A Good Home, Dealing with Disappointment, Inspiration

Let Down, Looking Up

I am dealing with a big disappointment on a project.

I have felt let down and hurt.

I should be used to disappointment, right?  For years after the car accident, every visit to doctors and therapists was full of hope, followed by the crushing realization that my hopes were unrealistic.

Some injuries don’t heal that quickly.  Some careers, some projects, even some relationships, are not recoverable. One finally learns to live with the realities, to work with or around the limitations. To set about creating a new life.

“Ancora imparo”, an elderly artist once said. (I am still learning.)  I, too, am still learning, still remembering.  That even when one puts all the plans and arrangements in place, something can still go wrong.

I’m reminded, too, that good often follows bad. In my earlier years, I yearned for certain things, was discouraged when they didn’t materialize, only to achieve something better later on. 

Not always immediately, of course. Sometimes, great effort is required.  Sometimes, there seems no end to the bad.  Life has taught me that too.  But good does eventually follow bad. If we don’t believe that, what’s the point of living? 

I believe in prayer.  I do so knowing that prayer isn’t always meant to change the heart of God, but the heart of the one who prays. So this, of course, is a time of prayer. 

I believe in the kindness of others. That the consolation provided by a small group of caring people goes a long way.

And I believe, when disappointed, that one must honestly acknowledge the emotions, acknowledge the hurt.  It does no good to lie to oneself: your heart knows the truth.

And then it is time to focus on more positive things, such as the blessings all around me.  There is so much to give thanks for.

One of those blessings is my own capacity to help others.  In my darkest times, in those bad years, I had lost sight of that.  More recently, and again in the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded that in the midst of my own disappointment, I can help others.

And so I have.  In recent weeks, I’ve helped friends. Helped a stranger too. All unasked. 

It’s not entirely altruistic, you know.  When I help others, it uplifts me.  It reminds me that I have the power and the gift to help.  In other words: it’s a present to myself.

~~

Dedicated to all who are dealing with disappointment, and searching for the faith and strength to move forward.

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A Good Home, Building a School in Malawi, Inspiration, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Serendipity

Kamala-Jean’s Amazing Story – Pt. 2

When Kamala-Jean saw the school in Malosa for the first time, she sat in the car and started to cry.

“I said to the driver: ‘Just give me a moment, please.’ “

~~

Kamala-Jean had “no notion” that a simple conversation in a Cape Town market would cause so many things to change.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Gopie wins Hubbard award

When she met Happy, he was a market vendor whose chances in life seemed very limited. Now, he’d not only returned to school at age 23; he was suddenly in charge of building one! 

While Kamala-Jean and People Bridge continued raising funds in Canada, Happy bought the building materials – bricks and sand for walls, cement for the floor, zinc for the roof, glass for the windows.  Next, he hired the workers.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean School being built bricks in front

The school, they expected, would attract about 40 children. Then one day Kamala-Jean got an email.

“Happy emailed me and said, ‘Mum, I registered 70 students in two days. Should I continue the registration or not?’

“Seventy! I wrote back and said ‘No more!’ Then, after I got there, he said, ‘Mum, we have 90 registrations.’ “

~~

Kamala-Jean wiped her tears and stepped from the car. It was September 18 – opening day.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean new school building

“Not only did I hear the children’s voices, but I saw about forty mothers with babies sitting under a mango tree; then there was a table with the head chief and two others. All were there waiting for me.”

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Women smile in schoolyard

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Happy Chiefs and Children outside school

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy in front of children outside schoolhouse

Inside the building, all fifty chairs were filled; the other children sat on a tarpaulin on the floor. Some were barefooted.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and teacher at front of class

Happy and two young women are the teachers. Everyone sang together.

Afterwards, Kamala-Jean and the teachers planned lessons and went through the teaching supplies she’d brought.

“I told Happy, ‘Let’s close the school while we plan.’

“But the next day the kids were all there. Happy explained what the parents said: ‘If there’s a school, we are going to send our children to it.’ “

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean kneels with kids

~~

The families in the area live on subsistence farming – they grow maize and beans;  some also grow bananas, avocado and mangoes.

“People don’t starve – they grow their own food. But they have no cash.”

~~

Building the school boosted the local economy. It provided an income for many people, including local stores, builders, teachers, furniture-makers and even Happy’s mother and grandmother. Each woman is paid two dollars a week to cook maize for the children’s lunch.

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The benefits don’t end there. The community has no water supply, but Kamala-Jean felt the school needed its own water, for hygiene reasons. 

Maybe they should dig a bore-hole for water? She asked Happy to investigate.

blog-photo-kamala-jean-story-latrines-outside-schoolhouse.jpg

Happy did. He told her it was cost-efficient to make water available to the community, not just the school. So the region’s main water pipes, which currently stop outside their area, are now being extended. Happy is supervising this project too.

As his mentor Kamala-Jean says, “His commitment to the community is unbelievably strong.” 

~~

As for Happy?

Chimwemwe (Happy) Musa — his full name — finally got the other results he’d been waiting for. Weeks ago, he learned he passed his exams, thereby completing high school at last. He hopes to start teachers’ college a year from now.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy and Family

~~

Kamala-Jean still marvels at everything that’s happened since her random meeting with Happy in that Cape Town market.

“Some people would say the stars aligned. If you believe in God, you have to think there was a purpose for my being there. This young man, by the way, has a deep belief in God. He genuinely thinks that if he does the wrong thing, God will not be happy.  He’s always trying to do the right thing.”

As Happy “does the right thing” in Malosa, Kamala-Jean continues to guide and mentor him from Toronto.  And she and People Bridge are continuing to raise funds to support the school till it can stand on its own.

