Making a Difference

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tzu Chi, Maseru, Lesotho

She's almost 70 years old. Her children have all died of AIDS. She lives in a clay hut with a thatched roof and an open fire for cooking and, perhaps, minimal warmth. She's raising her grandchildren. by herself. Sadly, I don't recall her name.

Her grand-daughter (back turned to the camera) is 16 years old. She has a daughter herself; the product of rape. And, incredibly, she's pregnant again from a second rape.

Such is life in Lesotho for many women and children. HIV is rampant. So is rape.

Except for the kindness of Jennifer Chen, CEO of Shining Century textile company in Maseru, Lesotho ( ) and, perhaps more importantly, a member of Tzu Chi ( ) a Buddhist charity, this family would not even have the hut nor the blankets and clothes keeping out the winter cold (There is snow on the ground when we visit.) Jennifer and her Tzu Chi partners visit the family regularly to provide care and assistance.

Another recipient of Tzu Chi care is a single mother of two teenage children. Now in her late 40's, she lost the use of her legs at the age of 30. She navigates the rough roads of her village in a wheelchair and uses a hand powered sewing machine to produce pillow cases and other items for sale. Her 12 year old son and 15 year old daughter built the hand-hewn stone addition to their simple house, by themselves.

Shining Century employs hundreds of Lesotho workers in its clothing factory. This alone provides much needed income to this impoverished nation. But Jennifer does much more for her adopted homeland. She became a Lesotho citizen some time ago. She is dedicated to making a difference in a small country whose name most people can't pronounce, even if they know where it is.