So, there is one day shortly before I left South Africa that I need to tell you about. I left Hands at Work on Monday, May 2 and flew out of OR Tambo Int’l on Tuesday, May 3. On the previous Friday, my colleague Sam told me that one of the community organizations Hands at Work partners with, Senzokuhle Home Based Care, wanted to have a little farewell before I left. It was decided that we’d meet at the house that’s being built for Ernest and his siblings, who I introduced to you back in March. Seeing as it was a Sunday afternoon, I expected a few of the care workers I’d gotten to know. Not quite.
What followed was something that I only expected when the Academy finally recognizes me with a lifetime achievement award. Almost all of the care workers (close to twenty) were there. They were wearing traditional Swazi celebration dress. Sam and I were seated at a “head table”. To begin , Ernest welcomed everyone to his home and then we all thanked God in song.
What followed, I really didn’t see coming. Some of the children who were cared for by the women you see in the above photo stepped up and delivered speeches about how the care workers had helped them in their lives and what it meant to them.
The girl pictured below was one of the participants. She’s an orphan and an amazing, amazing girl. She’s one of the youth leaders at the care center and a brilliant student. In fact, Hands helped her apply to the residential girls school opened by Oprah Winfrey. Unfortunately, she was past the maximum age for new students to be accepted but this girl is living proof of what kids can become with the even the most minimal support. I think of her often.
Four of the boys performed a traditional African miners dance, where the men keep rhythm slapping their rubber boots. They also sang a traditional African accapella song. Here I am with the boys:
The “piece de resistance” was the traditional dance performed by the care workers. Check it out here.
After this, we had a delicious traditional dinner of fried chicken, pap (maize meal), cabbage and veggies in sauce. As you can see, it was enjoyed by young and old.
It was definitely a bit overwhelming. To be honest, I thought of how ridiculous celebrities must feel when people give them so much praise and attention. I certainly did enjoy the attention and recognition. But I can see how earlier in my life I might have felt guilty about it, like I didn’t deserve it or that I had kind of manipulated things to bringit about. But not on that day. On that day, May 1, 2011, I just felt thankful. During that day, I thanked God that I had been part of the work the care workers had been doing for so long and will continue to do. And I was thankful for the hope and courage the children had given me. It was something so much bigger than me, or Hands at Work, or the care workers. I accepted it as a gift.