Hope: The Great Transformer
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
I’ve learned so much from the work we are doing in both South Africa and Peru. Having a Regional Director who knows how to inspire communities is pivotal to our long term success. In a sea of wise teachings, one incredible piece of wisdom that Lotus Khoza imparted to me: For the projects to have long term success, the village must have accountability, responsibility, create committees, and establish governance prior to Mom’s House commitment to work in their village. It made sense once he explains that it lifts them up. This immediately breeds empowerment, hopefulness, creativity, community, and purpose. These are the elements required to ensure the success of the project. The community must do their part, first.
I remember the moment when he said this to me. We were driving down a bumpy, dirt road that felt more like off-wheeling in the Tahoe mountains than the African bush. It never occurred to me that there was the remotest possibility that our center(s) would ever fail. Maybe it’s eternal optimism, or ignorance, or naïveté. Either way, the possibility of our center failing never, not even once, crossed my mind. He gave me a lot to think about. I watched. Learned. Listened. Observed. And, then, I asked a ton of questions. Still do! Those that know me well know that I ask a lot of questions. What’s different now is that I listen a lot more.
In Somerset, the women are working every day to clear the fields where Mom’s House will provide seeds and seedlings to start the agriculture portion of our food program. Not only will this provide the vegetables that are typically absent in these children’s meals, but will help sustain the centers, providing extra income as the farm produces food for the surrounding areas. We will grow enough food to feed all of the children that show up at our doorstep.
In this video, the committee for the Mom’s House Child Care Center in Somerset has been working hard. Every day they show up and clear the fields by hand. They are in joy over knowing we will complete the child care center in their village. I realized through this experience...everyone wants to feel like they have something to contribute to this world.
I also have come to know that well-intentioned organizations and people make promises they either don’t keep or don’t fully complete. This organization is based on a promise I made over 40 years ago. All of us at Mom’s House will make every effort to live by our word.
Our Child Care Center is just a couple months away from its Grand Opening! To provide a clean, safe, loving environment complete with clean water, clean sanitation, daily food, trauma care, toys (yes...toys!), learning opportunities, HIV medication distribution, technology, and love. It is the realization of a dream a little girl had when she discovered that children were starving from drought and famine in Africa. She told God and her mother, “When I grow up, I’m going to help the children of Africa.” It took a long time to get here, but we are here and we are here to stay.
When COVID hit, we did not hesitate to extend our operations into the Peruvian Amazon jungle, where many on the team have spent time and healed from something. I think the villagers along the river have it as hard as anything I’ve ever bore witness to in my life. I knew we had to develop our team and procedures, like Lotus taught me. People are people and everyone wants and needs the same stuff.
First, everyone needs to feel useful. It’s a funny thing in human nature. We do better when we contribute. Whether that is a piece of music, a delicious meal, a dance, or a new software program. Creating is what we are meant to do and with our creation we contribute to the world becoming a better place. This particular village had been in complete and utter despair. Since I know several of the community members personally, and our Regional Director is right next door, they have shared it all with me. The village elders share with Nancy the desperation and hopelessness they feel. One elder cried and said they feel like no one cares about them.
When I went to the village in February and sat with the elders, listening to them, answering their questions, and making a promise that we would return with clean water, a continued food program, and English classes in the school, I could feel their passion for opportunity. Their sense of urgency for clean water was palpable. They spoke to me with gratitude and fervor for the water. Three weeks later, I visited them before departing for my long journey back home in Northern California.
In our first meeting, we spoke about organizing the village into committees. We gave them instruction to develop their teams and their own governance for each project and program Mom’s House would facilitate. Knowing this is vital through my experiences in Africa; I realized these people need the same things! Usefulness, creativity, responsibility, accountability, and purpose.
By the time I left the jungle and had one last meeting, the transformation was shocking. Before I departed to meet with the elders one last time, I had a meeting with the staff at the lodge. We went through a list of community members to help me ascertain who would be committee leaders for each program, in case they didn’t do their homework and organize in my absence.
To my surprise and much to my delight, they did it! Apparently, they had several village wide (that’s 750!) meetings and organized a vote for each of the committee leaders. My heart expanded wide in that moment, for I knew then, we were partners in this experience. We weren’t going to do it for them, but with them. The key to success.
Mom’s House has become their beacon of hope.
This time, when I departed, I was the one crying. I was the one who felt exasperated. I wanted the water system in NOW. I wanted the farm to be full of fresh produce, NOW. I wanted the children to be in school NOW. I wanted healthy, balanced food for these kids NOW. So I made a vow. Much like the one I made as a child and promised God and myself I would help the children of Africa, I knew I had to help the children of the Amazon.
One incredible thing that we are seeing already during this construction phase in Somerset and in the jungle village, Nueve de October, as we prepare to bring clean water to the village, is hope.
Hope changes everything. Hope opens the heart and mind. Hope energizes the emotions and body. Hope breeds possibility. Hope brings creativity, joy, happiness. To inspire hope is something to witness in a place where it had all but left. Yet, it’s still there...in the recesses of the heart.
My hope is that enough of us will care. And, that we will care enough to do something about it.