How do you find the words when words evade you? We bury our treasures because they are so precious to us we fear others may steal them. If they are buried in the ground we can’t enjoy them ourselves either though. We have to learn to trust others with our treasures so that we can get to enjoy them openly and share the joy with others.
I’m scared right now. I’m scared because so many things are happening that I truly care about and I fear that if I speak about them maybe something happens and they will all just have been castles in the air and I’ll be left standing there with nothing. I don’t wanna talk, I wanna walk the talk. Yet not speaking about it isn’t what’s the thing to do – what to do is speaking about what’s happening without being attached to the outcome in a negative way. We all want our dream outcome, but we also have to know that life has its ways and the best we can do is to keep going for what we love, whilst also turning every present moment into a miracle.
First of all there are business and charity ventures that are starting to come together, whilst also working doing writing assignments for companies I enjoy writing for (that’s my day job). The first I’m scared of because you never know, the second because I feel like there’s always a deadline I’m running to catch up with and with life happening daily you never know what might throw you. With all this there’s time constraint and right now I’m working like crazy to try to downsize everything and make sure it all fits together. Believe it or not that’s a BIG job LOL.
Secondly, secondly there are the kids. As faithful readers know I work in a crèche in Hangberg, a township in Cape Town (that’s my passion project The Wandering Tales). It’s a crèche for kids whose parents can’t really afford to send them to a crèche, parents who are often abusive and/or substance misusers; some are in jail, some have died, others have HIV and so do some of the kids. Some of the kids suffer from malnutrition and drug and alcohol damages too.
I was making the kids “trolldeg” – you mix flour, water, salt and oil to make playdough…and I got a bit carried away and delivered it in different shapes…
The crèche is nothing fancy – it’s three small sheds (of which one is a storage room) for 63 kids, no proper toilets, no kitchen, no electricity, only one tap, no sinks, not enough bowls and spoons for the kids so they have to take turns, not enough money for lunch but at least breakfast, not enough classrooms…you get the picture. And at first you wanna cry because it’s so little – you want to give the kids more love, more education, more food…more everything good. Spending two weeks there your perspective changes and you wanna cry because it’s so much love and care and attention to kids that come from nothing given by teachers who get almost no payment yet show up every day.
So right now, apart from spending time with the kids and teaching drama, I’m helping put together a website, create a fundraising campaign for Little Angels and CARES, etc., which all ties into my own ventures and fuels my heart with love and passion. What’s more though, there are four kids that really spoke to my heart and one day I blurted this out to the principal and said I’d adopt them if I only could, the principal spoke to their parents (or relatives that step in to try and help them when parents don’t really do it) and it looks like I might end up being some kind of support for those four. Two twins – a boy and a girl, T & T, and two boys D & W.
Now this has thrown my world upside down. Apart from feeling like I’m finally living the life of my dreams doing what I love I suddenly have four little kids that might come to count on me. I don’t know how yet. I know that so long as we don’t have money for lunch at the crèche I have to bring lunch as theirs is sometimes lacking, I have to buy vitamins and twice a week or so I have to show up and take the kids somewhere to play. That’s all I have agreed to, all I can agree to and my heart is bursting with joy – I’m given a chance to give these kids something.
The principal is gonna meet with the parents again next week and talk about how they see this working and sort out things like “in the event of an accident.” I can’t guarantee someone won’t drive into my car. There are some legal aspects to this, even if it’s Hangberg and no one gives a damn. Then I’m gonna meet the parents. Then we will see. And that’s the practical bit, but then there’s the emotional bit.
The kids playing with the dough I gave them…
Maybe I will be a nanny of sorts, or an extra auntie, or a mentor…or a foster parent. Maybe I will spend more and more time with them, or maybe the parents will one day say no altogether. And there are other emotional aspects. I know one of them has HIV, two are beaten at home and all four are border line starving.
The principal is convinced I’m pretty much saving the life of these four and just “wait and see how they are going to blossom,” but truth is with the influence from home and friends anything could happen to those kids and after a while there might be the issue of them not wanting to go home, because home is not a nice place to be always and not to mention my feelings of sending them home. Then of course there’s the HIV positive one – I told the principal who is also feeding 120 kids in her spare time and being the whole community’s “go to” person for HIV care, plus of course running a crèche for 63 kids with no money – that she has to have a talk with his mom and ensure she makes sure he gets his meds, or I will. They cured the first kid in the States with HIV recently, the meds are getting better and life does not have to be compromised, but it’s still a stigma, it’s still dangerous if not looked after.
The principal a.k.a. the whole community’s pillar
I’ve also told the principal she has to be the go-between between the parents and I, and make sure no one shows up on my doorstep asking for money for drugs. That’s one money issue, but what happens in a few years time when I will want the kids to attend good schools? What happens if the parents decide to leave the kids on my doorstep? What happens if I don’t get a permanent visa? I’m gonna have to fly back and forth to Cape Town if I end up becoming close to the kids. I don’t know anything yet and that frightens me. I don’t even know if it all will work out and I will get to spend time with them yet and my heart is so attached to this outcome I wake up at 6am in the morning with a big grin on my face because somehow, miraculously, even without the money to adopt I have been given a chance to make a difference.
