When we arrived at the MylifE Foundation I was intimidated. I saw 20 rough and worn looking individuals, ranging in age from 8 to 30. Most were visibly scarred.
“We are not okay.” This was one of the first bits of information that Linzi Thomas, the founder of MylifE, shared with us. Linzi is a fireball. She radiates strength, compassion, humor, and perseverance. She had a cruel and intense childhood and as a result she understands what it is like to feel hopeless. Her goal is to create a better situation for as many abandoned children as possible and to help them become hopeful again.
Linzi showed us 3 short film clips about the daily life of street children in South Africa. Linzi is an amazing filmmaker/producer. This was beautifully and devastatingly demonstrated in the harsh movie clips we watched. After we watched the clips Linzi spoke to us about the traumatizing realities of these children. I was in shock. These kids have faced unbearable, unacceptable, life shattering experiences. Their stories of rape, abandonment, drugs, and street life overwhelmed me to the point where I mentally shut down. They had absolutely everything taken away from them, yet they made the choice to keep going and to try to change their lives.
I spoke to two boys who told me that they were abandoned and left to care for their younger siblings. They had to deal with violence, abuse, and drugs. They felt disregarded and thrown away by everyone around them. Their strong will, determination and hope led them to MylifE where Linzi gave them opportunities to better their lives.
We met many strong, amazing and talented individuals at MylifE. One young girl had made international news because of her incredible voice. Another young man, Wiseman, is a successful movie electrician. It was astonishing to see how these young men and women had turned their lives around. They all seemed hopeful, happy and determined. I am sure that I will be back here to support these beautiful people. I will help. MylifE Foundation is integral to this country’s healthy future.
Today was amazing. It is hard to put my thoughts and feelings into words. The people at MylifE are street children varying in age from 8 to 30. Hearing about their hardships was heartbreaking.
They all had so much talent. One of the girls was even nationally renowned for her singing. Some wrote, some created beautiful art, and a couple are some of South Africa’s the best soccer players.
It was extremely difficult to watch the videos of the children. Listening to their stories made us all emotional. One of them began to cry as he told us about his life. Talking to these individuals changed my view of the world and existence.
Just after leaving MylifE we went to a mall. The contrast was obvious. I am happy that I have my family and friends to care for me. At the same time, I feel sad for all of the people who don’t have families.
I know that the people from MylifE will be part of me forever and I will be part of them. We will keep in touch, knowing that all of our lives have been changed through our meeting each other.
MylifE was a satisfying end to the trip. It really drove home how problematic poverty and gangsterism is in South Africa. It was shocking to hear what these young men and women were driven to do because of poverty and lack of parental support. One of the men we talked to named Knowledge attributed his life of gangsterism to not having guidance. He eventually found himself alone and turned to the people who promised him brotherhood; the gangs. We also talked to Manie who said he turned to gangsterism because the gangsters he knew had nice clothes and fancy cars. Knowledge said that he felt that the gangsters in South Africa were good people who turned to gangs out of desperation. For many homeless children joining a gang is the only way to survive on the streets.
I have two extraordinary parents. They are loving, caring, and beautiful people. I have a little brother who, while sometimes infuriating, is a wonderful boy. I know I will eat when I am hungry and have warm clothes when I am cold. The young adults at My life are mostly orphans. Most do not know where their next meal will come from. They do not have homes, or beds to sleep in. Many are sick with HIV/AIDS. And many are trying to care for their younger siblings. I knew that I had a privileged life but seeing and hearing about the struggles of these children has been life changing.
The people we have met have been happy and open to learn and love. They have taught us so much. They embody our definition of ubuntu. Our understanding of the meaning of ubuntu has changed on this trip. We came to South Africa with the idea that ubuntu meant, people are people through other people. Everyone we have met on this journey has helped us to expand our definition. Now we know that to tell someone they have ubuntu is the highest form of praise. Ubuntu is what it means to be human. The love, generosity, caring and help we give others, is ubuntu. The MylifE participants, who welcomed us with open arms and a smile, have ubuntu.