By: Ellen Rosenberg
Seven years ago, almost exactly, my life changed forever. I was 21 years young and flabbergasted by the injustices I saw in my five months as a student at the University of Cape Town. After volunteering at Baphumelele Children’s Home, I knew that my future would be driven by the energy, passion and selflessness I had seen in the women I met in Khayelitsha. Just months later, Jared Sacks and I were connected through Erin Mirsky, another CHOSA-ite, and we co-founded CHOSA with the hopes of improving conditions for the children at Baphumelele and beyond.
In working on the ground in Cape Town, I struggled to balance my emotional need to jump in and “fix” the things that I saw with the knowledge that if the community was to change in the long run, the “fixing” had to start with the people we sought to help. As the Assistant Regional Director and a PhD candidate in HIV/AIDS and Society, Dianna Kane pushed me to see CHOSA’s role in the greater context of South Africa as a whole. As a true believer in community mobilization, Jared consistently reminded me that the change we wanted to see had to come from within. Rob Rosenbaum’s unrelenting commitment to the families of the Philani Family Fund and then to the projects we supported renewed me at every turn.
I can only speak for myself in saying that – of all the dreams I dared to dream – the realities of what CHOSA has accomplished has by far exceed them. After moving back to Cape Town in 2005, we were connected to Emasithandane Children’s Project, then Ubuhle Babantwana, the Amandla ku Lutsha soccer league and Philani Nutrition Centers. From there, CHOSA’s mission changed. It was no longer about changing the life of a single child but about finding a way to support the incredible drive of the communities, themselves.
In preparing my “reflections”, I looked back over the update emails I sent from 2005-2008. My first update was centered on CHOSA’s major contribution to Baphumelele in the allocation of 3 diapers per child per day. My second focused on the addition of the first in-house social worker for the project. Another beamed at the addition of a playground and an outing for the staff. Over the years, I got to take part in a photography class and public exhibition for the kids, a trip to Durban with 18 boys from the Amandla ku Lutsha soccer league, diaper changes, adoptions, a nutrition class and balanced meal planning, more diapers, hugs, kisses, English classes, doctor’s appointments and strategic planning meetings. Of course, there were always more diapers!
My time with CHOSA has been a journey fraught with twists, turns, hills and valleys. I was energized by the faith our donors had in us and guided by the steadfast and unwavering commitment of the Board. My love for the children and belief in CHOSA’s core values continue to inspire my decisions today. I hope you will stay in touch with me as the years go on and look forward to hearing from alumni, friends and colleagues.