Many of you who have been following my journey are familiar with this little guy named Kati. If you’re not familiar with him, or in case you want to hear the story of how he managed to steal my heart one more time, continue reading.
It was a slightly cold September day in Mpophomeni, South Africa. I arrived at Masibumbane, the place I was volunteering at. As Nat and I pulled up to the building, this young boy is playing right outside the gates. He looks at me with shock (I’m assuming because of my skin color) and invites me to play with him in Zulu. (which, at this point in my life, I barely understood any Zulu.) I spent the majority of the morning with this cutie attached to my hip. I brought him upstairs with me to the children’s section of the place I volunteered at, and he had so much fun playing with the toys and the other kids. As the day finished up, I told Kati goodbye and that I would see him tomorrow, and he responded with, “Bye, mama!” That last word really struck me. I remember stopping in my path, looking at Nat a tad bit freaked out, and saying, “Did he just call me his mom?” Little did I know, that word would soon describe exactly who I wanted to be for this little man.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, Kati and I were inseparable. Everywhere I went in Mpophomeni, he went with me. I didn’t realize how quickly he was stealing my heart until one day I made a trip down the road to grab chips (fries) for lunch. The chip shop was also a shabine, which is where people consume more alcohol than they probably should. I’m standing in line waiting for some fries, and this woman, quite drunk, approaches me. She says, “So I hear you’re Kati’s mother now.” I was confused not knowing who she was, and she could tell. She looked at me and said, “I am his mother.” and drunkenly walked away. I had never felt more angry in my life. Images of Kati flashed through my head as I thought about the boy who called me his mom because of this woman right here: he didn’t actually have one. I began to ask around the neighborhood about Kati and his home life, and the answers I got fit together like a puzzle piece.
Kati did have a mother, but she was never around. Sadly, she enjoyed the life of alcoholism more than she enjoyed the life of being with her son. Kati lived right across the street from Masibumbane in his grandmother’s house, however his grandmother owned a shabine, which explains why people were always in her yard drinking, so his grandmother was always quite drunk as well. His father lived with Kati and Kati’s grandmother, but was also always drunk. So if we piece everything together, Kati was dwelling and being raised around people who were almost constantly drunk. There was no normalcy of a stable family for him because he had no idea what that was like. I was the first woman to have given him the image of love, security, happiness, and hope. He clung to that. He didn’t just become my son. He became my best buddy.
Kati is one of the most beautiful children I know. His smile can light up the world on the darkest of days, and that laugh of his could make any bad day a million times brighter. His 4 year old sense of humor can make adults laugh, and his stubborn ways are more adorable than I can explain. He’s a caring, spontaneous, adventurous, little guy with a free spirited attitude. He has issues sharing toys, but he’ll be the first one by your side if he sees that you’re upset about something. He loves to touch faces, and he’s incredibly mischievous at times. He’ll ask for the food off of your plate, but if you tell him no he will walk away and still say thank you. His manners are impeccable, his English is beginning to come together, and he is very scared of dogs. His gives the best hugs out of anyone I know, and his kisses are still imprinted on my cheek to this day. As I said goodbye to him on my last day, he didn’t understand why I was crying because he thought I was just going to come back tomorrow. He wiped the tears from my eyes as he said, “Don’t cry, mama. I will see you tomorrow.” The most beautiful moment of my life was that moment; the moment that my 4 year old son and I said goodbye. Most people would argue with “How could it be beautiful when it was so sad?” and yes, it was so incredibly sad. But in that sadness, there was so much beauty. In that sadness, I realized how much Kati had changed my life throughout the past year I got to spend with him. In the end, Kati was the one holding me after the year I spent holding him. In the end, he was the one wiping the tears from my eyes after I had wiped countless tears from his. In the end, I was his mother, and he was my son.
Kati is currently doing very well. The people and staff at Masibumbane have continued to take care of him upon my request, and I know they would have even if I never would have requested it. I got the chance to Skype him for the first time a few months ago, and there was no greater feeling in the world then hearing him say “Mama!” as his little confused face was smiling and touching the screen.
I have a few goals for Kati in life:
1.) He is surrounded by people who love him.
2.) He gets a solid education.
3.) I am able to visit him at least once every 2 years.
4.) God willing, I am able to adopt him and live with him in South Africa one day.
Goal number one has been achieved, and now we move on to goal number two, which is where you all come in. The schools in the townships here in South Africa, specifically Mpophomeni, are schools that cannot offer children with a solid education. The government gives less money to schools in townships than they do to schools outside the townships. Our goal as a people who love Kati is to provide him with a great education, which means sending him to a school outside of the township. It costs money to attend the school, to purchase a school uniform, and for bus fare. After months of organizing (and there’s still so much organizing to be done!) the staff of Masibumbane and I have come up with a school and prices. The school is a school in Howick, which is a neighboring town to Mpophomeni. It is a government school, but a very good government school at that.
Tuition: R1200 yearly ($120)
Uniform: R800 ($80)
Bus Fare: about R500 ($50)
In total, that’s about $250 to $300 a year to send Kati to school.
He’s currently 4 years old, so there’s plenty of time to start saving up! The schools here last only until middle school, and then you have to transfer to a high school. The high school we would love to send him to is a Christian boarding school at Kwasisabantu Mission, and the tuition there is much more expensive: R12000 ($1,200) a year. Of course, there’s much more time to raise those funds, but we want to get an early start!
We are keeping a file for Kati at Masibumbane with all of the funds received. To make the transfer easier, all funds will be sent to me where I will also be keeping a separate file for Kati and then making the electronic transfers over to Masibumbane in South Africa once a month. You have the chance to help an amazing kid get the education he deserves. If you’re interested and have any more questions, shoot me a facebook message or send me an e-mail! (firstname.lastname@example.org) If you feel driven to support Kati, write a check out to “Masibumbane – Kati’s Schooling Fund” and mail it to:
1200 Park Road
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Or give it to one of my family members if you’re in the Johnstown area. You can be sure they will pass it along to me. We’re in the works of possibly setting up a link so people can donate, which will make the transfers a lot easier.
With that being said, my plans are to return to South Africa next May or June (2015) and remain there until August, volunteering at Masibumbane. I am very excited about these plans, but I know that I am not capable of doing it on my own. I am asking for support, both prayerfully and financially, as I make these steps to return to a place and people who have captured my heart. For more information on what Masibumbane is doing, visit http://www.masibumbane.org.za/.
To everyone who has been following me on my crazy journey, thank you. You rock, and you all inspire me to keep going.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama