Visitors Blog – Teho Yoo

Weeks before the trip to S. Africa, many doubts lingered in my head. I made excuses not to go, but soon did I realize the impact I will have for Zimele and the community of S. Africa by embarking on this trip.

I did not know what to expect and personally that is an uncomfortable feeling. Embarking on this trip to a foreign land brought fear and anxiety. Ironically, as soon as we landed in S. Africa, I felt at peace and tranquility. The weather was scorching hot, the land was occupied by luscious green pastures, and the natives were so welcoming. Prior to arriving, I built a wall to guard myself from this foreign land, but in seconds, God provided comfort and trust. I opened my heart and my eyes to the natural beauty of S. Africa. While driving to our first village, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the landscape and beauty of the land. Coming from the states, I am not use to the fresh air and abundant grass fields. This was the start of a life-changing experience.

Our journey took us to 3 villages, observed self-help groups, and to understand how the organization works within these groups and villages. I never felt so welcomed than by the residents from these villages. We arrived like rock-stars. The community opened their homes, cooked amazing food, and danced the night away. What I didn’t expect is the relationship I developed with this country and the people.

I always heard about the organization Zimele and what they stood for. And after embarking on this trip, I realized how powerful this organization is. The impact on these communities by directing and training the people to save money, create businesses, and build agriculture in the hopes of self-sustainability rather than depend on monetary donations. This enables the community to be independent, build self-esteem, confidence, and pride. Throughout this journey, I realized the community successfully saved money, but relentlessly sacrificed for the better of the community. By helping the elderly, the sick, and most importantly the children.

The last village we encountered was Mtubatuba. This village just started their savings group. As we entered the village, the women welcomed 14 foreigners with the traditional Zulu dance. We were then directed to a room to have lunch that was prepared by the women. I imagined the struggle, the despair, and hopeless nights these amazing women endured before encountering Zimele. And now they used their gifts of cooking, craftsmanship, and hospitality as a means of income.

After the welcome celebration, we took a stroll to a day-care that was occupied by 15 infants inside a small shack. 14 foreigners greeted 15 infants at the doorway. These beautiful infants were timid and glared at the unusual sight of foreigners. We looked intently at the despair of these little infants. It was an emotional encounter. The shack had no room for the children to play, no place to rest, and no toys. Not what a day-care should be. At this moment, I was overwhelmed by emotions; anger and despair and wanted to do something for the children. Then I heard whispering going around my team and overheard one infant had AIDS. As soon as I heard, a little child made its way to the door. Our team became silent and our hearts dropped.

Our journey was mostly filled with joy observing all the success and development in these communities. But our last village was totally opposite. They were less developed. Our team debriefed that night and emotions leaked through our eyes. And in our eyes we saw despair, but in the eyes of the women of the village, they saw hope and a future.

As we departed from S. Africa, the image of the despair of the children left a permanent reminder not to go back to the states and live our normal lives. Most importantly, introduce the awareness of Zimele. As the staff of Zimele in S. Africa work tirelessly, we can do our part here at the states. To improve the lives of these beautiful children. I leave you with 2 images I look at every day…
Children of S AfricaMtubatuba day-care (2)
Children of S. Africa and the Mtubatuba Day Care

– Teho Yoo

 

 

 

 

 

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