Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happiness, Heartbreak, and How you can Help.

Its taken me awhile to sit down and write this entry. I've been feeling a range of emotions and just haven't known exactly what to say. But I'm going to try.

On August 16, Will, Heidi, Bryan, Asara, and I loaded up the car and headed out to Eesterust. We were there to cheer on the Buffalo Boys, the soccer team that we support in Maria's township. After their game, we were doing a braii (read: cookout) for them.

We headed to the soccer field, a patch of dirt with two posts on either end to mark the goals. The field was full of boys in AYSO jerseys (donated from someone back home). I was so happy to see these boys smiling, laughing, and playing soccer. At the same time, my heart broke that they were shoeless and without protective gear (shin guards, socks, padding for the goalie). They played in dirt rather than on grass. When their ball went out of bounds, it went into the street.

We cheered the Buffalo Boys to victory that day. Yay! They returned to Maria's house where we grilled up a feast and popped popcorn. The little girls from Christmas were happy to see me again and we played and played. The Buffalo Boys loved taking "jumping pictures" where I would say "1, 2, 3" and then they'd jump and I'd snap the shot. Then they insisted on taking individual photos. Did I mention that they also wore their jerseys backward the entire time?

It was so fun - I really had the best day hanging out with these wonderful children.


Asara is getting held by the cute girls and boys!

Towards the end of the afternoon, Maria introducted me to two boys. One boy, Thabang, had appendicitis and got his appendix removed. I asked to see his scar, which essentially looked like a Frankenstein wound - all jagged, swollen, and awful looking. Thabang said he still felt pain from his wound and I could see why. I asked him how I could help him and he said, "Madame, I am happy. I do not need anything." I look at Maria, look back at him and gently say, "No really... how can I help you?" The same answer. I look back to Maria and say, "How can I help?"

It turns out he has no food to eat. Maria feeds him what she can but he is an orphan and has no one to depend on. Every day I bring something to work for Heidi to give to Maria so Thabang can have something to eat. I bought a big thing of peanut butter and a big thing of jelly and so I buy loaves of bread (have I ever mentioned that a loaf of brown bread costs less than $1 here???) and bring them to her throughout the week so he can have sandwiches.

And here's where I say: if you were literally starving and someone asked you how they could help you, would you be able to smile at them and say you are fine?

And my heart broke.

Maria then introduced me to Nico. Nico was the soccer team star - he has amazing skills on the field. He's a shy boy and wouldn't look me in the eye. I asked him about the soccer team and then asked him if I could help him in any way. The same answer, "Madame, I am fine. Thank you for asking." I look at Maria and back at this boy, who I can tell has pain in his heart. I ask him again - "Madame, I am fine." I look back at Maria, she speaks to him in Sesotho, and then he looks at me and back down again.

"School."

I look at Maria and she explains that he has no uniform to go to school. He needs the uniform and he needs shoes. I tell Maria - no problem. Will and I can buy him what he needs - just tell me how. Nico lights up at the news and thanks me profusely, as much as a shy boy can do.
And here's where I say: if you were literally growing out of your clothes and had no shoes for your feet and someone asked to help you, would you be able to smile at them and say you are fine?

And so my heart broke into a thousand pieces.

I have mentioned this before, but Maria is an AMAZING woman who cares so much for her town. She has saved and saved and saved and has finally saved enough purchase land to build an orphanage for all the children in her town. That afternoon, we went to see the lot of land to take measurements and see what work is cut out for us.

On the way back, we stopped by Nico's house.

And my heart broke into a million pieces.

Nico's "home" is a crumbling cement building that was never finished. Weeds grow inside the walls. Its incredibly unsafe. There is one area in which they dragged some scrap metal and they have made a roof, but his home is weeds, dirt, trash, and crumbling cement bricks. On the ground laid his gugu (grandma), who had swollen legs and was coughing up something awful. On the ground beside her were two little girls coated in flies as they played in the dirt. Nico's mother happened to be home - apparently she leaves him for months at a time so Nico is primarily cared for by his gugu, who is obviously very ill. Maria tells Nico's mother how we will help him and she weeps. In my life, I've never seen someone cry like that over someone else's offer to help. I asked her not to cry and hugged her, but I think that made it worse. She just wept and wept.

And my heart broke into a billion pieces.
I left Eesterust that day with a pain in my heart that I have never felt before. It was a day that changed my life forever. I left that day knowing that I must do everything I can to help leave this beautiful community a better place than I found it. When I had met these children before, I had no idea that these were the conditions that they lived in. I noticed the children had holes in their clothes and no shoes on their feet and that the ate like they had never eaten before, but it didn't sink in until I saw their homes how badly these children hurt.

