Monday, 1 August 2011

Checking In

Hi Friends!  I miss you all so much but at the same time I absolutely can not imagine leaving the people I have met here.  It is almost unthinkable...I know I'll be back here. 

I've decided to wait and do a full update once all of the sponsorship stuff has totally gone through so that I don't jump the gun...but know that it's really really really really good!

I really want to keep track of all of the little stories and moments that I'm going through, and to be honest if the stories I have don't touch your heart then you need to do a little soul searching.  So here go a few stories from people I have met.

Joyce. She is such a BALLER.  She is an openly lesbian woman living in South Africa and was the first HIV+ woman to climb Kilimanjaro.  She is an HIV/AIDS activist and all around awesome person to hang out with...she is one of Swazi's old friends from Soweto and a big deal in the LGBT community here.  From what I've gathered she was forced into a marriage to try and "cure" her of being a lesbian.  Her husband gave her HIV.  Love just hanging out with her and listening to her stories.  I got to talk to her 3 year old grand daughter on the phone and she started singing Rihanna's "What's My Name?"....SO ADORABLE.

Mandla.  He was arrested and imprisoned for trying to pick-pocket a drunk passed out guy last weekend.  The man he tried to steal from got his friends to beat Mandla to a pulp and then called the police.  Prison here is horrible, and all facets of the government are corrupt.  The inmates sleep in one giant room on the floor with a sheet, lined up like animals.  Mandla is small and vulnerable.  We may have convinced the police to let him go because of the fact that the man beat him up before calling the police...we were told he was released but have yet to see him.  The morning before he was arrested he was holding my hand walking with me to buy bread going on and on in Zulu.  I asked him why he was speaking in Zulu when he knows I don't know anything and he responded in a frustrated voice, "You must learn Zulu so I can tell you how much I love you, Shannon!"  He's the one in the sunglasses from my last post.

It's a long name that I forgot...I only spent one day with him, but here he is.

He is about 15 and he shared with me that he came to Amanzimtoti because he is from a rural village where the elders decided that he deserved corporal punishment.  Why?  Because one of the many animals that he took to pasture one day went missing.  His family agreed with the sentence so he ran.  I don't know how he ended up in Durban, how long he was on the run, or how long he has been at the Halfway House at the Amanzimtoti YMCA...but I guess I'm glad he made it there.  They all say it's not a cake walk at the halfway is hard here too but it's better than the life of addiction and homelessness on the street.  They like that the other boys are like brothers and they understand each other.  Just taking the time to listen to these boys, answer questions like "Have you met Chris Brown??" and give them a hug can make more of an impact than I ever would have imagined.  This boy told me that the day of our visit was the best day he could remember and that he would never forget me.

This guy wants to be a social worker...Katie why aren't you here?? He told me his English name is "Innocent."

He never knew his father and his mother passed away so he had no one to support him and had to take to the streets.  He's grateful to be in school but wishes he didn't have to stay here.  He wants to live with a family, just like any other kid.  He wants to be a social worker so that fewer kids have to go through what he has.

I forgot this guy's name, too, but he was so soft spoken and adorable.  "Um, miss, can I have a picture too?"

Sniffing glue gets rid of hunger and keeps kids on the street warm on cold winter nights.  The sale of glue to children isn't regulated at all in South Africa and is an absolute epidemic among street kids globally.  Read more here.  Unfortunately the effects of glue go far beyond keeping starving children warm at night.  The neurological damage leaves kids paralyzed in severe cases like this one.  It has different effects on different kids, but it is devastating in every case.  I didn't learn this boy's story, but he was just such a little sweetheart.

More soon!

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