It was a very hot day last April and I sat in a plastic chair under the shade of an old Amarula tree looking out over the land that will become the Ekurhuleni Center for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. The land was long ago stripped of trees and the dry autumn grasses gave a dusty feel yet beside me were four people with their heads bent over papers, working together intensely despite the heat. The newly formed board of the Ekurhuleni project had approached the director of a non-profit for help. She was working with them to polish their first attempt at writing a grant and honing their grant writing skills for the future.
I watched and wondered if these sincere and hard working visionaries would succeed. Would they be able to pull in all the pieces and help they would need to turn the three contiguous pieces of land in front of me into a center that would someday serve over 300 of the neediest, most vulnerable children in their community of Tintswalo Village, Mpumalanga, South Africa? If so what would be the magic bullet that allowed this project to succeed when so many others have failed?
The project began within the community. Talitha Mthethwa, a retired nurse who worked for 30 years in the local government hospital, saw firsthand the desperation of too many children in her community. She and other concerned residents of Tintswalo Village came together last year and elected a board of directors to address the problem. They had a vision for a center that would serve as a life line for the neediest children but they would need a great deal of help to make their vision a reality.
Now, after less than a year, the land has been acquired and fenced. The board has filed and received non-profit status. Nina Cohen, a well known architect, heard of the project and offered her services pro-bono. She has created a wonderful contemporary design, using indigenous materials, merging indoor and outdoor spaces with gardens and trees galore.
This week a drill will roll up to the land and begin digging the well. I want to be there to see the first burst of water spurt up from the ground. Just as the name of the non-profit donating the borehole, A Spring of Hope, implies, this will be a moment to celebrate.
The center is becoming a reality because many people and organizations have joined forces, each bringing and offering their gifts and expertise to the project. Community members and non-profits, the local municipal government and local business all coming together to support the vision of a center for their most vulnerable children.
It fuels my sense of what is possible to see what is being accomplished here. So many people collaborating to create the Ekurhuleni Center proves to me that when the I’s and me’s and mine’s dissolve and people work in partnership that the great power of WE is harnessed. Success seems assured and the potential to create change unlimited when the vision inspires people to collaborate and cooperate.
This unfolding story is the type of good news we all need to hear. No one enjoys reading stories of AIDS orphans in Africa. It hurts to hear of a nine year old struggling to care for his younger siblings but it is the situation which has given birth to this good news story. My vote for the magic bullet that is creating success here in Tintswalo Village goes to the the power of WE. If you would like to see the children of Tintswalo and hear and interview with Talitha, please click here.