August 3, 2008

Journey for Change Notebook: August 3, 2008

Posted: 04:48 PM ET
Jeremy Baker, 15, plays with an infant at the Ethembeni orphanage in Soweto, South Africa.
Jeremy Baker, 15, plays with an infant at the Ethembeni orphanage in Soweto, South Africa.

Editor's Note: Thirty kids, ages 12 to 16, from Bushwick, Brooklyn, were chosen to participate in "Journey for Change," a youth empowerment program created by Malaak Compton-Rock. We've asked them to share their experiences by blogging about the changes they expect to bring about in others and hope to see in themselves.


"I can’t believe we made it. We are in South Africa at last. It is so cold, that it feels like an oversized freezer. Maybe in the morning it will be a bit warmer. Right now, everybody is either writing in their journals or getting ready for bed. I am so happy to be in South Africa right now. I can’t wait until we start doing service work and helping out others. I am so happy to have been chosen to go on this journey. If it wasn’t for my wonderful essay, and Mrs. Malaak, I would not be here right now.  Most people don’t have opportunities like this. I am truly blessed, and all my thanks go to Mrs. Malaak, the Hope Worldwide foundation, my parents, and most of all God for giving me this opportunity to be here right now. After this trip my whole life will be different and my whole personality will change, and I can’t wait to be different."

- Vandesha Walker, 12

" 'Oh my' were the first words out of my mouth when I heard about the South Africa trip. “Definitely” was my reply and then the journey began. Next thing you know, you’re attending your first meeting, signing your contract, getting your passport (THE MOST DIFFICULT) and you’re off to Africa. The tears of happiness and joy cover your checks and you’re so happy that you let them roll down to your shirt. The hands waving to us on the bus encourages us to do our best and have a great time. Soon enough you’re on your flight.  You have great inspirations in your mind and you can’t stop them from coming.
When you have finished your 18 hour ride across the Atlantic Ocean you wake up the person next to you and whisper, “we’re in Africa!” and they’re fully awake in a second ready to pass the good news to the other sleeping passengers.  Truthfully, I was relieved that we were traveling above land not water anymore. We got off the plane excited for the next two weeks in South Africa.  The first things we did was claim our luggage, take attendance, and get on the bus to the resort that we will be staying for ten days.  When we got there I have to say it was quite chilly.  I wasn’t expecting that at all. My roommate is Laura. She is really funny. Later we ate our first made African meal.   It was stew beef and rice.  It was really delicious.The second day in Africa was fun. We first ate breakfast and then had a press conference.  We discussed why we think we are in South Africa and how and why we will make a change."

- Sydney Smart, 12

"Hi. My name is Imaan Williams and I am a Journey for Change participant. Over the last few weeks I have been interviewed, and been at several meetings for this trip. I believe this trip will be something like I have never experienced. We drove for five hours on Thursday to Dulles Airport in Virginia, and then flew to Africa, arriving on Friday.  It was an eighteen hour flight with a one hour stop.  I will be staying in South Africa for two amazing weeks.  Already I have been at a press conference, orientation, a museum and I have been on a tour of Soweto. Today we went to the Salvation Army Church.  At the museum, I learned a lot of things about apartheid and children my age standing up against apartheid.  Tomorrow the rest of the Journey for Change participants and I will be going to an orphanage.  When I reached Johannesburg, I had whole different idea about what it would look like. I couldn’t believe my eyes, with all the stars and the sunset. I love meeting new people and getting to know them. The part that I really feel sad about is that I miss my family. Anyways I have to go to bed. Goodbye. Peace!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Xoxoxoxoxo"

- Imaan Williams, 12

"Hi.  My name is Benjamin Goode and I am 11 and a half.  I live in Bushwick, Brooklyn and go to The Salvation Army. When I first heard about this trip I was so happy.  I always told myself that I was going to go on this trip and I never doubted myself.  Everyday I got closer and closer to the time for the interviews, and I was getting very scared.  When that day came I had a butterfly in my stomach.  My name was called and I thought, ‘here I go. I’m in the spotlight,’ but it went by like a breeze. When I had heard that I was going on this trip I got so excited because all that I had done had paid off. A few days pass. Now it’s time to pack and I need a bigger suitcase for my clothes. Even though I have a big suitcase my clothes are still not fitting– time to go to my grandmother.  She’s the best. She can really help with some problems. When I go to my grandmother and tell her my problem she jumps right on the case. My suitcase was packed in a matter of twenty minutes ”

- Benjamin Goode, 11

"Hello everyone.  My name is Albert Brunn III and I am a Journey for Change participant.  I’m twelve years old.  My favorite sport is football.  From the day I heard I was accepted by the one and only Malaak Compton- Rock, I really wanted to get involved with this Journey for Change. That’s because I told my Dad if I could ever help someone less fortunate than me that I would always take that chance.  I’m here now and I feel so special because of all the things people have donated to us, and to the people who have made this dream for us.  Part of Journey for Change is for kids to come to South Africa and make a change.  We have met so many people that have been nice to us.  The thing about this trip is that it was completely free for all 30 kids and their 30 mentors.  I feel that this trip will be a big change in my life.   I say that because I think it will give me a greater appreciation of how wealthy I am compared to the people here in South Africa.  I think this trip will also stop my huge amount of waste with food.  I want to cut down because I feel that why waste food that other people can eat?  So I will keep you posted.  Have a nice day."

- Albert Brunn III, 12

Filed under: Journey for Change • Soledad OBrien

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brenda pickett   August 12th, 2008 1:23 pm ET

i am brenda pickett, the grand mother of jeremy special grand son. i would like to thank ms.rock,ms.o'brien,cnn, and so on for giving JEREMY a chance to see another side of the world and how others live. i know this trip has changed his heart. I am speechless about this journey,it is something i've wanted to do for so long and just could not afford to get away,i thank GOD for touching the hearts of you all for choosing my grand son,i hope you all will continue to stay in touch with the children here,to save them from the streets of new york,by doing that some of them will finish schooling and give back just as you all are doing,they could be and do what you are doing tomorrow.again i thank you and i thank you and for the mission that you are doing.please send me and e-mail when you can.i hope to join you if you would allow me to take this journey with you all once.i took care of foster children for 12 yrs here in conn.some where hiv pos.i wish you all a safe journey home and i can hardly wait to here from jeremy all about it

love to all


greg   September 21st, 2008 2:18 pm ET

I was sitting here listening to Solomon Burke singing Cry to Me when I ran across this blog of yours. I am no mamby pamby but it was very touching. Since your black in america series I have developed a new way of looking at you and............ I like it! You are such a beautiful person and I understand you better now. I think you are very courageous. I grew up in the deep south when separate but equal was the way. This has had a great effect on baby boomers and I still think that others in america have no idea of the psychological toll it has taken on a generation of AA's. We continue to look over our shoulders. thanks to you a little less now.

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