Helping a teenager navigate the ups and downs of life is hard enough when he lives down the hall. It’s a lot tougher when the kid is half a world away. Somehow, I’ve been able to help Mtuseni get where he is today…relatively confident and mature as he settles into his last year of college and sets his sights on the future.
It hasn’t been easy. Often an idea that might benefit Mtuseni — which could be implemented easily in the United States — begins in South Africa with a disjointed Google search followed by persistence, resourcefulness, and my varying degrees of patience. Due to a mix of culture and systemic issues, things down there don’t happen as quickly as this do-it-yesterday Northeasterner would prefer. Yet eventually the mountain moves.
But I haven’t done it all on my own. I’ve been lucky to encounter some people in South Africa who have been allies in my mission to create a better life for Mtuseni. Through some sort of miracle that I still don’t understand, this blog connected me with a woman named Jacquie. Reading about Mtuseni’s struggles in his Excel class last year, she wrote and mentioned a weekend program she coordinates, offering free computer classes. Despite rolling his eyes when I first told him of the program, Mtuseni thoroughly enjoyed it — building up his spreadsheet skills and his confidence.
Beyond the class, Jacquie has provided other support for Mtuseni, and he values her as a role model in the professional world. For me, she has offered an insider’s perspective when South African logistics have me tearing my hair out– and been a welcome sounding board when a certain illogical, moody teenager drives me mad. And after hearing from Mtuseni about disapproving stares we received from whites when I was with him in Johannesburg, it’s encouraging for me to know that not all white South Africans harbor outdated attitudes about race.
So hats off to Jacquie for her commitment and contributions to my long-distance son. It truly does take a village — either around town or across hemispheres — to raise a kid.
Be sure to stop by Jacquie’s blog and check out her beautiful photography! And tip your hat to her. She’s earned it many times over.