Sunday, September 27, 2009

Venda Village (Gabby)


I am staying in the village of Hamakuya. It is a Venda village in the northeast of South Africa. Venda is one of the many black ethnic groups of South Africa.

I am writing to express how much I have been affected by my stay. Despite my travels to 15 countries, many of which are impoverished, I have never before experienced this level of feeling for the people I have met. I stayed in the home of one Venda family for two nights and am now staying at a camp about 30 minutes from the village center and visiting the village to do research.

Many famillies here live on less than $150 per month and the average family size is 6 people. A middle to upper class family lives on $450 per month for 6 – 8 people. Keep in mind that most items here cost similar amounts to what we pay in the United States. People here are very dependent on natural resources to make ends meet and spend much of their days collecting firewood, edible plants, and water. Everyone still cooks over a fire.

How do I describe this experince? I sat on the dirt floor of a kitchen with a 60 year old matriarch teaching me how to grind peanuts and cook grits. She brought tea to my room and got down on her knees at the doorstep and bowed her head flat to the ground as a sign of respect. I met a woman named Grace who is my age and has a 5-year old child and a husband. She is studying English all the time because she wants to get a job to provide an education for her daughter. I spent time with a boy named Pardon who is 14 and wants to be an engineer – he asked me if the world had only one sun and one moon and yet he speaks English almost fluently and can already build fully working models of play cars out of scraps from the junkyard. These people do not beg .They are proud and independent. They are not starving, although they are malnourished. There is hope here.

After staying with a family and spending time with many of the children, I have decided to help. An ethnomusicologist named Lara Allen has given up her job to start a non-profit here to bring jobs into the area. One of the main problems is the lack of jobs.

What has affected me the most is the number of highly intelligent children who are motivated to suceed. Despite the poor school system, many of them are just grappling for books and English reading material. Sadly, even if they get top marks, they are unlikely to ever get past high school because of financial limitations and because the education system here does not prepare students to compete with kids at top high schools. My educaiton has been such a gift and it is the least I can do to help other kids get even a basic secondary education.

More soon!
Gabby

18 comments:

Joy said...

Gabby...this picture is astoundingly beautiful and moving. And the story behind it is sad and inspiring at the same time!

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