Children being the focus of the trip, I spent my days teaching children, feeding children, and clothing children. I spent three days at an after school care center in Johannesburg, called Tshepang. Tshepang is bright and colorful beacon of hope that cares for over 300 children who live in Roodepoort informal settlement. Tshepang is expertly run by a team of skilled African social workers. Their level of dedication astounds me, many of them live in the slum by choice to look out for the children they serve during the day.
On my last day at Tshepang, I was holding a boy in kindergarten when his mother approached me. It was my first time meeting a parent from the slum. Her son's name was Junior, and when I handed Junior to her, we began talking. We started with my name "Bella" and quickly began bonding, since that was also the name of Junior's grandmother. "Your son seems to be very smart, you must be so proud," I gushed. Junior's mom began to break down. "What we really need are jobs," she pleaded to me. That was the moment I realized it. Junior's mother loves her son just as much as any parent; yet, she was born into extreme poverty and has to watch her son suffer with her. When she is able to send Junior to school, she waits at home all day for him to return. The biggest issue in South Africa is unemployment- it drives the cycle of poverty.