When I went to my first refugee camp nearly three years ago now, I thought I would be meeting Syrians.
My brain automatically related the word ‘refugee’ with the war in Syria that I was seeing all over the news…
I wasn’t expecting the melting pot of nationalities that was the Calais Jungle… Eritreans, Afghans, Sudanese, Kurds… Multiple continents, cultures, religions, and languages were represented in that little corner of Calais…
I guess that’s what made it so special.
I very quickly learnt that there are refugees from all over the world.
Whilst in South Africa this month I happened to be chatting to a friend who told me his grandmother had set up an orphanage and school on her farmland.
I was super inspired by the stories he told me so I decided to go and visit and find out more…
I was staying in Cape Town, and we drove for a couple of days across the country to get there. Her farm was on the border of Lesotho, a small country surrounded by South Africa (it’s kind of inside South Africa if that makes sense).
When I met the kids I started to understand that most of them, or their mothers at least, had come from poorer Lesotho into South Africa to find work. Many of these mothers either married or had children with South African men, hoping to be able to stay / dreaming of a better life for their kids.
The thing is, this actually leaves these kids stateless. Not registered in Lesotho OR South Africa, they are not recognised in either country and left to struggle outside of the system. They have no access to healthcare and can’t even go to school.
Often these Lesotho mammas are forced, due to difficult circumstances, to go back to their homeland and leave their children behind. This has left a huge number of children living on the South African side of the Lesotho border, trapped in a cycle of poverty that, with no education or resources, is near impossible to climb out of.
Seeing this all around her, my friends Grandma, Marieta, decided to do something about it. She first set up two children’s homes for the street children in the area, then a school, the ‘Lethoteng Learning Centre’.
The headteacher of the school is her own adopted son, born to a Lesotho mother who died in childbirth (but I will tell you more about his incredible story in another post).
The school now provides education and one meal per day for over 100 kids who otherwise don’t have the means to eat or learn….and going there was AMAZING.
The kids sung for us as we arrived and were super loving, friendly and funny throughout…especially laughing at Tribe member Levi when he crashed our drone! But the most amazing part of this whole experience for me was how one woman, one family have made such a huge difference.
Marieta’s two daughters are also both involved with the running of the school, and along with her son, they have changed the lives and the futures of over 100 children…whilst dramatically reducing things like begging, substance abuse and juvenile crime in their area.
They were not teachers or humanitarians, they were a family of farmers who didn’t close their eyes to the problem they were faced with. They took action as human beings, for their fellow human beings.
The Worldwide Tribe team were super inspired not just by this passion, but by the impact it was having and would love to help this family achieve their goals which are:
1. No child should be hungry or illiterate. In their area at first, and then further afield
2. To convert negativity to practical, productive actions
3. To help build lives
Does this inspire you to take an action?
If you would like to VOLUNTEER at the school in South Africa please contact:
If you don’t have the time or capacity to actually go, perhaps you can support the school by DONATING:
If you don’t have time or money, please SHARE this post through social media.
Between us we all have something to give!
Jaz and The Worldwide Tribe