Monday, March 18, 2013

life and tragedy

Okay, okay. “Expect another post on Sunday” was a little ambitious for me to say last week, especially since St. Patrick’s Day was yesterday and I didn’t get home until late. Anyway, no more excuses.

I suppose this post will be a little different, and a little more personal. On Friday, we had VCE and the theme was “shapes and colors.” We showed the kids different shapes and colors and also had them color in the South African flag, which has a lot of basic colors and shapes within it. Afterwards, we helped some of the kids play Twister while others were in line to get their faces painted by us—they had squares, triangles, stars, and hearts all over their faces! So cute.

After each session on Fridays, we “check out” and gather in a huge group. Our VCE leader, Donavan, explained that there had been a fire in the township of Kayamandi the night before. There were 600 families who lost their homes, with about 4 in a household…so that’s about 2,500 people. There were also two people who died in the fire. I didn’t even know that Kayamandi had that many people living in it.

That’s when I realized that the town of Stellenbosch is a bit of a bubble and that many people have never been to Kayamandi, let alone heard of it. Keep in mind that Kayamandi is a small-ish community on a hill in the middle of Stellenbosch. It's hard to miss. Many of these people live in tiny apartment-style homes or in shacks. All of these homes are tightly-packed and close to each other. Also, the wind in the Western Cape can get pretty harsh, so the fire spread to 600 houses quickly and fairly easily.

Let’s also keep in mind that these people do not have a lot to begin with. Not much food, clothing, toiletries, etc. And all of that was stripped away from them in one night.

Just imagine.

It’s still difficult for me to fathom this concept. I don’t understand why tragedies like this have to happen to the people who deserve it the least.

Luckily, since Stellenbosch University is Kayamandi’s neighbor, so we all came together to donate clothes, blankets, food, and toiletries to the township and its people. But it’s not even its people: it’s our people. We act as if there’s us and then there’s them. As if we aren’t all one in the same. Just because that they have less items or money. Because they’re living in poverty. Our group has been told that, in reality, all of us are living with poverty. Poverties. We’re all poor. They may be poorer in terms of money, but some of us are poor in terms of knowledge. Creativity. Handiness.
We are all poor.

And then I think of my children—babies, actually—who I teach every Friday. They go to school, but what happens after? Did they all have homes to go back to? Did they have a meal to eat, a bed to sleep in? It’s so sad. So so sad. Because I love these kids and they help me more than I help them. They teach me to not worry for an hour and to be present and in the moment and they teach me how to have fun.

I just wish that I could always be with them and sing and play and color, because I don’t want them to see the sad things that can happen outside of school. Fires. Death. Crime. But they will see things like that, because that’s life. They’re just so young and innocent. So innocent. One of my kids’ fathers passed away recently and I can’t even imagine how he feels. He probably doesn’t understand; just feels this empty sadness. I just wish that life didn’t have to be this confusing and sad and tragic sometimes.

I don’t know where I was going with this post, but I wanted to talk about the subject somewhere. Although this was a blog post for everyone to read, I also just really needed it for myself and my own sanity. So if you read this, thank you.

‘Til next time,


  1. Christina, society will improve when people like you step into power. Life does not have to be filled with poverty, disease & death. We're all the masters of this Universe. Life changes when we decide we want better for all of us. Continue to spread the light. <333 Janelle

  2. Honey, thanks for sharing this blog. I could not keep the tears away while reading. I do not have the answers and can only say that it changes all of your focus and you want to help one child, one family, one community at a time. I would love to know how your kids and family are doing? Please let me know if there's anything we can do on our end to help those families!!!