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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Lesotho

The Village of Ha-Mokuba

Leaving Cape Town, I flew back to Johannesburg to meet 15 other who would join me on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip to Lesotho. Habitat’s focus in Lesotho is with orphans and vulnerable populations. Lesotho is a small mountain kingdom about the size of Maryland, entirely surrounded by the country of South Africa. It has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, which has left many of the country’s children as orphans.

My team involved people from all over the US (and one from Japan – a 78 year old British man who has lived in Japan for 55 years and been on 28 Habitat Global Village trips.) We were there to build a house for two orphaned children (ages 14 and 16) and their 81 year old grandmother. They all lived together in a one room house with a separate hut used as a kitchen. Living with them was their mentally and physically disabled uncle.

The family in front of their old house
Over Easter weekend, their dilapidated mud house began to crumble on them, with some stones even falling on the grandmother and the granddaughter. When I visited them, they were using sticks to support the walls from falling in. The leaders of their village of Ha-Mokuba worked with Habitat Lesotho to arrange to build a new house using blocks the children’s father had bought to build their house before he died in 2005.


The collapsing wall of their house, propped up with sticks
The drive from Johannesburg was about six hours long. Along the way, I enjoyed seeing the beautiful countryside as it changed from plains to mountains.

Birds nest spotted on the way from Johannesburg to Lesotho
After stopping for a late lunch in at the Living Life Station Cafe in Ladybrand, South Africa, we crossed into Lesotho via the Maseru bridge. We had to get out of our bus, stand in line to leave South Africa, cross the bridge, and then stand in the customs line to enter the Sky Kingdom of Lesotho.

Living Life Station

Lunch in Ladybrand (delicious spicy lamb)


Maseru Bridge

Entering Lesotho


After a long day's travel, we arrived in Teyateyaneng, Lesotho at Sunset, where we stayed at Ka Pitseng Guest House. 






 Each day that week, our team traveled over an hour from Teyateyaneng to the village Ha-Mokuba, which is about 6,000 feet above sea level. 

The lower circle is the area we traveled to each day 


As we traveled on the dirt roads each day, people (and especially children) would wave with excitement. The view views were stunning, but we were really out in the middle of nowhere – just hills, valleys, some huts, donkeys and cows. To make our mortar, the village women brought water from a pond we could not see that was at least a half mile away, over a ridge, in buckets which they carried on their heads. When we had to use the restroom, we used a neighbor’s outhouse, which was very small and constructed of tin. Each day, we worked very hard, but were treated to amazing views during our breaks. 

The women carrying water 
The outhouse we used
On the build site
Day 1






Of course, it wasn't non-stop work. Each day, we'd also spend some time playing with the children and hanging out with the neighbors.


The Basotho people wear blankets as part of their daily traditional wear


Each night we would return to Ka Pitseng for a delicious dinner. We'd hang out in the lounge area, sometimes play cards, and sleep (at least until the rooster woke us up the next morning.) After a huge breakfast (which usually included fish sticks), we'd return to the build site.

Inside the lounge at Ka Pitseng Guest House. 

Dinner Time
Thursday was a religious holiday, Ascension Day, so we did not work. Instead, we did some cultural exploration, visiting a center where weavers made their art.


Afterwards, we visited the Kome Caves at Ha Kome, where people have been living in cave dwellings made of mud under a rock overhang since the early 1800s. The area was once home to cannibals and the original settlers sought shelter in the caves to hide from the cannibals. Three elderly ladies of the 3rd generation now live in the caves.

The rock overhang protecting the caves 
An 81 year old lady who lives in the cave

The caves at Ha Kome 

Leaving the village on our last day, we had had finished putting up the walls and the interior walls of their new two-room house, had dug the latrine, and had put in the cement floor of the new house. We held a ceremony on the last day which it seems most of the village attended. The grandmother wept with joy as she saw the house standing with the blocks her son had bought a decade ago. “Since I am not getting any younger, I always wondered what my grandchildren would do when I pass on,” she said in her language (Sesotho). “I am a happy soul now that these children have a decent home,” she said. “When I die, I will be happy because I would be leaving these children in a safe dwelling and they will have a place they can proudly call home.”

Dedication Ceremony

If you are interested in a Habitat global village trip, you can learn about upcoming projects at www.habitat.org/gv.

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