Service Learning in South Africa

Toys, Tsotsis, and TIA

Today's reflection is written by Elli Johnston:
Today my group went back to the Holy Cross preschool to finish painting the road signs. Upon arrival, we realized that we had a few more coats of white paint to do before we could start the lettering. Dr. Watts left to get paint and the children were inside for class, so our small group of five decided to spend our time wisely--and so the dance party began. Bringing to Botswana the likes of Selena Gomez, the Jonas Brothers, and Justin Beiber, our group let loose and had fun before getting down to business.
Once Dr. Watts returned, we got to work and finished the final coats of paint so that Monday we can start and finish the lettering. Since we had to wait for the paint to dry, we had time to spend with the kids during their free time. Yesterday, one of the girls and I played karate by mimicking each others moves. Today I let another Belmont student play karate, and I played hula hoop with a different little girl. For an entire hour I tossed the hula hoop back and forth for this girl, only to take short breaks to play hand games. As I reflect on our free time today I realize how pitiful their playground is. The children that we work with are either orphans due to AIDS or possibly infected themselves. For them to be running around and playing on rusty slides and monkey bars that are barely staying together is wrong. These children are going through something that I will never have to go through in my life, yet they’re content playing with a hula hoop for an hour.
It makes me question our role as human beings. Although we live in our safe little American bubble, are we not called as children of God to reach out to our brothers and sisters all over the world? Why is it that so many children are living far more difficult lives than those in our very homes, yet our children are the ones with toys overflowing the toy bin? It’s frustrating how messed up the roles are. It should be reversed--the children who are living with AIDS or living without parents due to AIDS should have the extra love and attention. I am trying to reflect upon why it is that way, why the children who need the most help, the most love are almost always the ones without. Is it because we’re too scared and too afraid to leave our safe world to go out and spread the love that we have been so gracefully given? I’m not sure what the real answer is, I just know that something needs to change.
After our time with the kids, we headed back for lunch and then were off to hike one of the hills that overlooks Gaborone. However, shortly after we left the van in search of the path up the hill--which we weren’t sure even existed--a man drove by and warned us not to go up. The man said there were tsotsis up in the hills. Tsotsis is an Afrikaans word for thief or robber. We listened to the man but kept walking, but he then drove by again saying we mustn’t go up because it was too dangerous. We decided to listen and turn around. Maybe there weren’t actually tsotis up in the hills, or maybe there were. We decided to call it a message from God and obey.
Botswana is a lot slower paced than Cape Town was, but in a way it’s kind of nice. We don’t have to wake up as early or take as many tours, and there's more down time to hang out and enjoy each others' company. We definitely have a lot of unique personalities on this trip which, in my opinion, has made this trip even more fulfilling. I am learning to look at everyone with eyes of love and appreciate them for the person God has made them.
With love from Botswana,

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