Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, accused of sabotage by the oppressive South African Regime of the time. His stay at Robben Island just off the coast of Cape town was most difficult. During the 17 years he spent in a small cell on the island, he missed contact with children the most. None of the inmates could have any access or contact with children.
I found this odd when I first heard of it. Why would the lack of contact with children have such a profound effect on a middle-aged man? Today as I walked the dusty roads of Leribe, I understood what Mr. Mandela meant. In Lesotho, there are children everywhere. A cinder block house is tolerable only for sleep and shelter. The beautiful mountains of Lesotho draw everyone out into the streets and the fields. Children are everywhere, playing, walking and laughing. They are a constant source of light and joy. Most of the children here are so deprived of the basic necessities of life. They are poorly clothed. They lack nutritious food. Many are orphaned...You simply cannot move about in Lesotho and not be surrounded by the joy and laughter of children...the constant presence and sound of children elevates even the darkest mood. I understand what you missed Mr. Mandela.
Reach Lesotho is a program of the Upper Grand District School Board, part of an innovative two-year high school course in human rights. A film crew is travelling with the students and their mentors, making a documentary that will be screened on World AIDS Day.
The team has to raise $100,000 to cover the costs of the trip. To do so, they launched the 280 x 280 challenge. Each dollar donated represents 100,000 HIV - infected people in Africa.
I have travelled to some of the places in Africa most devastated by AIDS. I have seen fresh graves. Met grandmothers carrying for dozens of orphaned grandchildren. Sat at the bedside of young mothers on the verge of death. I am so inspired by Bracelet of Hope's commitment to seeing one African country AIDS free, and to their involvement of young people in making that happen.
I would love to be on this team. I would love for my children to be on this team. For now, I will content myself with enjoying Anne-Marie's messages and increasing this week's donation to $280 to meet the challenge. And I'll be heading to Harbourfront on December 1 to watch I Have Hope with my kids.