The thing is, I don’t know what I can do, but I will do what I can, if that makes sense? My heart is so full with happiness, joy and love it feels like it’s about to burst. This was always my dream. Living in Africa, helping kids, teaching, making movies, writing stories, dabbling with food and herbs…and it’s all slowly but surely coming together. But by Lord I need a visa and I need to make money from what I love rather than on top of that writing for people.
On Wednesday I was at the crèche briefly and for most of that time I was carrying around little D as he won’t let me out of sight when I’m there. Then I spent some time trying to comfort another little boy who got his thumb squeezed and for that matter whose father is in jail for murder. I also managed to lift up T & T and every other kid who wanted a hug and little Mr T was showing me he could dance like Michael Jackson. It’s perfect – we will just dance all the time! Little W was home sick – he suffers malnutrition and easily catches bugs.
The only pot we have for food, how food is served and how we wash our hands – there are no sinks, so it’s one bucket for all. We dream of a bathroom with a bathtub so we can clean the kids and brush their teeth. Many have rotting teeth. The step after that is getting a washing machine as many don’t have clean clothes, or no clothes so we also want a uniform for the kids, but first we need blankets, electricity and radiators for winter.
Yesterday was the first day I brought in vitamins. Only T & T were there as it was the start of the Easter Holiday. For them it was like Christmas morning – Miss T did not chew them up for fifteen minutes, she was too busy showing me she had them in her mouth and showing anyone else who cared. Mr T was showing me he would grow strong because of them. And as I was sitting waiting for the other teacher to get the last kids out of the loo (those portable loos you rent) and into the classroom to sleep and another teacher had just silenced them and gotten them to lie down, Mr T opened his eyes and asked if I will still be there later, as if frightened that when he wakes up I’m gone. I told him next week and he nodded, looking very wise. Then he broke the rules and ran up to ask for more vitamins.
Little Miss T on the other hand, after another teacher came in and silenced everyone once more, broke the rules to run up to place a big kiss on my cheek and tell me she loved me “so much.” Then chaos ensued as about five other girls tried to follow suite.
The principal told me that last year the kids got a present from some vitamin booster company and the next day someone’s relative came in to say the kids haven’t slept all night. Why? They were so excited they had been given a gift and couldn’t sleep because they were scared someone would take it away from them. So now the principal makes sure to host a party by the end of each month to celebrate everyone whose birthday it has been that month.
Maybe I’m crazy for agreeing to help those kids as much as I can, but it’s been the happiest moments of my life getting to do this. This was my dream growing up. All I wanted was my Dr Quinn – Angelina Jolie life. My Colorado Springs became Hangberg.
I’m scared people will look down on me for what I’m doing because I’m not a millionaire – I’m giving them lunch and a few hours of my time for now. The reason I feel confident doing it still is because life here is different. You have to understand that the crèche has 63 kids not because it wouldn’t run better if there were only 30, but because if they left the other 33 out, they’d be roaming the streets with no one raising them and not even getting their daily porridge and fruit. The little you can do for every child counts. You have to try to educate them. That’s what will make a difference. It’s not about providing label clothes, or trips to Spain. It’s about a bowl of rice, a hug and teaching values that will hopefully inspire them to turn Hangberg into a beautiful town and prevent them from going down the path of drugs, theft, prostitution and HIV.
Together with improving the crèche and setting up more educational centres and structures for youth in Hangberg I hope that we can create a sustainable future for some of the kids out there. You can’t think you are going to save them all, not even the kids you get to look after, but you can put as many structures in place as possible to ensure that the moral support, love and basic means are met to give the kids a chance. Together with CARES, Little Angels, The Wandering Tales and Naughty Magique I hope to instill change. I hope to do something. Just as I hope that a couple of hours a week of my time and some food will give something to my four little ones. It’s a hope. It’s not a given, but if you pray and move your butt sometimes you create miracles. Those four are a miracle in my life. I’m not blind – this is gonna be the ride of a lifetime, but it’s the ride I asked for, dreamed of and pray will be infused with as much love and happiness as possible. Or to explain it differently: many people tell me my work must be hard and depressing. I find it life affirming and joyous. Sure I know the kids have a hard time at home, but I see the joy in their eyes every day. I get run down with hugs and I love yous and I missed you every day. I see opportunity. Chance. Possibility. I see kids that are great, not wounded. It amazes me how these kids function so well. It astounds me. And it gives me hope that together we can make a difference.
This is not poetry; it’s the poetry of my life and it’s precious. Very precious.
If these kids inspire you as much as they do me, feel free to get in touch, even if just to talk. If you want to find out more, or help us spread the word on social media once we start our business and fundraising initiatives, we’d love to hear from you. Or if you want to donate an old camera, laptop, blankets, toys, another pot for food, or an hour a month to come down and teach them whatever you can…you name it. Our page is The Wandering Tales and there you can send us message!