Wednesday, January 28, 2009


THE TAXI RANK- Jan. 15, 2009

I made a trip in and out of Maseru today. I was lucky to hitch a ride in with the nuns. The ride home was via the route that most of us dread – Public Transportation! We all have to go into the taxi rank to find the vans that are heading on our route home. It always feels kind of chaotic and noisy and crowded and dirty – and a little edgy. Sometimes it looks like a sea of vans all lined-up bumper to bumper. Someone usually approaches and points me to the correct van. Once established in the van, it is not uncommon to sit for an hour, waiting for it to fill. Today was such a day. The ranks are always filled with vendors selling food, drink, jewelry, t-shirts, watches, air-time, etc etc. And sometimes the vendors are curious and want to chat. Today I found myself in a lengthy conversation with a 24 yr. old man who started the conversation with “I want a job. Can you get me one?” It was one of the first times I gave much thought to what these folks are about. In a country with a huge unemployment rate and so many people fading away with little or no hope, these vendors are out there giving it their best to save themselves and their families. This man is the youngest of 5 children. His parents are at home with no work. His siblings are scattered around and the work of supporting himself and his parents is on his shoulders. He can’t afford to return to high school and he can’t afford to get training in anything that might give him an income. So he goes from van to van all day trying to sell cookies and air-time. I asked what he might make in a day with his cookies and he said about $2 (20 Maluti)(That is the one-way taxi fare for me to travel to Maseru.) He asked about Barack Obama and said how happy he was for this new president He spoke about the war in Israel, and he spoke about the hardship of his life. I felt a little of what this life would be like; to be smart, caring, young and ambitious, yet to wake-up every morning knowing that all I would be doing is trying to sell cookies to people who don’t want them. So, I bought the box. Needless to say, I made his day. And it probably helped a little with the African-American international relationship. It seems like a pretty good investment for my $2.00.


There is a scholarship program offered by an organization called Kick 4 Life. It is sponsored by Prince Harry and seems to be a very well put together program, offering not only scholarships to orphans and vulnerable children, but also mentoring, leadership training, and HIV education. High School, to include tuition, books, exam fees and uniforms, can cost up to $700/ year. This may be more than the often unemployed parent can afford. Here are a few samples of what the students wrote in their applications.

Boy – 16 yrs. old
I am an orphan and my family does not have fields or animals to rely on. With just a small amount of money that my mother gets from teaching she could not afford to make a living and provide a stable family for seven children. She could not have that money to support each and every one of us with everything we need. Having experienced the need of my family, I feel the need of being educated right inside me because education is the only key to success these days. I want to learn of how one can raise something for a big family like mine earning little. I also want to provide something good for my country because giving hand receives a lot. There are some great achievements in life that I have dreamed about doing after I have finished school in order to build a stable home for my family. Not only family is my goal but also I want to help my fellow orphans so that they can understand there is nothing tough in the world if people living around you are willing to help you. I would like to provide jobs for needy people so that we can work together to bring up something good for the nation. I want people to feel the need of education inside them. I also want to make people realize that it is not only through rich people that our country can become strong and face its problems. If I can, we can!!

From his mother who teaches in the primary school:
My son is a brilliant child. As I am a single parent and a mother of seven boys, it is not easy to pay the school fees of my last born twins. I have no other means of getting money to feed them and to pay his school fees as he is a twin boy and I like both of them to be educated. To my observation, he is able to achieve the good pass in his class and this will lead him to go through all his education.

Girl – 17 yrs old
I have noticed about some people who are not educated that are futureless. They are not like some people who had been educated. And also what I have noticed here in our country Lesotho there are shortage of people who know about the importance of being educated. Some people who are not educated they are taken as the slaves of the different works. Many people from different country are dying because of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. When I have finished school I want to be a nurse to look after sick people.

Girl- 19 yrs. old
As it is known that education is the key of success, that is why people need to go to school and to be educated in order to live life smoothly, live it positively and help other to be success. I want to go to school because I want to help my family, my nation and my country to survive and able to achieve their needs. Apart from that, I want to help orphans, vulnerable children and people who are affected by HIV/AIDS. After completing school, I want to be a nurse or doctor or even to be a farmer in order to supply them and advise people with HIV to know how they are supposed to live and protect themselves from other many diseases and even to know their HIV status for those who do not want to go to test. And teach them that they have to work for themselves to stay alive and happy.


Thabiso ( it means “one who is happy) is one of those young men (27yrs old) who everyone enjoys. He is always optimistic, smiling and kind. His story is exceptional. He was always a good student and he wanted to become a doctor. When his father abandoned his family for another woman, Thabiso was left to carry the responsibility of his mother and younger sibs. His two older brothers basically left this to him, because they knew he would pick-up the slack. This meant that he had to abandon his plans for medical school, and use his savings and income to help his family. He went to nursing school instead, finished at the top of his class, and became a Nurse Midwife. His younger brother (by 8 yrs.), Rafiloe, was unable to finish high school because of a lack of money. Rafiloe became a herd boy, taking care of the family cows in the fields. When Thabiso’s widowed older sister died (he suspects of AIDS) she left behind two little girls. Thabiso took on the financial responsibility for these girls also. After his dearly loved mother died last year, his father called to tell him he was sick. Thabiso went to his father’s side, saying that “it isn’t for me to judge him, God will do that.” So, Thabiso found his father in rags and penniless although he had been a veterinarian and had once had a decent life style. The father reported that the second wife had left him and taken everything. Thabiso then took on the responsibility of caring for his father.
In this past year, Thabiso married his beloved and pregnant fiancĂ© (see wedding photos above) who is due in the next month. He is living next to me on the mission grounds in a two room “house” probably smaller than my 300 sq.ft place, with a pit latrine for toileting. In the past week he has brought his 19 yr old brother here to live with him so he can finish high school. He has also brought his two nieces here, to stay in the boarding house and attend the primary school at the mission. The fees for boarding and for high school are beyond most peoples’ budgets, yet he is carrying it all, plus the preparation and expense of a new baby. And, he still hopes to go to medical school some day. I am in awe of this man. He would be exceptional in any culture, but especially in Lesotho where men very often have a negative reputation for responsibility and participation. So far, I have met a few of these men and they always seem to carry 200% of the normal load; so much above and beyond the call of duty. Yet, when the call is so loud, the needs so terrifying, the numbers of willing and able so pitiful, there are a few who listen and respond to their maximum ability. Observing them is so very humbling.