January 28, 2008


On Saturday I had the opportunity to attend a loveLife groundBreaker training. groundBreakers are loveLife’s peer education staff. They’ve generally just finished high school and spend the following year implementing loveLife’s on-the-ground programs, which include fitness and body image training, computer courses, dance and music lessons, etc – all designed to develop well-rounded, healthy lifestyles for South Africa’s youth, as opposed to just drilling them with HIV stats that they’ve heard all their lives anyway.

At the training I sat with four 19-year-old women to learn about their experiences with loveLife and their thoughts on SMS opportunities. I say women because these girls have been through more in their nineteen years than anyone should ever have to. Rape, poverty, abuse – all of it. But they are NOT victims. Or even simply survivors. They are beacons of perseverance, hope, passion, ambition, and pure love. One minute they were talking a mile a minute about the state of South Africa, the next about relationships, the next about their hopes and dreams, and then quickly turned to bombard me with questions about America. They represented at once the struggles of South Africa and this country’s immense opportunities.

Of their many inspiring qualities, to me the most inspiring was their capacity to give. Each woman was clearly incredibly intelligent and insightful, and they have access to all of South Africa’s scholarships and opportunities for advancement. And they will take advantage of them. But they told me that first they needed to give back. They felt they had been given so much - from loveLife, from life - that they wanted to spend this year giving other youth the lessons and opportunities they had been afforded. At nineteen, they already combine an intense desire to succeed with an equally intense desire to give back. Pretty amazing.

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