Statistics, when carefully selected and presented, can jolt the West into action. At the very least, they can generate an emotional and financial response. Awareness and fundraising campaigns are built on this premise. Reports of widespread and systemic suffering from the developing world provoke bewilderment: 'this isn't right,' 'something needs to change.'
But what needs to change? Who needs to change it?
The perception that Africa needs saving by the West still perpetuates. The West wants to save and many want to be saved, whatever that means. At Sepheo, we care about seeing every child off the streets and living out their purpose in excellence, but we also care about bringing Basotho to the forefront of the solution. Traditionally, it is said that every child is a child of Lesotho. I meet so many people who lament the loss of this precious part of their culture.
The needs I see around me daily are rarely purely economic. My whiteness has no bearing. I am no better equipped to help. Answers are found with Basotho, and must be brought by Basotho. The things we do which transform children's lives are normal, everyday things that can be done by normal, everyday people. You can stop to give of yourself. You can share a meal. You can listen to a child's story. You can be a part of reversing the tide. You have something to give. If you can identify the problem you can be part of the solution. Don't walk past. This is our problem.
My own story of leaving my career and coming to Lesotho was not one of being moved by statistics or being pulled by the desire to be seen as a humanitarian. It was in meeting children on the street personally. It was in becoming their friends. It was in recognising my responsibility to never ignore. To never walk past.
We are starting to see a shift. People approach us constantly asking for ways they can help. The real marker of success for us is in these individual decisions and when Sepheo is seen as a movement of Basotho. Whether they're making lunches, teaching music, doing art, giving resources, tutoring illiterate kids, or as we ask everyone to do, stop, greet and ask a child's name, they are choosing to buck the trend and influence their culture.
The picture of change isn't in the ubiquitous selfie of a young, white face amongst a sea of smiling African children. "Look! We're making a difference." The picture of change often can't be seen through a lens, but through lots of people, local or foreigner, educated or uneducated, dirt poor or of means, realising that what they can give matters.