Claire Tighe ’13
The opportunity to visit a children’s trust in Africa is a great privilege. During my visit with the Makaphutu and Lily childrens’ trusts in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa, I experienced first hand the true need that these people have. For someone who has read endless articles, seen documentaries, written papers, and discussed in various classes how HIV/AIDS and poverty have ravaged South Africa, I had only experienced this need with my head. As a westerner, I may never understand this life, but during my time in this region I began to formulate and understanding for it with my heart, not just my head. I felt the hands of women who wanted to work, of children who wanted to eat. I heard the laughter of people with more joy in their hearts than anyone I’ve ever met. I tasted the dry African air in my mouth and I smelled burning trash for miles, the waste’s smoke tracing its way around my nostrels.
When I describe the visible wealth disparity in South Africa to people here in the United States, to them it sounds as though I have never seen American poverty. This is not true. In the United States, the impoverished shop with foodstamps at Walmart and eat McDonald’s because it’s cheap. In South Africa, the poor have nothing. They literally live in a shack on the side of a mountain, under a tin roof. They walk miles to the grocery store and burn their trash. But the I communities I met are rich in love. I do not mean to play the role of an assuming Westerner, but this is what I perceived. All of the groups we visited claimed that they waited until they had “something for everyone” before doing a distribution of clothes, toys, and food. So easily, a new friend and Zulu woman from the Makaphutu named Doris, reached out to grab my hand. She barely spoke English but when we had a moment alone asked, “United States?” And, a bit embarrassed for myself, said yes.
During our visit to Lily of the Valley children’s trust, the manager Brendon, spent much time showing us around, with the intention of implanting images of his trust into our minds. With the memory of Lily, maybe we, too, would come to volunteer, donate resources, or raise money for their cause. Lily is there. On my hands, in my ears and nose, in my mind, in my heart.