By Stephanie Amaya (First Fifth Global Advocate)
Six months ago I was talking about building a home for the kids of St. Timothy’s School. I myself was questioning if I would be able to do such a huge task. Building a home for hundreds of kids to live in seemed like a task far over my head. I trusted my gut and my heart and without fear, well maybe a little bit of fear, I bit the the gun and took a risk of leaving everyone and everything behind on a mission to help others. By far, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
I was set out to project manage the construction of a boarding home and found that I wasn’t only working the foundation of a home, I was working on my own personal foundation too. I learned that it’s a slow process that requires patience. It may take a few times to get something right. Someone once told me, two things define you, patience when you have nothing and attitude when you have everything and they’re absolutely right. The most valuable lesson I learned is patience and attitude. It’s all about those two things. My attitude on certain things not all, needed improvement and I was here to tweak that part of my foundation. Patience is something we all have but I wasn’t very good at practicing it. I had no other choice but to be patient when I was on the back of a dala dala in the hot sun squished between two big mama’s plus their carry-ons for two hours trying to get to school (and I used to complain about my one hour commute to work in SF). Things don’t always go as you plan so you can’t get all bent out of shape because of it. It’s not worth you getting all upset. All you’re doing is creating tension in your own world and environment. Attitude. This will make or break someone. Your outlook on life etc, is based on not only your perception on things but also on your attitude when perceiving. I could have been miserable complaining the whole time hating the world for being stuck for all eternity on the dala dala trying to get to school, but instead I laughed and thought how hilarious I looked, I’m sure, drenched in sweat in the middle of these two big mama’s on this almost broke down dala dala in the middle of Africa. Patience and attitude is everything.
Building a home for the kids of St. Timothy’s has been the best accomplishment, ever. I took on the project when only the foundation and the roof was built. The process of getting the home move-in ready indeed took three months time. None of the rooms had been plastered, none of the flooring had been done, the bathrooms were just rooms, and the plumbing and electricity was not set up. Three months later we have running water, 8 fully plastered rooms, the bathrooms set with running water to the toilets, sinks, and showers, 3 huge septic tanks in place, and electricity running throughout the whole house. The home was done and ready for the kids right before my departure back to the US. I was excited and overjoyed to physically help and see the kids move in.
Move in day was a long eventful day. We all started (kids included of course!) with moving the bed frames out of all the rooms loading piece by piece into the hired truck.
After, we moved the mattresses and whatever accessories the kids had out of the caterpillar house onto the trucks, did a last round check to ensure we had everything, and we were off to the boarding home. Some in the truck and most in the school bus. As we rode off, the kids looked almost relieved to have peacefully ended their chapter at the caterpillar house and to begin a new one at the boarding home. When we touched down, we immediately got to work. Unloading frame by frame, mattress by mattress, suitcase by suitcase. Some of the teachers were putting the frames together, while others instructed the kids on what to do and where to go. After a good few hours, the kids were settled. The beds in place with sheets and mosquito nets in place. Suitcases all lined up ready to be unpacked. The kids looked so eager and proud. They looked at me with huge smiles on their faces, asking me “teacher, what do you think?” I replied, “amazing, this is all too amazing!”
The reward for my hard work wasn’t getting a pat on my back from Pastor James, nor was it getting a blessing from Beatrice, it was seeing the kids faces when they moved in. The joy I saw in their little faces to have a place of their own. A room to themselves with their own bathrooms and showers. They had the space to play, to run around, to be free, to be kids. The caterpillar house was a great home to them but it had things that 80 kids lack, space to play outside and space to move around in their own rooms. Seeing the kids after the move running around freely, happily, playing in the playground, going down the slide, swinging in the swings at sunset. That was my reward. I comprehended completely why the kids needed out of the caterpillar house and onto school grounds. I did it. I gave 80 kids a place they can finally call home. They all taught me something about themselves and about me. They all inspired so much light and made me appreciate truly what I have been given. An opportunity to change the life of children doesn’t come often, and here I was a California girl making a difference. A huge difference for that matter. I will never forget the kids of St. Timothy’s School. They will forever have a place in my heart. The boda boda (motorcycle) came to drive me back home to Soweto. he kids ran to me saying their good bye’s giving me hugs and high fives.
As I left for the day, I felt full. I felt overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment where for the first time ever, I actually DID something. My whole reason and existence for being here is now complete. I’m not talking about scoring some high ranking position at a top 500 company or finally getting the car of my dreams. No, I actually did something to change the lives of young, talented, motivated, smart, full of light kids. Something I think I have become addicted to. A dream so far fetched I once had of changing the world isn’t so out there anymore. It has become my reality.
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