Where to start..?
Well, its a good idea to start in Johannesburg.. After about 5-6 hours of driving, and one of the most amazing sunsets ever seen, the boarder of Lesotho will greet you with its lowest point in the whole country; 1400 metres. This also happens to be the highest - lowest point of any country in the world. It is safe to say this is a proper mountain Kingdom. With a official population of somewhere around 2,2 million and a unofficial one of about 3,5 million, its not a particularly big country but not a small one either.
I first met with Lesotho, its amazing landscape and even more amazing people in 2012. On my trip to Soweto in Johannesburg, me and a friend had brought some soccer gear from the national coach of Norway. We had agreed to deliver this to the LSRC (the Lesotho Red Cross Society), in the country which he had visited and fallen so much in love with the year before.
When you come there, you will immediately understand why - this amazingly beautiful place was like nothing I had even seen before. Its culture and its people, living in the same harmony I can only imagine Norway and other western countries were like in the early 20th century. There are a few small cities, with the capital of Maseru as the biggest with its aprx. 250 - 400 000 in population. But the vast majority of people are living in rural areas where the cars and loud horns are still non existent. There are only donkeys, horses, fields of cabbages, beautiful landscapes and smiles from sunrise to sunset.
But, then you go deeper and you get to learn to know the country even more. Because of its natural beauty and expression of peace and calm, the big contrasts to its actual past and present will become even stronger, and it will hit you hard.
Lesotho has somewhere in the range of 120 000 children living without their parents. "The lost generation" - the non existent parental generation. All of sudden it hits you, where are they? Lesotho is a kingdom of children. Beautiful children. But too many of them are managing on their own. The generation which gave birth to them is totally vanished because of AIDS, leaving so many of the children behind, infected and alone. On my trips inside of rural Lesotho, it became quite common to get to know fifteen, sixteen year old girls, supporting themselves and their family of maybe five or six younger siblings.
Still, 30% of the entire country is infected with HIV/ AIDS, and in urban areas as much as 50% of all woman under the age of 40. With a life expectancy of 42 years for men and woman, a glance at the future might not be so bright after all.
But, things are slowly changing. After meeting with the Lesotho Red Cross Society and observing the very important work they are doing, with very limited budgets, in their OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) programme, I got impressed. Medication is now available for most children, and they are working hard to raise money for nutrition and education so that the children once again are able to dream and realize their potential.
It is quite ironic that in some of the poorest countries in the world, education is an expensive luxury. The future lies in the hands of the children, and without the proper tools to make the most out of it, they are bound to continue the legacy of the generation before them. Primary schools in Lesotho are now free for all children to enter, but they still need money for books and uniforms. After they finish primary school at the age of twelve, the real problems begin. Not only do they need their uniforms, materials and books - but school fees are now a fight most children cant afford to win.
In 2012, we decided to partner up with the Lesotho Red Cross society to help them in their fantastic work in supporting the children of Lesotho with the potential of a new future through education. In 2013, PictureAid are supporting fifty children in five different schools and areas, with the necessary tools for them to make the most out of their childhood. This include materials, uniforms, school fees, and in the cases where it is needed; nutrition. The LRCS also has local volunteers and representativs in the communities they work, and a important task is also to offer the children, most of them orphans, mental support in terms of school and in other matters.
We are proud to work with such an amazing organization, and to give them a small hand in creating a huge difference in the future lives of Lesotho`s next generation. We are also proud on behalf of all our friends which has made this happend by transforming their naked, white walls in to symbols of change.