A lot can happen in 10 days….
In Ladybrand (which is on the border of Lesotho) we stayed with Beth, Neil and Jane Robertson. A generous family, who educated me in Basotho blankets, history of Africa and kindness. Beth is the Funding Coordinator at the Ladybrand Hospice. The Hospice runs a variety of programs for the 800 orphans in the area. We performed at the Hospice for the orphans who were able to come. Many orphans are at home. They become the head of their household. Beth told us a story of a young girl, age 14, who lost both parents to AIDS. She would come home everyday and lay beside her mother, caring for her. When her parents passed, she only had her brother left, then he died of a severe case of TB. She followed him, partly from also having TB, but Beth and Jane figures she also suffered from a broken heart. I can’t imagine taking care of my whole family and then watching then die one by one. I went to sleep at Beth’s thinking how lucky I am that my family is alive and well.
We cross the border. Lesotho. Our first place to visit is the LCCU (Lesotho Child Counseling Unit) in Mazenod. It is run by Lydia Muso, who has 13 orphaned children living with her. We performed for the LCCU children and their friends. We also performed at the LCCU for the children from the surrounding schools.
Learning to Fly #1: I think for birds you eventually just have to jump out of the nest and realize you have wings. Lydia pointed out one of the girls who was new to the LCCU. She had been abused by her father and the police put her in Lydia’s care. She was off by herself, scared, chewing on the feet of a broken Barbie doll. I’m not fully confident in playing with the children yet…I’m still finding ways of connecting with them…as often language isn’t an option. After the show, Selena broke out her Birim Bao and started hammering out some rhythm. Myself and a couple girls started to dance silly, or as I like to call it “Birim Bao interpretive dance”. The shy girl put down her broken Barbie doll and joined it. She was laughing and looked up at me with the biggest smile. We flew together.
This past week was spent at the SOS Children’s Village in Maseru. We taught a 5 day residency to 100 children (two large groups in the morning) and 10 youth in the afternoons. Days started early… not classes… just waking up. Lesotho R&B music consists of a guy yelling in seSotho, a pumpin’ bass and loud accordion music. It’s pretty awesome…. But not so awesome at 6:30 am, the time when the youth in the house next to us like to blast it. Very different from the sleep-until-noon teenagers back in Canada. So I figured it was all good to practice my accordion at 7:30am !!!
The workshops consisted of warm-ups, games, improvisation and group creation in exploration of life dreams. At the beginning of the week we had them draw their life dreams. By Friday, today, the youth have created short scenes in which they are their dream (doctor, astronaut, DJ, scientist, pilot) overcoming some sort of challenge. John Tuma, the SOS director, wanted it to be more career orientated as the youth here are nearing their time of departure and they will be moving into the “real world”. The kids here support each other and play with each other because they are their only family. When the orphans come to SOS it’s because they don’t have any extended family to take them in.
Learning to Fly #2: Today I returned the pictures that the students drew of themselves in their future careers. Jamie asked me to tell them they have to support each other, remind each other of their dreams and believe in themselves. This past week, I started thinking about my own future, my own dreams. And I realized…I don’t’ know what I want to be when I grow up….but OH NO, I’m already grown up!!! What happened? How was I going to tell these kids they can be their dreams when I don’t even have one??? Then I thought of my parents and how they supported all the crazy things I’ve wanted to do; physical theatre school, stilt-walking, accordion lessons and that time I really wanted to be a magician (but kept dropping hidden ball from the cup). I realized that I knew I wanted to make others laugh and I did have support. I just kept doing the things I loved. I have no doubt these children will do the same. They have the support of their family here at the SOS children’s village. Tomorrow we head for Semonkong for a week of shows, shows, shows! I’m also very excited for the Pony Trek!
Learning to Fly #3: Tomorrow morning we will be doing a show for the SOS children that we have been teaching. We haven’t done a show in over a week…. But we’re clowns! Like I say to the kids “whatever you do, will be great!”… but I think we’re going to go over some stuff tonight… you know, just in case.