Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Leaving a new home

Dearest friends and family,

Well, it is decided. I am the worst blogger that the world has ever seen. It has again been many moons since I last wrote you….

Since my last post, I have wrapped up my work in South Africa, and have returned to Malawi. Two new super-fab volunteers from the local community were trained up to run the girls’ education program. Vivian and Nomsa will run the program totally independently next year, and we have been fortunate enough to receive approval for next years’ funding the very day before I left. God is good…

I have spent many days wondering what to share with you about my year with Masoyi Home Based Care. It was an incredible year for me…

I learned that although I thought I came with a heart ready to learn, one of the biggest hurdles I had to get over was my own pride. I can remember specifically when we had to distribute the uniforms to the girls. This may sound like an easy task to you, but in reality, it was the most difficult part of my year here. It involved gathering the uniform sizes for 220 girls (many of them live with illiterate grandmothers, which poses huge challenges), ordering uniforms for 22 different schools, all in different colours, sorting the uniforms, labeling the uniforms, and then coming up with a good plan to give them to the girls. I worked for weeks planning without asking advice of the local people, and only coming to report the results of what was done. I was trying to prove myself… As the work progressed, I felt more and more hostility towards me, and more resistance to help me. I sat with my friend Simon who heads up the building team, with tears of frustration pouring down my face, and explained what was happening. Simon is quite diplomatic, and not too sensitive, and asked me frankly if I had ever received advice from the community volunteers. The simple answer was no…

Everything is done in Africa in community. From dating (you actually have an assistant who helps you date) to cooking to traveling. In Canada, if I were given the role of manager, it would be seen as weak for me to consult the entire project about the best way to work. Here, any challenges are seen as an issue for the community to tackle.

I learned also about the need to know the history of the community you are working in. One day, Nomsa and I started to talk about what life was like for her in apartheid South Africa, which ended just 12 years ago.

She told me about segregated toilets, about whites refusing to walk on the same part of the sidewalk as her, and how she was not even allowed to touch the vegetables that were sold to whites. Her grannie worked as a housemaid, and she was given a separate dish, spoon and fork to eat with. If the gogo touched the food as it was being served, the family members would refuse to eat it.

As I walked the streets of the community, because of my white skin, many of these gogos associated me with this type of behavior. When they heard a white girl was administering a program to help their grandchildren, some of them refused to allow the girls to attend the workshops. It shocked me to hear this, and it made me realize how deep the impact of apartheid has run. After this conversation with Nomsa, I started to do more reading on the history of South Africa, and I gained a new respect for the black communities and the incredible pain and injustice they had endured.

Finally, I learned that in the community, you can find a family. I have spent a year here without seeing any of my 6 siblings. It has been incredibly difficult for me not to have my sister, Andrea, closer to me, and to watch life continue at home. Gradually, my co-workers here have become my sisters, brothers, adopted aunties, and grannies. They chide me if I eat too many sweets, they encourage me in the face of difficulty, and surround me with prayers when I struggle. The warmth and acceptance that you find in community in Africa is like nothing else; it is what makes me want to come back each time. I think God is going to put the Africans in charge of the community committee in heaven….

I have left here changed. I can feel it…something within me has been softened, the struggles I have seen have not hardened me. Rather, they have made me want to live my life to its fullest. I don’t feel guilty about the blessings I have known in my life. I feel an indescribably gratitude for my education, my family, my friends, my church. The list goes on…I used to struggle to find things to thank God for, and my prayer is that my heart has been changed to see so many more blessings, and to thank Him.

God bless…

Grace and peace,

Maeghan

2 Comments:

Blogger Noel said...

Thanks for sharing what you've been learning Meg. It's great to try and grapple with what you've been learning.

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Katie Mac said...

I love you so much!!!

It is so awesome to hear an update from you, that you are alive and doing well; and the lessons that you have shared that you have learned: they've touched my heart in amazing ways.

I so look forward to seeing you, seeing your pics, hearing your stories, learning from you and catching up on life.

I have been dying for an update from you. Going crazy! Today is a beautiful day.

2:01 PM  

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