Greetings from my bed after a very long, very hot day!
It has been a busy, but good few weeks! I was talking with a friend from home the other day about how incredible it is that even on the hard days, getting up and going to work feels like a privilege. I have been thinking about, reading and listening to a lot of podcast recently about the limits of language, and how sometimes words cannot do our experiences justice. I have witnessed this especially in cross cultural context, in talking with my German flat mate about how she wants to express something, but there is no equivalent in English for what it means to her in her mother tongue and culture. Aside from language and cultural barriers, I have recently been trying to put my experiences and emotions into words, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. There is something unexplainable about how fully alive I feel right now. That is not to say that I have not had my fair share of moments where it felt like parts of me were missing, sorrows were real, and anxiety and dread were looming in the corners of my mind. But even in those moments, there was a new kind of hope and resiliency that I had not experienced before. And every evening when I crawl into my bed and reflect on the day, I have this overwhelming and unutterable joy, peace and fullness. I think this is equally internal and external, as I have come to understand more about myself over the past few months, while simultaneously being surrounded and immersed in a culture, country and cause that I love deeply.
On a less poetic and more practical level, my days look very different. Monday’s we have our operations meeting in the morning, and because we are in Africa, operation meetings run on African time which I really enjoy. Monday afternoons I spend grocery shopping for the Safe House. I have come to learn a lot about meat over the past few weeks. And have spent more time around dead cow than I wish.
On Tuesday’s, I do some office work in the morning, my current projects are working on project files for the Department of Social Services, helping organize an upcoming fundraising event and updating the Safe House shopping list and menu. Tuesday afternoons I have my entrepreneurship workshop with the ladies at the Safe House, which has been so amazing. This past weekend we went to our first market! The women made lip balm (they do not understand my use of the word “chapstick”) to sell, as well as repurposed old costume jewelry. They designed their own brand and had tags made, kept track of expenses, were taught the basics of a loan and given a small loan, set up their own business email, and sold their product! It is just the beginning, and it has been such a fun experience. The women were so excited to go to the market, one of the residents told me (paraphrasing here) that she never imagined herself to be a business woman, but selling something she made with her own hands was the most empowering experience! I was empowered just watching them with such excitement and fervor set up and sell their product in the marketplace. WOW! And their goods were not branded as a charity project for survivors of human trafficking. No, they were just business women with a great product that could sell without the cause (Social Entrepreneurship 101). It was a fabulous experience for me, and the women and I cannot wait to see how this unfolds.
Thursdays, I do more office work in the morning on different projects, or I take the residents to different appointments/therapies they have. And in the afternoon we go to kids ministry, which is a special time for our residents to give back to the community.
The next few Friday’s I am covering a shift as a house mother, so I will either run a workshop with the residents or take them for an outing around Cape Town. Outings are really exciting for me and the women because some of them were trafficked from other cities/countries and only know the most beautiful city in the world from the hell the endured. So getting to experience the beauty and grandeur of Cape Town together with them is a really special moment.
I never fail to learn something new each day, wether it be a new word in Xhosa or Afrikaans, something about mine or another culture, or about the beauty and light that is still present in a world that seems to be getting uglier and darker by the day. This work is challenging and heart breaking, but it also the source of so much hope and faith in the long and humbling process of love, peace and reconciliation.