Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Reality of the Roads

Before coming to Lesotho the one thing that caused me a lot anxiety was knowing that I would have to learn how to drive a manual.

I know it sounds silly! I bet you're thinking "you moved all the way to Africa and that's what you were worried about?!"

As someone who was an incredibly nervous learner the first time around, I was not looking forward to relearning how to drive with the whole shifting and clutch extravaganza. Add on top of that having to drive on the other side of the road!

Well, after a few months of procrastinating, I finally got behind that wheel and figured the whole thing out.

Shortly thereafter, I was bragging to one of the Outreach drivers about my new-found skill.

Of course, that lead to her suggesting that I take a turn behind the wheel as we navigated our way home along the winding mountain roads.

While I've bounced along these roads on countless outreach trips in the past, driving on these roads afforded me a whole new perspective on their condition.

I gained an immense appreciation for our Outreach drivers...for the skill, concentration, and patience required to navigate these roads day after day.

TTL's Outreach Team takes on these roads each day, without complaint, exemplifying their relentless commitment to bringing an end to the epidemics of malnutrition, TB, and HIV that plague their country.

Many days when they return from an 8 or 10-hour outreach trip - during which they've navigated some of the most harsh and unforgiving roads you can possibly imagine - the fatigue is written all of their faces.

But this in no way deters their efforts. The next day they climb back into the trucks and deliver even more life-saving care to children who would not receive it otherwise.
Through this experience, the reality of what it must be like to live in one of the many remote villages dotting these roads also became a little clear.

A large portion of the population of Lesotho lives in remote, isolated villages nestled among the Maluti Mountains.  The majority of these villages are hours from any form of medical care. The Basotho who reside in these villages must navigate these mountain roads most often on foot.

I can't imagine the anguish a parent must feel when a child falls ill...knowing the only way to ensure their ailing child receives the medical attention they need is to walk for hours across the harsh mountain landscape, hoping  the whole while that a car will pass and offer them a ride - only to endure hours of jolting over the harsh terrain.

These realities make me only the more thankful that TTL has taken a stand against HIV, malnutrition, and tuberculosis in Lesotho. I cannot fully express my deep thanks that so many individuals have come together to create solutions and empower families to raise strong, healthy children. Nor can I fully express my gratitude that I get to spend each day learning from their commitment.

If you haven't had the opportunity yet, please take a minute to learn about our "No Mountain Too High!" campaign.  We need your help to make sure TTL can continue its life-saving work!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reflections of a Former Peace Corps Volunteer

In early May, Paula Fitzpatrick generously donated her time and energy while volunteering with TTL for a few weeks. Her second time in Lesotho (the first time as a Peace Corps Volunteer), we are happy to be able to share her reflections about her time in Lesotho. Thank you Paula for sharing your insights, thoughts and feelings about Lesotho with the TTL community. 

“How was it Paula, your trip to Lesotho?”  I’ve been asked that dozens of times since I returned the 14th of May, my youngest son’s birthday.  Everyone truly wants to know and the question has started many thoughtful conversations.  I stumble over the words to say, “Incredible? Awesome? Tragic?”  I try not to minimize the struggles of the Basotho and the future of their beautiful, smiling culture.  But as my husband helped me realize…I had fun and much more. 

Lesotho looks very much the same as it did 25 years ago.  There are still cows in the city, still mud huts, still villages without outhouses, and schools without electricity.   There is a mall in the capitol now and you will see mud homes with solar power or even a satellite dish.  People communicate with cell phones in some places too.  Still my impression during my short visit was one of sameness and familiarity.   Maseru looked grayer, sadder, poorer, worldlier, an innocence lost.

I would like to share some scenes from Lesotho.  I will try not to stumble.

Thirteen young children in varying degrees of illness, some HIV positive, most malnourished…wow how could I look at these beautiful dark faces and not cry out, WHY??     Everyday I spent as much time as I could, playing with the children.  “Lumela bo-me.”  My Sesotho came back very rapidly.  Insufficient as it was 25 years ago, I felt thrilled to be able to communicate with the lovely women working at the Safe House.  They chatted with each other, “She can speak Sesotho.”  “Only a little,” I would say.  “No very much,” they would smile.   One afternoon sitting in the too warm playroom with little ones crawling over me, ‘Me Mamosa walked in and began to sing.  For some minutes the playroom was filled with the women singing and the children dancing.  Their voices harmonized with strong, happy melodies. The TTL Safe House is a refuge for the women who work there too.

Eleven Basotho women met up with our Outreach group in Thaba-Tseka’s small clinic.  They came to have their children weighed and measured.  Many walked most of the morning to arrive at the clinic and receive TTL’s support.  They were all so grateful.  We returned to the Safe House with two children who needed more care than their caregivers could provide.  Touched by this separation of mother and child, I asked, “How do they feel when they give up their child, if only for a short time?”  The driver said the mothers know they will be taken care of and will return home to them healthier.  With TTL there is hope for their children.

