Today is the eighth day since I left Florida, day six since arriving in South Africa and day two since officially getting started at Hope Africa Collective.Time for one of my promised updates.
My first few days in this country were spent settling in to what will be home and normal life for the next six weeks, sightseeing and spending time with the Hilliards, the founders of Hope Africa.
My time was delightful and rich in conversation but I was still eager to get started Monday morning.
They’ve plugged me into the Life Directions course, the first three week block that students go through in the nine week program here.
During this time the students who are primarily in their twenties focus on themselves in order to break away from the things that have held them back in life. They tackle issues like trust, forgiveness, self-confidence and hope, while training them how to present themselves, work as a team, develop English skills and instilling basic habits like punctuality.
Their time is spent doing hands-on activities and exercises as well as doing reading comprehension and both receiving and giving feedback.
Yesterday I sat with a group of the students as they listed out their expectations for the course. They listed things like self-confidence, computer knowledge and communication skills and then one of the young women said softly that she was expecting to have hope again, adding that she had lost hope a long time ago.
Hope for a better life, hope for self-respect, hope for a future unlike her past.
As I’m sure you heard me share, either in conversation or one of my many posts, Hope Africa Collective is an organization here in South Africa that aims to break young adults out of the poverty cycle here by equipping them with basic job and life skills.
The goal is to take them from a place of relying on handouts and struggling to get by day-to-day to being able to support themselves.
The first two days here have been packed with emotions, feeling the pain of the students, laughing with them, hearing their stories and dreams.
On our car ride home from the base today one of the staff members mentioned to me how astounding it was to see these students after they completed the nine week program. “You’ll see it in the six weeks you’re here,” he said. “They look like totally different people.” He and another staff member then began to speak about a former student who had come by the office earlier to tell them about a promised job she had.
Hope is spreading. Hope is alive. Hope is being handed out to men and women.
And like John Mark McMillen once wrote, while most don’t even notice, hope grows like daisies between the cracks in asphalt, in the midst of dirt and darkness, because hope refuses to be silenced.