I have to do everything I can to help this beautiful community that is so rich in love for one another but so poor in every other respect. I have to keep the soccer team going so that these boys have a bright spot in their otherwise dark lives. I have to build an orphanage to provide shelter and care for these children who have no one. I have to feed the hungry who would otherwise dig through the trash for scraps. I have to clothe the naked who can't go to school without the proper uniform. I have to use the gifts that God has given me to help in every way I can. I have to tell their story to anyone who will listen.

Immediate plans to assist Eesterust include hosting several fundraiser dinners to raise money to purchase shoes and shin guards for the Buffalo Boys. I think we can raise the $500 needed to take care of this need among our friends here in SA.

The orphanage? We're starting at ground zero with just the 5 of us (Maria, Heidi, Bryan, Will and I). We have to level the lot, build the space, and buy supplies. Wow. Maria wants the orphanage to have 5 rooms where the children can come for school tutoring, food, clothes, and a safe place to play and sleep. It will primarily be a day center, but for those children that have no where to sleep at night, they can stay there too. It will be 100% staffed by volunteers from the community.



This is a picture of part of the lot of the future orphanage.
Our work is cut out for us!


And so here it is: we are looking for ways to help Maria raise the money she needs to build the center. I am asking friends and family to seek donations for the construction of the building and initial start up items like beds, tables, and chairs. We estimate this to cost about $3,000. I know that purse strings are tight due to the recession so please know that any amount would be incredibly appreciated. Remember how I said $1 would buy a loaf of bread? $1 can buy at least 3 bricks for the building. $10 can buy 30 bricks. $25 can buy 75 bricks. As you can see, a little goes a long way. Even if you donate the change you have in your pocket or purse right now, you will make a change with change. Maybe you have a jar full of change you've been collecting - here's your chance to make change with change!

Heidi's mother has donated a quilt she made and we have decided to raffle it off. Any person donating $10 or more will be given a chance to win the quilt. We will inform the lucky winner at the end of September. We have set up a paypal account so people can pay either from their bank account or with a credit card. https://www.paypal.com/ (click on send money). The email address is bdestro@yahoo.com. We are working on getting a website made to show how much money we raise for this incredible cause! Stay tuned...



The quilt that will be raffled off! Beautiful!

I hope you will consider making a donation today. Even $1 will get us one step closer to getting this orphanage constructed.

We are also accepting donations of supplies and goods if you feel more comfortable donating supplies than money. Please leave your email address in the comments field of this entry and I will get in touch with you. Maybe you want to help the soccer team and have used soccer equipment, practice jerseys, cones, etc. that you could send to South Africa. Or perhaps you know a furniture store that would agree to send mattresses and beds overseas for the orphanage. Maybe you know someone willing to come here and provide medical services, such as dental care or basic health care services. Maybe you know a clothing store that needs a charity to cast off clothes to. Maybe you have old children's books that you don't know what to do with - truly, anything can and will help.

From Eesterust, we thank you for your support!
Picture above: Bryan, Maria, Will, and Valerie at the site of the future orphange
(the scrap metal building behind us will be knocked down)

See more on life with Maria by clicking on the "Maria" label at the bottom of this post.

6 comments:

rachel. said...

valerie--

i'm going to talk to my principal and see if we can get approval to do a major fund raiser for you through the club that I advise at work. Send me any additional info that you can, including a physical address to which I can mail funds.

Will and Valerie said...

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! You are so super.

My address is a US one - it just takes a couple weeks to reach me:
Will & Valerie Naglich
9300 Pretoria Place
Dulles, VA 20189

Let me know what additional info you need - I have loads. We are still waiting on the council to formally approve the name of the orphanage (Maria had to submit 5 and then they choose one). Once I know the name, I'll let you know. I know it helps folks to put a name to something when they're donating.

If you need pictures or anything else, just let me know!

THANK YOU!!!

rachel. said...

i'm hoping that we'll be able to make cash donations, but we might only be able to donate goods. if it's goods that we can do, what would you want? soccer/sports stuff? uniforms in various sizes? shoes? socks? dishes? food? how many boys are on the soccer team? just let me know what you need and let me know the name of the orphanage when you have it. that'll help my case. :)

Nicole said...

Ok - you've got to know that I'm fully in tears reading your post! I'm in - SO in! I can send clothes, shoes, donation, whatever! My initial investment is $300. Let me know how best to use it - be it clothes sent from the US or in a check sent directly to you. I'll put it in the mail this week. As you know, my company will match any donation I make, so if you get the name of the orphanage, I can have them make a matching contribution. I'll find out if they have to have some special designation. I'll also start to make collections from my youth group - these kids want for nothing. I'll have them clean out their closets and we'll create a care package for your kids. I'm on it Valerie - let me know how else I can help.

Much love to you both!
Nicki

Sharkbear said...

That was a very moving story, and I'm going to try to spread the word in any way I can.

grantandsara said...

Valerie,

What an amazing story! I love your big dreams, and I can't wait to read more about the orphanage and the Buffalo Boys.

We'll be praying for all of you,
Sara