STORIES & E-MAILS ABOUT THE TRIP
By Jessie and her traveling mates
Here was our first t-shirt experience. We had SUCH a ball. We were at a lunch stop with various craft vendors in Swaziland, no other guests, just us. It was on a hill overlooking a valley and the crafts were so colorful, we decided this was where we all wanted to put on our t-shirts for a group photo. Previously I'd given a bright red mechanical pencil to one of the carvers. You can see it in one of the pictures.
Anyway, 17 people all throwing on t-shirts and mustering for a picture certainly caused a stir. Our bus driver and escort loved the idea behind the t-shirts and each wanted one, so we were putting kids' larges on a couple of the women so that they could both have adult sizes. You can see the group grow as we got our act together. I'm way in the back in a bright yellow shirt.
Then the man I'd given the pencil to came over and wanted to be photographed "with the Americans". I pulled off my shirt and put it on him. The bus driver had his on by this time and we took that picture. Then it became a free for all. The vendors came running, realizing that one of their own already was wearing a shirt. We were all finding someone of the right size and giving them a shirt, getting them together for a picture. We were all laughing. One lady got a big kiss. It was just a real wonderful cultural experience for everyone concerned. They loved it and we loved it.
Note the two men in loincloth skins. I think they're made of mongoose hides. They're very commonly worn by the Zulu men in Swaziland. Bet you never expected Elias to be wearing a loin cloth! We had SO much fun.
I'll send these, then send a second email with the story of how the day and the t-shirt distribution continued. Needless to say, we left with LOTS of new friends.
Interestingly, our guide and bus driver say they are going to be on the lookout for the t-shirts on future trips. It'll be interesting to see if they see them again.
We then left this craft area and went down into the valley, where it was about 110 degrees. Brutally hot. There was a long "market" of maybe 25 shops, all selling the same stuff, and not much that anyone really wants after a while.
Don't ask me how the news had spread so fast, but the a couple of the vendors at the close end evidently knew already what we had done up on the hill. My guess is, one person had a cell phone. She met us at the bus telling us that she had two children. We were "hit on" at that end of the market for t-shirts. I forged quickly ahead, preferring to give them to people who weren't expecting anything or asking for them.
You'll see the shots. The best was the one woman (white t-shirt) who asked me to please "support her". I told her I had no money, but asked if she had any children. She had two. I gave her two t-shirts for them, and then one for herself. She cried and laughed at the same time, hugged me, kissed me, and when I left was jumping up and down laughing like people do who win wheel of fortune. It was so rewarding to see how much they loved and appreciated them.
There were still about 30 t-shirts left over as we went on to our next stop.
I should say that we looked ALL over for a school. We had planned to stop and meet the kids, etc. Turns out that the schools in Swaziland were on vacation. It WAS their summer. I'm glad, because this worked out so nicely. When we got to a lodge outside Kruger National Park back in South Africa, we read in their newsletter that they sponsored a pre-school in a very needy area. BINGO! We collected the rest of the t-shirts and gave them to Michelle, who's already emailed you. The rest is history.
We had such a great time with the shirts, and Elias is well-known in a little corner of Swaziland and one of South Africa.
The pictures of the kids in the t-shirts are wonderful. I’m glad that we came across this project. How was the rest of your trip? When you get a chance, could you email me some of your pictures of Victoria Falls. I didn’t take my camera because it’s really not that good, and I knew you would get better pictures. Thanks again, the trip was wonderful.
Thank you for the wonderful pictures. What a great idea to send the t-shirts to the school. It certainly was the best decision.
Thanks also for everything. Jamal and I had a wonderful time, thanks to all of you. It was great meeting you all and we hope to meet again. We would love to have y'all visit us in Houston. Do come.
Mariana and Jamal
I have attached some photos for you of the children at Little Star pre-school in Hazyview, South Africa, wearing the T shirts with little Elias on them.
I was very moved when I heard what had happened to Elias and what Elias' dream was and am certain that God will continue to take his wonerful spirit of love through the world.
I would like to thank you for this kind gesture and assure you that the children and their teachers were most grateful for the t-shirts, pens, paper and pencils.
I am running this community project and aim to rebuild this pre- school by the end of the year. To date we have raised R38 000 and aim to raise at least R100 000. The process is slow, but we are determined to get there.
I will e mail you a separate piece on how my community project came about.
I even tried e mailing Oprah Winfrey as well, as she often comes to this area on her trips to our country, to see if she would like to get involved, but have had no luck, or reply.
Please could you e mail these photos to David Hanna and the rest of your group that stayed at Kruger Park Lodge.
We hope you all enjoyed Victoria Falls and have taken home some warm and fond memories of our beautiful Africa.
PA to the General Manager
Kruger Park Lodge