Yesterday will forever be embedded in my memory. The whole P2P group (Rachel Johnson, Andrew and Sue Russell, Doug and Cindy, Lucas, Leona, Llewellyn, Michael, Lilandi, and myself) met in the morning to have a meeting about the next two weeks’ schedule and assigning Bible classes, pre-school courses and a whole lot of activities. At noon, we collected eleven children from neighboring townships and took them to lunch at Steers (a fast food place equivalent to Wendy’s), and then took them shopping for clothing. The schools they attend pick out the children that need clothing/school uniforms the most. Leona asked me to buddy up with one girl who was actually being sponsored specifically to buy new clothing for summer. Her name is Happy. What a perfect name for her, yet so completely opposite of what her life has been like. Here is Happy’s story.
Happy comes from a “family” of seventeen that includes aunts and a few cousins, but mostly brothers and sisters (I found this out after she asked about my family, and I told her I had five sisters and four brothers). Her father died when she was young (I think she said she was five or six), and her mother is out of work. Happy’s mom had been working for the school as a cook for a six-month contract. Her six months are up, so at the moment no one in her family is working. I asked Happy how she liked school and she told me she liked learning and had won awards for some of her poems she has written. Later, Llewellyn told me her poems are very good, but he could almost guarantee that I would be in tears by the end of reading them. She has had a very hard life, and had struggled with depression before she met Lucas and Leona. Since then she has made a huge turn around and has become a girl with goals and a future in mind. She regularly attends the meeting and Sunday School at the Aphiwe ecclesia and lately has brought a group of 4 other children as well!
Happy told me she wanted to go to university, and that she wanted to study mechanical engineering. I asked her why and this is what she told me: “I do not want to be a writer because I want to earn a lot of money so I can take care of my whole family, so they have an easy life.” I wanted to grab her up and hug her so tightly and never let go when she said that. It makes my heart hurt to know that this little twelve year old girl has to think about supporting her family when we in the U.S. have so much. She told me all of this in the car, and when we were almost to the store we went over the shopping list. I asked her what things she has at home. She said she really didn’t have anything but a skirt and one shirt and her tunic for school. I can’t imagine only having those things.
So that is Happy’s story, or at least what I know of it. We bought the items that were on the list once we were at the store. We had to try to stay within the budget. While she was trying on clothes I realized something else. This girl was blossoming into a young woman and we needed to pick up a few other things. I cannot begin to explain what my heart felt like as we went through this. She was so happy and grateful and very practical. It made me feel like a mother…not something I was expecting. I wish her mom could have been the one to shop with her. Every girl deserves that. I can only say that my heart cracked and filled up with love right then and there, and I felt so honored to share this experience with her. By the end of the trip we were fast friends. I told her she was a very special and beautiful girl and that I wanted to call her my friend; I hope she knew I meant it. I also hope that I can form a relationship with her over the next eight weeks.
I wish everyone could have the experience I am having. It is already changing me, AND my life.
– Kaitlin Ross