Blitz Boots & butterflies

And so, the countdown begins…..

The packing commences and the boots are in.

In the words of one of our long-term volunteer veterans, Ken Kingston;

‘After months of planning it’s time to make this project a reality, Khayletisha 2016!
13 classrooms, kitchen, toilet block and a playground – 270 volunteers, 2 sites, 1 week—- no pressure!’

As I look at the smiling face of one of the children from last years Building Blitz and the transformation of a previous school in Ummangaliso, I am overwhelmed by the knowledge that this time next week, I will be part of a team of people, every day people, who want to make education a right of passage for every child in South Africa.

The pictures show classrooms before and after Mellon Educate begins its work. The transformation of dark, tin roofed shacks becoming brightly painted, airy spaces with desks and chairs and walls of books. There are also pictures of children and their families – where their eyes tell a million stories about the struggle and hardship they endure every day, layered with hope and a determination to enjoy a brighter future. ‘The eyes are the windows to the soul’ and I sit here, uncertain of the emotions that will surface when those eyes are looking directly back at me…. when those stories become a reality. But I know I must greet them with respect and pride -because these children are not awaiting our pity – they await a hand, to help them up and guide them forwards, so that they can give back to their communities one day too.

All of this also helps focus my fear of flying, my nerves at leaving my children and my lack of commitment to Weightwatchers with Christmas pending 😉

So, when packing the boots – I know they are more than just practical footwear. Their a symbol of the grit and commitment to come…. providing I wear them in beforehand, otherwise they will be a symbol of blistered toes.

It’s always hard to imagine a world different to our own.
Although, in some ways, I think it isn’t going to be entirely different from a malfunctioning estate in Hackney I’ve worked on to try and steer 9 & 10 year olds out of gang affiliation and street work, but.

We don’t like to think of poverty here, in the UK.
It’s not a direct association – but it exists in vast pockets, masked by a social function of opportunity, prosperity, working people and shop filled high streets, coffee shops and a little Waitrose.
Our functionality of the basics is also given and we accept it as so. Education, health care, the law.

In South Africa, nothing is a given if you are born into a Township. From what I am learning, a long long way away – Township life comes with little choice, violence, a basic need for survival.
In today’s media driven world and picture snapshots of other places, other faces, we can sometimes feel saturated by images of lost children, worn torn countries, poverty, gang crime incidents, drugs effects and negative spirals of where the world is taking us.
My thinking is, let’s not let the world take us by surprise. Let us not dictate who can have and who can have not. Let’s do something about it?
Let’s put some boots on, take a step forwards and create places that people can thrive. Create spaces that children can feel capable to be who they dream and shape the future into a kinder, happier, more hopeful place.

Let’s enterprise change, be bold and continue to “change lives and build friendships.”

These boots mean business!


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