By Seth Mwonga Mulli:
My experience at the Mamelodi Initiative is an unforgettable one. I attended the last week of the program, wishing that I had attended the full 3weeks but hey God's timing is perfect. I arrived at the Tuks Mamelodi campus, filled with excitement yet sheepishly nervous not knowing what to expect. Not everyone is inclined to teaching, so I was a quite nervous to say the least. However, once you jump out of the train there is no turning back. So, I marched on head raised high, heart humbled and ready to serve! I was assigned a class of grade 7 pupils. I instantly fell in love with the kids I (and my co-teacher) was teaching. Some students didn’t know how to complete simple math sums, or construct simple sentences. In that moment I realized how privileged I was to have had a good education. I also realized the great plight that was at hand, right in front of me. The statistics were now no longer just numbers but faces. Reality hit me. The evidence was right in front of me, and I had the opportunity to change the statistics.
The Mamelodi Initiative is a project or program designed to elevate the literacy levels of the children in the Mamelodi area of Pretoria. The project is run by a group of volunteers, most of whom are students, in partnership with some young Americans. You can read more about it on their website listed at the bottom of this piece.
I’ve always wanted to change the world, and believed that I needed money and a great idea and BAM! New world! But, in actual fact all I needed was with within me. During one lunch break, as I watched the kids eating and conversing, it hit me (light bulb moment!), I was looking at the future of our country. A sobering realization as the pessimist in me asked why I was doing this; was it ever going to make any change? Was I wasting my time? It's funny how we tend to listen to those stupid voices in our heads. My mind was flooded with questions.
I took a second look at the kids and in an instant I knew what I had to do. Many of us want to make a difference in the world, but we fear moving out of our comfort zones. The thought of making a difference excites us but we never move into action. There is a great need. In this case children need educational assistance. Yes there are teachers, but at some schools teachers are more than overwhelmed, some teaching classes with over 30 kids. Programs such as the Mamelodi Initiative serve as a great help for students to get extra attention, where school teachers are unable to do so. It also gives an opportunity for people to volunteer their time to make a difference in a child's life. South Africa and Africa as a whole are faced with many challenges, but we cannot let children go without a basic education. I’m reminded of Nelson Mandela’s thoughts on education in which he states that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
Help is required! Change is needed! Programs such as the Mamelodi initiative are not just great ideas but are vital in this battle that we face in South Africa and on this beautiful continent we are blessed to call home. The program does not only focus on empowering kids with basic educational skills, but also provides a place for them to be themselves, have fun and make new friends; they were also able to engage in different sports and cultural activities. More importantly they were told about God and how deeply He loves them!
Time is a precious commodity; you can never reclaim it so invest it wisely. The youth of today (including me) invest time in things that don’t add value to our lives. We spend more time on our phones than actually living life. It’s a sad reality but programs such as this, involve us in our communities and provide the opportunity to make a difference in others' lives. I am pleased to say that majority of the volunteers were students and it was priceless to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
We were a team with a goal and in those few weeks great friendships were forged. We shared in a life changing experience which united us. A culture of serving needs to be cultivated in our youth. We need to move away from a need/want for fun all the time and develop an attitude that appreciates the need to give our time to things that are meaningful. Community based projects will give the opportunity to invest in the future of the next generation.
Our eyes are fixated on problems in Africa. The focus needs to shift from problems to solutions. A lack of adequate education is a problem and the solutions are programs such as the Mamelodi initiative. Volunteers are plenty, we just need programs to avail ourselves to. A hunger to make a difference was born in my heart, and I’m sure in others too. The experience enriched my life immensely. The kids I was blessed to help deeply impacted me; they taught me to be grateful for what I had; they taught me to enjoy life and not worry so much; in fact they inspired me. I have chosen to invest more of my time wisely to help those in need. I don’t need a lot of money to change the world; I already have a priceless commodity… I have my time!
Read more about the Mamelodi Initiative and how to get involved at www.mamelodi.org and become part of the Hand Print on Africa’s surface.
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