Friday, July 27, 2012


Each year as news break that another group of students is getting ready for their trip to New York, I can only imagine the excitement, the preparation, the anxiety.  These high school students from the School of Hope, Cape Town, South Africa have made the decision to finish their education in spite of the tremendous obstacles they faced.
Erika Lee, an amazing young woman founded this NYC based non-profit organization called Active Compassion Transforms(ACT) that E-Mentors to disadvantaged students.  The caring and willing volunteers communicate with the student on a weekly basis for a year through a guided curriculum of life skills and career planning.

This 10-day visit not only allows the student to meet their mentors but gives them the opportunity to job shadow someone in their chosen field of study while enjoying the BIG APPLE. The inspiring Chef, Kirsten Cuido was my charge for the day and we traveled to our Flushing Center to participate in a supermarket tour with our Healthy Lifestyle expert and participants from our Program. A Chef we told Kirsten must start with the best of ingredients to prepare simple and delicious dishes.  We were introduced to many new and familiar products and as we traversed the aisles we learned more and more about the intricacies of good shopping, helping us to become well informed consumers.

The shadowing  did not stop there, back at the Center where we serve women, infant and children(WIC), we continued our education on wellness and healthy living.  The Nutritionists prepared a great summer recipe for salsa, made with mango, tomato, lemon juice and cilantro. This easy to make dish, packed with nutrients had everyone in the audience smacking their lips at the refreshing and delicious taste.  A woman in the audience proclaimed that she was going home to try the recipe and so did Kirsten. We ended our visit with a bag of goodies, presented by the welcoming staff, items fit for an up and becoming Chef.  Kirsten left feeling very grateful for the lessons learned.

                        Dear Students,

                                           When we gathered to bid farewell, it was a time for fun but also to reflect on this
                        journey that took you from the despair you all described to where you are now.  Each of you said
                        that to even harbor the thought of leaving where you are from is unheard of but here you are
                        today, given the opportunity to better yourself and with a bonus added, the ability to travel to
                        a distant land. You also gave honor to Nelson Mandela, Madiba as he is fondly called, on this his
                        94 years of living.  And what a life it has been!  Amidst all the din and excitement, good music,
                        good food, my mind was occupied with your amazing journey.

                        By taking the difficult steps to continue your education is admirable, that you were able to veer
                        from the muddy path is courageous; you have planted seeds of HOPE, which when watered with
                        love, care and tenacity, will blossom and bear fruits of joy.  When weeds begin to creep in and
                        they will, I am sure you will get to work  and clear your path once more with helping hands.

                         The Principal of the School of Hope, spoke sincerely, about never  giving up on anyone and
                        never should you give up on yourself.

                        KEEP THE LEGACY OF MADIBA ALIVE!
                        KEEP ADAPTING!