He gave me a Sesotho name (many of the children have given Witt students Sesotho names) and mine is Debujo, which means “kindness.” Needless to say, that put an even bigger smile on my face. He is extremely bright and he wrote me an amazing letter today (several of us get letters from our friends) telling me how excited he is that I am here. It made my day! He, along with so many other children are great at teaching our Wittenberg group Sesotho words. (Our memories aren’t as great as we would probably prefer… but we’re slowly learning). The kids are currently on Summer break from school and therefore we’re a primary source of entertainment for them, and I’m pretty sure that they are even more of a pleasure for us. I know it is Wittenberg’s motto to pass on our light… however I’m pretty sure the kids are doing most of the passing it on.

Everybody is so warm, friendly, and just full of joy. I asked one 16 yr old boy today what he likes to do for fun and he said, “I just like to show people to love”. I think this is a great illustration for the mentality of several of the people that we come in contact with. This so far has been such a magical experience and I look forward to waking up tomorrow and having another beautiful day in Lesotho.

Hope all is well in the states!

Love, Ben

PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!! I hope it has been a great one! You deserve it :)

Habitat Day 2

December 18th, 2012

Hey everyone!

Today we continued our work on the two houses for the orphaned families.  We compacted the dirt then laid concrete in both houses. We also dug out the dirt around each of the houses in order to prevent flooding. The skilled laborers  continued to lay bricks as well as help us do our jobs.

It was nice and hot during our work time. There was very little clouds. Also, today many more children came to talk to us. However, unlike the children at Thorns, they did not speak much English. We were still able to communicate through gestures and games. Some of the boys played baseball with Josh, Dr. Rosenberg’s son. The kids also taught us some of their games. In addition to games, the children are more than willing to help teach us Sesotho.

One of the most enlightening moments of today was that a boy said he did not like Lesotho because we worked in the fields and ate porridge every day. He said he wanted to come to America.¬† On the other hand, we are astounded by the country’s beauty. This helped to show us how lucky we are coming from such great homes.

Tomorrow we will be throwing a carnival for the Children at the Baylor Clinic (pediatrics AIDS clinic). While this will be an emotional day, it will also be a great opportunity to put a smile on the kid’s faces and allow them to have fun.

Bye Bye,
Kenzie, Vitalia, and Sarah

 

P.S. Kenzie says Hi Mom and Dad! Zac– I found your friend David. He is writing you a letter

 

From Sarah: Hi Mom! Today I taught the boys here some Wittenberg cheers. They loved learning them and were really cute. We have videos. See ya soon. Love ya!

Day One

December 17th, 2012

Lumella family and friends!

We are in Lesotho and already working hard in the hot african sun. Today our tasks involved laying the foundation for two houses and digging a latrine. The two houses we started will be completed for two diffrent orphan headed house holds. Both of wich are tragic and motivating stories.

The first involves two very young children who lost both their parents, and were taken in by their grandmother, who passed away last week. A 15 yesr old female relative, who is also an ophant, was given the daunting task of tsking csre of these two children with no source of income. The second family involves two sisters that were born out of wedlock, and once their parents died their family disowned them.

All the people on the worksite kept these stories in mind as we moved dirt, fried in the sun, moved some more dirt, laid bricks, and then moved dirt back again. All of us are excited to see these houses be completed, however if we do not finish because of time, some of the donations have been put aside to ensure the project is completed.

The entire group is in awe of the breath taking scenery, and also the welcoming we have recieved from the Basotho people. There is no language barier when it comes to smiles and laughter. Regardless of the ocean between us, people are people, and smiles need no translation.

We look forward to the many work days ahead and returning to the site tomorrow!

Selahankle,
Jess Batanian, Maggi Quigley, Maggie Smith

From Maggie Smith, hey everybody I hope you are all doing well! I am awesome and so happy. Love you so much and happy birthday to the bestest sister in the whole world!! <3 Mags

From Jessie Batanian, hey mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, megan, chris, nick, kaye, morgan, grant, and everybody else reading this!! I hope you are doing marvelous and had a great Monday! To give you a laugh, i currently look like a lobster but it’s worth it! Love you all and cannot wait to share my experience with you! Hugs and kisses!

From Maggi Q: What up home skilletz?! Quick shoutout to all of you back home, especially those who supported my journy here. Mom, Dad, Ginny, and Nana, I love you very much and hope you are doing well. I’ll be in contact soon!

WE’RE HERE!!

December 16th, 2012

We have made it to Thornes safe and sound! The compound is absolutely beautiful with gardens everywhere. We left the hotel around 8am this morning and arrived here around 430pm this afternoon. We found out shortly after arriving that we are having some difficulties with the phone and internet here. It should be up and working soon but just know we are safe and will be able to communicate more soon!!

But as soon as we got here the children of the village were waiting at the gates for us. :) We unpacked and then met them and played some futbol and some hand games similar to “concentration” and “down by the banks.” They were all so sweet and also very clever! We have an early start tomorrow (leaving here at 8am) and will be starting on building a house. I am so so excited to see and experience everything! Onto the next adventure tomorrow :)

I love and miss you Mom, Dad, and Adam!! I hope you guys are having a good break :)

Rachel

December 14th, 2012

Well we are sitting in the Washington, D.C. Airport waiting to board the plane! I can’t believe today has finally arrived. I remember filling out the application for this trip in May thinking that my Mama would never let me go to Africa and yet here I am!

 

-Chelsey

Get Hyped!!!

December 14th, 2012

I can’t believe I’m traveling half a world away in just a few hours! I’m super excited to embark on this amazing journey!!!

Leaving!

December 14th, 2012

I can’t believe it’s here already. I didn’t sleep very much because I’m too excited, plus I have a whole 18 hours to do that on the plane to South Africa. I’ve been wanting to do something like this since I was in 6th grade, and finally I am able to! A big thank you to all that made this a possibility for me. See you all on the flip side.

- Maggi Q

Road Trip Time!

December 13th, 2012

Well I still don’t really know how it happened, but finals are FINALLY over!! Ben, Brittany, Alyssa and I are about an hour and a half into our drive to DC and we are so excited! The car is jam packed with suitcases, donations, and of course lots of snacks. We have about five and a half more hours of pre-trip bonding left before we arrive. We’re going to have a LOT of travel time in the next couple of days, but it will be the perfect opportunity to catch up on the sleep that hasn’t happened this week. I just can’t wait to be there. I have no idea what’s in store for all of us, but that’s half the fun; I just know it will be amazing. I’m so excited that I’m not even going to complain about the terrible, terrible country music I’m being forced to listen to right now.

Well, here goes nothing! See everyone tomorrow!

-Emily