Want to contribute to the Malosa School Project in Malawi?   https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/the-people-bridge-charitable-foundation/

A Good Home, Achieving A Dream, Inspiration, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Schooling

Kamala-Jean’s Amazing Story

Imagine you’re visiting an open-air market in Cape Town, South Africa, talking to a bright, impoverished young vendor, not knowing your life is about to change.

The young man has the improbable name of ‘Happy’. 

Your actions will also change his life and that of his whole community, but as you return to your comfortable home in Toronto, Canada, no-one has any idea of what’s about to unfold.

~~

Meet my dear friend Kamala-Jean Gopie.

We first met when she was a teacher and community leader.  As a television journalist with Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC, I interviewed her. Later, we worked together as community volunteers and became friends.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean CU

I know this woman’s heart. She gives without expecting recognition.  And that’s partly why I’m recognizing her here.

I’ve known Kamala-Jean’s kindness firsthand. In one of my worst summers since the car accident, this elegant, dignified woman drove a long distance to my home, repeatedly, to visit, comfort me — and weed my garden. 

Blog Photo - Garden Tall flowers in front

But her works go far beyond one person.  She’s not rich, yet she has provided scholarships to needy students, contributed to Canadian arts, educational and community organizations — big and small — and helped many.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Gopie with award

But nothing she’s done has surprised me – and perhaps even her – as much as this one.

~~

Kamala-Jean lingered to chat with the young vendor. She’d won her auction bid for a trip to South Africa and was now visiting Cape Town.

She asked him questions. He described his role as family breadwinner, and his dream of becoming a teacher. But he hadn’t completed high school. He was here selling goods to support his family back home in Malawi – a four-day bus ride away.

“When he said he had 6 siblings at home and his father was dead, and if he only had his Grade 12, he could help his family out of poverty, it just moved me.”

Kamala-Jean gave him her email address and asked him to contact her.

She asked her cousin, director-general for the Centre for Disease Control in South Africa, to find out more. He confirmed Happy’s story about the school. Kamala-Jean decided to fund Happy’s return to Malawi and his schooling.

Then, last June, she visited Happy and his family at their rural home in Malosa, bringing books and other supplies and singing with the children.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy and Family

“The family lives in three small houses with no real furniture, electricity or plumbing.  There is no kitchen or bathroom.  They sleep on straw mats on the ground.”

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Kids first trip

She learned there was no school for young children nearby.

~~

Back home in Toronto, she spoke with Diana Burke, head of Canadian charity People Bridge. Diana encouraged her.

“I wrote to Happy and asked: ‘What would it cost to build a school?’ Happy said, ‘I’ll talk to the chief.’

“The chief was very supportive. Then Happy told me: ‘My family will donate one hectare of land.’ “

Happy’s family was giving what it could. 

~~

Things moved quickly in both Canada and Malawi. People Bridge started a fund for the school, with Kamala-Jean and friends donating. Within days, trees were felled and building started.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean school being built walls going up

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean schoolhouse almost ready2

“It took 5 weeks. The school was completed by the first week of September and I travelled there and opened the school on September 18th.”

“What on earth made you do this wonderful, crazy thing?” I asked her.

“I didn’t know it was going to be wonderful and crazy. I had no notion. I just spoke to this young man who seemed honest and wholesome. His honesty was palpable. 

“When I was leaving the market, I gave him $10. He put his hands together in prayer and said ‘Oh, Ma’am. God bless you.’ I had to turn away. I was so moved. But I never knew things would end up where they did.”

COMING SOON: Pt 2. A WHOLE COMMUNITY IS CHANGED

 

A Good Home, An Honest House, Beauty, Book lovers, Book Readers, Canadian Authors, Canadian Books, Coping, Gratitude, Inspiration, Writers

The Private Responses of My Readers

People who read my books tell me the darndest things. 

Perhaps instinctively knowing that I’ll never let them down — or simply because I’ve written a lot of personal stuff in my books — some readers write very personal responses in their letters and cards.

I feel privileged to read them. Every one.

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Some weeks ago, one particular letter arrived. It accompanied a card, and was totally unexpected.

You see, it came from a prominent person, and the fact that he took the time to read my book — and write to me — was a huge surprise.

~~

As you may know, I live with a strange thing called post traumatic stress disorder — one of the outcomes of a car accident of years ago.  Only very recently have I written about it.  When I did, I deliberately crafted my book, An Honest House, to provide a balance between the beauty, love and support that surrounds me in our old farmhouse, and the uncontrollable terror that always hovers, just out of sight.

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I wanted book lovers to read my book, and I particularly wanted people who struggle with PTSD to read it.  I wanted them to see, in an ‘up-close and personal’ way, how someone else lives — with and, in spite of, PTSD.

But here’s the problem: if you have it, reading about PTSD can be a death-defying thing — or so it feels. It wasn’t until after writing An Honest House that I finally read an article about PTSD – written by my own therapist, for the back of my own book! Even then, I only read it because I had to.

~~

Shortly after my book went to print, I saw a news story about a prominent person who lives with PTSD. I wrote to commend him on revealing it in public, and also mentioned my upcoming book. He replied warmly — then warned that he’d most likely not read my book. 

Imagine my surprise and pleasure, then, when I recently received a letter and card from him — just like that, out of the blue!

The letter was warm and revealing.

A beloved relative, he wrote, had recently died, and in his grief, he decided to read An Honest House. He found himself immersed in it. 

I alternated between smiling and feeling choked up as I read. How moving to learn that he actually read the book and that it gave him comfort in a challenging time! And how gratifying to know that An Honest House will have a place of honour on his bookshelf. 

As with the vast majority of my readers, I’ve never met this man in person, never even talked to him on the phone. I likely never will.  Yet, in a way, we know each other. 

~~

Dedicated to everyone who writes to an author whose book they’ve enjoyed.