A Look Back, A Look Ahead
Today is the first day of my last week in South Africa. I have two more classes with the kids at Ethembeni. I have 6 more days with the friends I've made in the program and the ones I've made in this country. Two more puppet classes. There are seven more days until I get to see my boyfriend, John and my dogs, Tobey and Max. In ten days I will get to see my son, Jackson,and my family, when I pick him up from his grandparents house in Louisiana. So there are a lot of things to look forward to and a lot to miss, when I leave.
It will likely take some time until I can fully appreciate what this experience will mean to me. The only thing I know right now is that it has changed me, and hopefully in a lasting way. Before I came here, I had been working in an office as an assistant for nearly 11 years. I did it to support my son, and that's not nothing. I'd do it again, but my day to day life had no real purpose apart from our survival. Here, every day has had a purpose. Every day meant more than just my own survival. Every day I was able to give something back to someone else. Every day I was part of a team of people with one purpose, and that was bringing art to kids who didn't have it.
One day last week we went to a photo seminar at Nelson Mandela University. One of the seniors told us of her project to bring photography to prisoners in an attempt to help rehabilitate them. She told us the Parable of the Starfish, and it goes something like this: There was an old man walking down the beach and he came across a boy surrounded by thousands of starfish. The boy was busy picking up one starfish at a time and throwing them back into the ocean. The old man said to the boy, "There are so many starfish on the beach. You can't possibly hope to make a difference." The little boy threw another starfish into the ocean and said, "But, I made a difference to that one."
For the rest of my life, every day I'd like what I do to matter in some small way to someone. Some amazing things have happened since we've been here. A boy in my class, Samkelo, cannot read very well, but found out that he can draw beautifully. The head boy of Etembeni, Lungako Hoho, will be able to share his beautiful story with the world, if I have anything to say about it. My teacher, Sandy is helping a little girl, Cornelia get her teeth fixed and is trying to arrange to pay for her school fees. Asanda, a young local artist, who has been helping us with the kids in the program, is being hired to work at Ethembeni as an art teacher, the first the school will have in it's history. Up until this point, Asanda was unable to find employment and was selling his paintings and t-shirts wherever he could. He will also be able to get his high school equivalancy and possibly attend Nelson Mandela University for art. The details of this are being arranged.
So, I'd like to think we were able to throw some starfish back into the ocean, even if just a few of them. And, who knows. When I get home maybe I can work on flinging a few more back into the ocean. Even if it's just a few, it will be worth the effort.