I worked a bit with the schools in Mokhotlong while I stayed at the Safe House.  The elementary school close by is starting a library.  The headmaster has cleaned out a large, nicely lit room and has started to make shelves for the incoming books.  There were only a few boxes of books on the floor, but he has hope to have a full library soon.  The teachers I spoke with see a great need for the children to have fiction books that they can enjoy reading in English.  The school was overflowing with children, all of its classrooms too crowded.  In my conversations with the adults in the school I could feel their concern for the future and their love for the children they teach.  The headmaster asked the older children to sing for me.  The songs they chose to sing were about people of the world working together because we all need each other. 

Early May is harvesting time.  I took an outreach trip down a nonexistent road and noticed a group of men cutting wheat.  We were going slowly enough that I could get a good view.  They were cutting in rhythm, swinging up, swinging down, laying down the handful of wheat, taking a step, swinging up, and swinging down, again and again.  In a line, these men were working, in sync, in the sun, all by hand.  And they were singing!  Beautiful, deep voices.

Twenty-five years ago I left my small village and my school in Lesotho and returned home to the US to continue on with my life.   Reports of political difficulties in country and in South Africa, drought, famine, AIDS, how had the Basotho managed?  I surprised my best friend from years ago, a Basotho co-teacher, with a cell phone call from the village bus stop.  After tears and screams we talked, and shared.  She has lost most of her family and friends to AIDS.  Eighty percent of the children she teaches are orphans due to AIDS.  Her village is empty.  The village I lived in for two years has lost ¾ of its population.  Most visible are the trees.  In a country where every tree is cut for firewood, there were trees---everywhere.  My friend said, “Did you notice the trees?  There is no one here to cut them down.  There is no one to use them for firewood.”

‘Me Palesa commented, “Mamelo, you are too old for that.”  I was tickling her check trying to help her sleep.  She is four.  The children of Lesotho grow up fast.  There are herd boys of eight and seven year olds with an infant on their back.  They get prepared for a hard life early.  Now, surrounded by economic hardships, poor crops, the lack of good roads, the lack of health care, they are battling AIDS.  A generation on the brink of extinction is sharing this wasting disease with its offspring.  

Still, the women who care for the children who are sick, some dying in their arms, SING.  The hard working men in the fields- SING.  The children hoping to learn and make something of their lives- SING.  Because we are human, we have hope.  Touching Tiny Lives’ Safe House is working.  It works because of the women who daily care for the children who are sick and dying.  With their love and care they save lives.  It can’t get any more important than that.  That is how it is in Lesotho.


Visit the Touching Tiny Lives Foundation to learn more about our "No Mountain Too High" campaign!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Celebrate the African Child!

Today is a day to celebrate!

Today is International Day of the African Child!

This day began as a commemoration of the slaying of a group of school children inSoweto, South Africa as they protested the poor quality of their education.

Now  it serves as an opportunity to recognize the beauty and strength of children all over Africa and spread awareness about the many obstacles they still face.

Here, at Touching Tiny Lives, we have much to celebrate... this little face...
toddler smiling Lesotho ...and this one...
...and this one...

These are all children who have spent time at the safe-home and have been reunited with their families in their home villages.

We also celebrate each and every child we've served through our Outreach Program.

Like this one...
...and this one...
...and this one...
We take this day as an opportunity to rejoice in the victories we've witnessed whether big or small - a child  recovering from malnutrition and gaining the strength to walk again... a baby finally being given the ARVs she needs to live a healthy life...the first smile of a newborn whose mother passed away from AIDS.

On this day, we also remember the lives of the little ones that have been lost to malnutrition, TB, and AIDS. Despite the efforts of TTL and the determination of the Basotho people, too many children still die of largely preventable diseases and circumstances.

We hope you'll join us in celebration and rememberance and take a moment to learn more about our efforts to serve the children of Lesotho....

Visit  the Touching Tiny Lives Foundation to learn more about our "No Mountain Too High!" campaign.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No Mountain Too High!

Today marks the official kickoff of our fundraising campaign - "No Mountain Too High!"

Take a peek at this video to learn more...

We've set some big fundraising goals and we need your help to reach them!  There are so many ways you can help...

DONATE: Visit the Touching Tiny Lives Foundation website to contribute.

PASS ON THE MESSAGE: Spread the word about TTL's life-saving work in Lesotho. Share this video with your friends and family either by email or on Facebook. If you've volunteered with TTL, tell people about your experience and share pictures of the babies you worked with.

PLAN AN EVENT: Host an event at your home or a restaurant. We can supply you with video and photos to help you share TTL's message with your friends and family.

PARTICIPATE IN A RUN/WALK: Find a local event to participate in and ask your friends and family to sponsor you as you run for TTL.  We can help you set up a fundraising acount at

If you have questions about the fundraising campaign, email us at  We thank you in advance for your help in ensuring that TTL can continue to serve the children of Lesotho!