August 5, 2008
Posted: 11:52 PM ET
August 4, 2008
They say jet lag really hits you on the third day in South Africa. If that’s true, I’m dreading tomorrow. We’ve hit the ground running in Johannesburg. Thirty kids from around Bushwick, Brooklyn, matched with 30 college-aged mentors as part of Journey for Change, a program started by Malaak Compton-Rock, that brought disadvantaged kids to South Africa to volunteer. Plus the CNN crew—me, my producer Michelle, photographers Fred, Kevin, Tawanda and our soundtech Ted. Our days are long, our body clocks way off.
But it’s hard to be anything but joyful when you’re surrounded by teenagers discovering and uncovering South Africa. The kids began their service on Monday — and it was a tough day. A visit to an orphanage, filled with young children who’ve been abandoned or lost parents. Some of the babies are HIV positive.
The Journey for Change kids sat with smaller children on their laps, or rocked tiny babies. It was surprising to see the teenagers quickly bond with the babies—it was heartbreaking to leave the babies behind.Later in the day a short ride to the shantytowns that dot Soweto, where the kids were shocked by the depth of poverty of the grannies, raising their grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren in tiny rectangular shacks … with holes in the roofs, no food, no heat, no running water, no electricity.
Part of the service is to take notes on what these impoverished families need—so they can go shopping and deliver it tomorrow. It was emotionally wrenching, some of the kids cried while they described having to prioritize the shopping list for their families. The families have nothing, and it seems brutally unfair to have to pick and choose among necessities like warm clothes and food.
We’ve asked the Journey for Change kids, aged almost 12 to 16, to blog about their experiences while they are here in South Africa, to give you a better sense of who they are, what they hope to gain by giving and what changes they expect to bring about in others and hope to see in themselves.
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