Botshabelo Community and Village, Part 2. For more info, Click Here
I don’t know why I’m not crying right now.
We just left Botshabelo for the second time. The donation bags hadn’t arrived in time for our Sunday visit, so we returned today. We unpacked and sorted the clothes and medical supplies of the twenty or so fifty pound bags in a room about fifteen feet square. Each of us took one child at a time to pick out clothes. That meant there were usually about forty people in that one room, all digging through the once neat stacks of shirts and shoes, calling out and climbing over one another. It was chaos. I gained a deeper level of respect for Marion and Con Cloete after experiencing firsthand the difficulty of managing over two hundred kids. Unlike us, leaving exhausted after three hours, they live there.
When it came time to leave, I realized I had barely connected with anyone because I was so stressed about finding the right size of pants for boys who were happy just to get pants. I had no one to say teary goodbyes to, so I hugged kids I’d never met and left dry-eyed. Maybe my lack of tears is because I know I’ll be back someday or maybe because I know they are in a happy, loving home. Maybe I just haven’t realized I’ve left yet and soon I’ll fall apart.
We returned to Botshabelo today. Various shipping errors delayed the bags full of supplies, so they were not available during our first visit. Additionally it gave us a good excuse to see the kids again. Alas, we pulled into the driveway and saw once again the place we so loved. The green and yellow sun-parched grass contrasted with the black, fire-scorched ground. Controlled burns seemed to be the preferred way of clearing fields in Joburg. We parked neatly on a small expanse of grass and the kids who had been eagerly awaiting our return started accumulating. We wasted no time hauling our duffel bags (full of medical supplies such as a defibrillator, various vitamins, and clothes) into a small convenient wooden house where we separated the clothes and prepared them for the kids. After they were all segmented into the appropriate sections by gender and size, we each took a kid in and dressed them in a top, pants, jacket, shoes, and a hat. If they were the right size, we labeled the clothes according to each child’s designated number to ease the process of doing laundry for over two hundred children. After we had each dressed several kids, we moved on to the more independent teens and adults. The leftover baby clothes were given to the village mothers in the township’s houses sprinkled around Botshabelo.
The kid that had taken a liking to me on our first trip to Botshabelo was definitely an interesting little dude. After a little pestering, he disclosed his name to me: “Moo” he said jokingly with a playful twinkle. He insisted fervently that it was his real name, but that might have been short for something or a nickname. He was eight and incredibly wise for his age. He was very observant and would constantly lead me around noticing things before me. He obviously lived very much in the moment and was not one to daydream and wander. He was one of minimal words, and that could have been because his English wasn’t superb, or it could have been because he was careful to choose the most accurate ones. His sense of humor was also pretty dynamic and I enjoyed slaving around relentlessly, bolstering him with constant shoulder rides. One time I gave another kid a ride and immediately learned that I should not be unfaithful to him. Lesson learned. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him, and when we said goodbye for the second and final time, he let me hug him, a tremendous and precarious feat that no other person had accomplished. We said goodbye reluctantly and entered the bus mournfully.