Megan* is beautiful, with silky brown skin and short black hair. Although her voice is soft, her English is outstanding for someone who didn’t pass high school.
I met her a few months earlier, during training. Our topic for the day was orphans in Lesotho. With HIV/AIDS infection rate at 24 percent, it’s not uncommon for a child to lose a parent, sometimes two. Like in America, this population falls through the cracks. Sure, they can live with family members, but it isn’t always a guarantee that that family member can feed them or even wants them.
Megan is a double orphan, meaning she has lost both her mother and father. I am too afraid to ask how, but HIV/AIDS is the assumption. She was forced to quit school to look after her three younger brothers.
Thanks to the help of one very good Peace Corps Volunteer, Megan’s three younger brothers now go to school and the family has money for food and other daily needs. The volunteer also helped her turn her situation into an opportunity. Megan runs a youth group for children who are not in school because they are orphans or their parents can’t afford to pay the fees. She teaches them income-generating activities, such as planting vegetables to sell at the market, raising chickens to slaughter for meat and making brooms. She’s also collaborated with local offices of international organizations, such as World Vision, to put on clinics about poverty and HIV/AIDS.
The girl dreams big. She is now hoping to finish a few of her high school credits to go to school for project development. She wants to start more groups like hers in surrounding villages (we hope to work together to get one started in my village) and eventually create her own non-profit for the region.
No big thinker, politician, writer, celebrity or athlete inspires me the way Megan does. She doesn’t want other children to go through what she did, and if they do, she wants them to know they are not alone.
There is nothing I could do during my time in Lesotho that will make as big of impact as what Megan is doing. Unlike me, Megan won’t leave in two years. She will most likely spend the rest of her life trying to make her country a better place. She is the kind of person this world needs more of and I’ll do whatever I can to resemble even a 10th of her character.
*Megan is a pseudo name.