(written on Friday, June 18th 2010)
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others - Ghandi
I can honestly say that this trip included some of the best days of my life, and I’ve lived a small but significant 20 years. I am on my flight back to San Francisco getting ready to reconnect with my world and all I can think about is how badly I don’t want to forget a single thing I experienced. The people I met within the KCA family will never leave my heart. If you throw in all the people I met in the villages and clinics of South Africa as well, this is one exhausted heart. Many would probably presume that the feeling I have right now is overwhelming sadness. I thought so too. What surprises me though, is how at peace I am within myself. Every single person I came in contact with this past week (feels like a whole month) whether that contact was by a smile, a look, a zulu prayer, a dance, a chat, a hug… every single person gave me a piece of their spirit. I was given pieces of joy… resilience… strength… loss… shame… pride… and I was able to lose myself in each one of these people. They gave me exactly what I needed to look deep inside myself and find where I needed those pieces so that I could find myself in order to be who I want to be. And at the end of every day, while sitting so small in front of the magnificent Indian Ocean, peace consumed me, not sadness. Many may say this trip isn’t about you, but that it’s about the people you saw. Don’t listen to them, my fellow KCA South Africa team. As much as the whole goal of this trip with Keep a Child Alive was to touch people and help them in the most unique of ways, they touched us more than we ever expected them to. They taught us lessons that no parent or guardian could possibly teach us. They helped me to find and love myself so that I could have the skills to touch the world just like they touched me. Because if you don’t love yourself first, how can you go into the world again to step up and fight for those without a voice if you don’t have the guts to find your own? I know that I have the power to contribute to this world as I have dreamed to. I have had this power, even before my trip to South Africa, but I needed those pieces of the powerless and their unconditional love. I needed to find my voice from the child victims at Bobbi Bear and their bears that don’t even speak, so that I can go into the world and speak for them. My photography may not speak either, but I can guarantee you it has a voice. And one day the world will hear that voice. I don’t know how or when, but it will.
Thank you to the film crew that worked with us on this incredible journey. Thank you to the producers and sponsor (P&G) and to Noelle for all of your running around for everyone but yourself every minute of every day.
Thank you to Louise for being there for everyone at all moments and for being the selfless, beautiful person that you are.
Thank you, Leigh, for always inspiring us by your determination every day and for sharing your birthday with us.
Thank you, Earle, for deeply challenging us in our interviews and always encouraging us to let go of anything that is holding us back.
Thank you Alicia for sharing with us your goals and your spirit in every move that you make and for showing incredible love to people you don’t even know.
And thank you to everyone else that contributed to this journey, I can’t thank everyone enough or this will become a book. But my final thanks has to go to the people of Soweto, Johannesburg and of Durban who helped us pull it together inside, especially Rhona, Jackie, and Mum Carol and everyone at these sites that make it possible for KCA to be as great as it is.
I send my love to Talaina, Aaron, Sonya, and Rachel in all of your future endeavors and can’t wait to be reunited with you all when this amazing film is finished. We experienced incredible joy and sorrow together, and even though we live n different parts of the world, our Zulu names that we were given will always hold us together.
Mine can definitely seal the promise of that.
My name: “Zandile” (Zawn-dee-lay)
All my love, Monkey.