Saturday, March 20, 2010
Progress in Cowboy Town
In the popular "Lonely Planet" guidebook on South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, multiple copies of which have made their way to TTL, there is a small, one-page section on Mokhotlong that in my mind gives a pretty apt description.
"Mokhotlong," it says, "is the main town in eastern Lesotho, but it is still very much an outpost, and has something of a Wild West feel to it."
Constant herds of sheep, cattle, horses and donkeys aside, this is very true.
There is an undeniably slow-paced, cowboy-town atmosphere here, accented with plenty of potholed dirt roads, twisted barbed-wire fences, and just-outside-of-town expanses of absolutely nothing. A disorganized spread of rangy businesses and residences all seem to float closely together within the encompassing mountain range. A popular resistance to even the most resilient underpinnings of efficiency seems to be in full force. The vibe is one that simultaneously makes Mokhotlong seem an antidote to the hustle-and-bustle of the U.S. and a difficult place for progress to take hold or materialize visually.
Still, ever since I got here to TTL, things have been visibly changing all around me.
For starters, the brand new "Hesburgh-Amicus Centre" -- a building with 4 offices and one large conference room at the center of our property -- was just completed, and our outreach team moved into one of those offices this week. They now have more space to receive needy mothers and vulnerable babies seeking help, and more room to spread their proverbial wings as we continue to expand the number of children we serve each year.
The former outreach office in the main building has been transformed into a combined office for the TTLF fellows -- we were formerly using space in a small supplies room -- and our newly-appointed safe-home supervisor, M'e Mamosa, who is a longtime TTL caregiver and who will be working closely with Kirsten to ensure the babies in our care receive all the best.
We are constantly trying to maximize the efficiency of our operations here, and I know the new space will help in that cause.
It will also allow TTL to continue expanding its capacity for partnership with other groups interested in having a positive local impact. For example, one of the offices will soon be rented out to the European Union as their base in Mokhotlong.
It is exciting to see TTL's physical imprint grow as a bricks-and-mortar symbol of the organization's thriving potential. It will also be exciting -- and I think mutually beneficial -- to have more folks around on a daily basis who are looking to do good.
In addition to the growth of our indoor space here at TTL, our outdoor space is transforming as well.
We recently contracted with a landscaper who is already making TTL look like a more professional and welcoming place to visit. New plants are going in all over, including right at the entrance to the property and around the new building, where a memorial garden is being designed. We just got new marble signs for a number of our buildings brought here from the U.S. that will hopefully be bolted up soon. New cement paths are being put in to permanently connect the main building with the new Hesburgh-Amicus Centre and the three rondavals at the back of the property. Our handful of fruitful peach trees here are getting new attention as well, with short stone walls going in to strengthen the slope they rest on at the edge of the property.
Thanks to the continuing resolve of our staff and the continuing support of donors interested in bolstering our institutional growth, I think TTL's physical appearance is really starting to catch up with its community reputation.
In my mind, we are undoubtedly the shining jewel of this dusty Wild West, brightening the lives of countless kids. It's a great organization to be a part of, and it's only getting brighter.