By Patrick Halladay
Bob Swanson, John Kelly and I were Peace Corps Volunteer high school teachers in the 1980’s in Lesotho. Bob also worked as a member of the Peace Corps staff for a year, and Pat at Save the Children Fund (UK) for three years. We have remained friends over the years since and finally were able to return together to Lesotho for two weeks in November/December of 2019. In addition to visiting the schools at which we used to teach and looking up some old friends, we wanted to do some volunteer work and started reaching out for opportunities.
Another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Richard Rowan, steered us to Scott Rosenberg at Wittenberg University in Ohio, who in turn recommended Touching Tiny Lives as a great organization. Starting in May of 2019, we corresponded with Lindsay Gilchrist, Nastassia Donoho, Annie Fort, Maddie Penney, and ‘Me Nthabeleng Lephoto. And the plans fell into place!
We arrived at TTL late in the night on Sunday December 1. We stayed at the guest house for two nights. On Monday morning, we met ‘Me Nthabeleng in person. We were so impressed with the wonderful work TTL does to help the most vulnerable children of the Mokhotlong community. ‘Me Nthabeleng told us all about TTL and then we had the chance to visit with the babies under the care of the dedicated staff members. Bob was so happy that he held two babies and rocked them to sleep.
‘Me Nthabeleng arranged for us to go to the Early Childhood Care and Development Center in Thabang, just a few miles from Mokhotlong. Over the next two days, we painted the interior walls of the two-room facility with letters, numbers, animals, food, landmarks, and geometrical shapes. Lots of kids came in to sit with us, play games, and watch us as we painted. John was not sure if he would be good at painting and ended up doing a great job!
After over thirty years, it was a moving experience for the three of us to return to Lesotho and reconnect with a time and a place and a people that meant so much in our lives. Each day offered up special encounters and experiences that left us with uplifted spirits and with a renewed connection with the Basotho people. Our time at Touching Tiny Lives was a highlight of our trip. We are already planning our next visit to the country we love. ‘Me Nthabeleng, we hope to see you again in 2023!
Khotso Pula Nala!
The TTLF Fellow is a representative of the North American organisation The Tiny Lives Foundation. Based for one year in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the TTLF Fellow serves in an administrative support capacity for the Basotho charity TTL.