After spending a long period of time in Mokhotlong, it's easy to forget the physicality of the greater world around you. In your head, everything outside of Mokhotlong is condensed into a series of remote contact points, which you reach out to and get feedback from but forget to consider in a physical sense.
The isolation breeds a certain level of self-sustainability, which is a good thing, but it can also make you forget from time to time that, especially here in Lesotho, there are hundreds of other people actively working toward goals similar to your own.
It was partially in light of this reality that I took great pleasure in attending an event in Maseru on Tuesday night hosted by Sentebale, UNICEF and the Department of International Development to officially launch the newest product of what must have been a long, labor-intensive collaboration: the Letsema Directory of Service Providers for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Lesotho.
The Letsema initiative was first developed in response to the ever-growing number of OVC in the country, of which there are now an estimated 270,000, and "seeks to bring together all service providers and donors to enable cooperation and a collective response to this enormous problem."
The directory is a large binder with profiles and contact information of more than 300 OVC service providers in Lesotho, one of which is TTL.
At the event, which I attended as TTL's representative, there were speeches from Sentebale's Acting Country Director Bahlakoana Manyanye, UNICEF Deputy Country Representative Dr. Naqib Safi, and Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Dr. Karabo Mokobocho-Mohlakoana.
Manyanye encouraged everyone in the room to work hand-in-hand as a collective body toward combating the problems facing the country. Safi urged the group to look at the new directory as the first step in an on-going movement toward progress. Mokobocho-Mohlakoana praised the spirit behind the initiative and echoed the sentiments of Manyanye and Safi.
I spoke with both Manyanye and Safi during the event and both spoke highly of TTL. Both Sentebale and UNICEF are existing and important supporters of TTL and its mission, and both men are good friends to have. It was nice to have a few minutes to chat freely with them.
With the large Letsema directory in hand, I came away from the event encouraged by the show of care by those in attendance, and with a new resource in expanding TTL's partnerships within Lesotho. The event was one of promise.
As I drove away, through the streets of Maseru, I was buoyant.
It was then that I saw a young boy, alone and probably not more than 10 years old, sitting huddled in a corner of sidewalk, holding his hands out to a small fire he had built with twigs and spare trash.
The sight yanked me back down to reality. Despite all the groups doing good in the country, there are still so many orphaned and vulnerable children in need of help, living on the street or wasting away in a village where no one is providing for them.
Still, as I continued driving, the discouragement of seeing the small, orphaned boy on the street was replaced with a new resolve to make sure TTL does something positive with the new directory -- that it takes this new resource and runs with it.
And that's just what we plan to do.