August 11, 2008
Posted: 04:59 PM ET
CNN Special Correspondent Soledad O'Brien shares a photo with Jonathan Severe, 14, a Journey for Change participant.
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.
Today was a very good day. First, we went to church, which was very inspirational. At first I was not happy about going to church, but then when I heard my favorite song I was as happy as ever. Then after a few songs it got boring. I think it’s because I don’t go to church so I don’t know what church is about.
Today it was a simple plain day to me. First we went to church. After, we came back to Heron Bridge (the place we’re staying) to have lunch. Then we went shopping at a flea market and I bought some fabulous items. I bought jewelry, key chains, and two mini female and male warriors. Later I have to go pack my suitcase because we are going to a hotel tomorrow night. I am sad this is my last night in Heron Bridge but I am glad that this is my beginning for Journey for Change.
Hello, my name is Laura DiFilippi. I am twelve years old. I live with my mother and two brothers. I got introduced to the Bushwick Community Center by Lt. Miranda. He brought us to church there! I was involved with Bushwick for two years when I heard about a trip where thirty kids could go to South Africa. I wanted to go so I could help some kids in South Africa! So I had an interview. Everybody told me I did a good job with my interview. Later, like a couple of weeks, I went to the orientation where Captain Locke read the list of people who were going to South Africa with Malaak Compton-Rock. As soon as I heard my name I was excited!!!
Leaving New York was the hardest thing for me to do to come to Johannesburg. I had to leave my family behind and a lot of my music. The eighteen hour flight, I would say, was the most nerve racking part of this trip. The people around me made it easier to rest, even though I barely slept. Every day was something new, but with the same routine. Wake up at six, be at breakfast at eight, and be ready to board the bus around nine. During the two weeks we visited homes and schools in Soweto and Diepsloot. Seeing the families was pretty hard. We visited granny led homes and orphan led homes. The first house was granny led. The last two were orphan led. The second house we visited was easiest to put myself into their situation. The house had an older brother who was around eighteen and two younger sisters who were around my age and eight. Their mother died from, I believe, arthritis and they don’t know where their father is because he left them a long time ago. In my situation there are three of us. My older brother who is eighteen, my younger sister who is seven, and me at age twelve. My parents are separated, so suppose my mother passes and my father resents the responsibility. It made me think that I should be grateful for them even when I’m angry with them. After visiting the homes the next day we went to Mackro (big bulk store) to buy supplies for the families. The first house, the granny led was a three room shack where twenty-three people lived. I absolutely loved the granny’s expression when we gave her the supplies. It made me happy to know that I can make someone else smile and give them hope. Earlier we had visited an orphanage where I had played with the zero to six month old babies. They were so adorable. I enjoyed making them laugh, but there was this one baby who wouldn’t smile. Katelynn and I tried to make him smile but he just wouldn’t. When he FINALLY smiled it made me so so so happy. It turned out that he was the baby who had a twin. I didn’t realize that they looked alike and they were complete opposites. His sister was so sweet and she smiled like there was no tomorrow. When we had to leave it was almost impossible, but when we all finally left the babies cried as if it was the first and last time that they were ever held and cared for in that way. If it was up to me I would definitely adopt them and bring them back with me. If only it were possible.
In reference to We Are All The Same by Jim Wooten, a known author who wrote a book inspired by Nkosi Johnson, a boy who died at the age of twelve and only weighed twenty pounds. He had the AIDS virus which he had from birth. His mom died when Nkosi was only two years old. He also had a lot going on in his life, and at age eleven he spoke at an International Conference on AIDS held in Durban, South Africa. Well, Nkosi as a young child impacted a person like me at age 14. That he inspired me to talk about him many years later after he passed is a great thing for me. Nkosi Johnson mentions that, “We are all human beings. We are normal… We can walk. We can talk. We have needs, just like everyone else… we are the same.” I also think that any child with AIDS should always live a healthy life and people in general should always: “Treat everyone the same as they would like to be treated.” That’s my favorite saying.
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