Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ode to a Teen

Their collective name can incite terror in many, stirring up memories of their own experience, rapidly bringing to the surface repressed feelings, frustrations and uncontrollable hormones: Teenagers!
This week's column however is not a moan and groan session about what they do (or in most cases – don't do) but rather an appreciation of one specific teen who opened up my eyes to the possibilities within these unique and interesting tribe of human beings and will hopefully do the same for you.
iKhaya LikaBaba (a transition home for orphaned and abandoned babies) recently had the privilege of getting to know a grade 11 high school student from Empangeni High (and the cheerleaders in the background chorus 'Go Empangeni High!') as she arrived at 7.30am and left at 4pm every day to volunteer at our organisation. Her input included looking after babies, stock taking, phoning, filing and general administration. She gave of her time and made a significant impact by lifting some of the workload off our already tired and weary shoulders. What was especially noteworthy was that every day during the holidays, as I drove around doing errands, I saw teenagers hanging around seemingly doing very little.
Here is the moment of truth: not only did she impact our organisation but she now has a unique work experience to add to her CV. Her actions indicate that she cares about others and that she is prepared to go the extra mile, sometimes at personal cost. If I were considering candidates for employment, she would definitely pique my interest and raise her profile above the rest of the crowd.
The many non profit organisations in this area make for wonderful opportunities for teens to get involved, meet new people, broaden their horizon, make a difference in the lives of others and at the same time building a little bit of history and credibility (of course, a nicely written reference always goes down well). We may not have all the facilities available to entertain our teenagers that they would like, but maybe if we could help them look beyond their own needs and see the needs of others, we could raise a generation that grow up to be truly remarkable individuals.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Power and Privilege of a Nation

I was driving around taking and fetching children to a Holiday Club held by the Calvary Baptist Church in Richards Bay, when I had one of those moments. You know what type of moment I mean? The kind that draws you away from reality and allows your mind to wander, consider and reflect - where not even a car full of rowdy boys can intrude.

I have seen how as moms, we are constantly challenged with aspects of life that causes us - though surrounded by mankind (or in my case Empangenites) - to live as an island. It's not necessarily that we are alone but we are so busy with school, aftercare, daycare, after school activities, homework and all the other activities we are busy with; that we forget to connect with other moms. Often the only way we connect is by having turns to host each other's kids, or maybe while shouting along the side of a school field as our children play in a school match. (Now please don't get me wrong if you aren't like me, I know there are a rare breed of very together moms and you are truly an icon to many. But as for me, I am anything but heavenly , in fact some days I can't find my halo but sense that I am dragging a rather dubious red tail behind me instead! )

But back to the point: Alone we are weak, but together we have power. Now I am not suggesting we grab our proverbial picket boards and stand outside the uMhlatuze Municipality chanting for the rights of women. But we should stand together, help each other, be generous in our time and insights.

Just this week, my children have had a fantastic time at the holiday club. They have loved the puppet shows, songs, activities and of course food. I happened to bump into an acquaintance today and she didn't even know there was something happening in Richards Bay for the children. She was devastated as her son, who has been on holiday the whole week was obviously at home every day with their nanny. What a pity, for her to be left out of the loop. And who is the guilty party? Can I point a finger? Of course not. I am the one. I should have looked around me and said 'Who else would be interested in something like this?' - but my life "is too busy", "don't have time" , "other things on my mind" and the likes. The irony is that in the future I may have grown a friendship through that small act, and she will most likely have kept me up to date of other things she had heard of.

When we stop with our island mentality, we have the ability to have the strength of a nation. We can become better at what we do, have the support we need to cope with day to day struggles and just have fun! But its hard. We don't know who to trust or who to open up to. I hope this column, though often will be about my own personal struggles will be an opportunity for others to do the same and let others in, share of who you are and to enjoy this role that was given to us - that of motherhood. Truly it is a privilege to know that we are those chosen to prepare the next generation to do wonderful things, things that can change the world as we know it.

No painter's brush, nor poet's pen
In justice to her fame
Has ever reached half high enough
To write a mother's name.
~Author Unknown