Friday, September 24, 2010

Siyabonga: Poet Engineer

Siyabonga wakes each morning to the gray light of early dawn seeping through the gaps between the corrugated metal & cardboard which make up the walls of his home.  He rises, dresses in his frayed school uniform and hurries to the open tap in the center of his community.  Siyabonga lives with his mother and younger brother in a squatter camp called Drummond on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.  He waits his turn to get water from the tap, the central ingredient in his morning tea, his only nourishment before trudging off to school.  

School is an almost 4 mile walk down the side of a busy, paved road.  Siyabonga composes poetry as he walks, committing each line to memory with each step.  A rhythm for his rhymes.  

Siyabonga worries about his upcoming matriculation exams.  He struggles with math and dreams  to go on to University to study engineering.  Without the proper books or instruction, he knows that passing the test will be close to impossible.  

A chaotic and crowded school day passes and a long walk home awaits him.  Siyabonga needs to hurry home to complete his homework and chores before darkness falls, as homework by kerosene light leaves him with headaches. 

 But before he heads home, Siyabonga makes a detour.  

Siyabonga navigates his way through a dusty field and across a swinging bridge over a ravine.  Then he climbs the steps to a small brick building with a satellite dish atop it.  He opens the door to a brightly painted room with computers distributed on desks throughout the room.  He hurries to a work station.  

Siyabonga types in the web address of Infinite Family’s Ezomndeni Net.  He signs in with his password, checks his email and quickly opens his blog page to add this morning’s carefully memorized poem to his blog.  With a few more clicks, he adjusts the webcam, puts on his headset and writes that same poem on the video conferencing room’s whiteboard as he anticipates the arrival of his Infinite Family Video Mentor, Chuck.  Soon, Chuck’s face emerges beside Siyabonga’s on the screen.  They smile and trip over each other’s words with the eagerness of their greetings.  

Chuck has found some practice tests for the matric exam on a website.  He shares his computer screen with Siyabonga so that he can see what the test looks like.  Siyabonga efficiently types the web address into the weblinks dialogue box.  He bookmarks the webpage and saves it in a file with his name on it.  Chuck praises Siyabonga’s poem and helps him polish the spelling of a few words.  They alternate between laughter and furrowed brows as they share the details of their weeks with one another.

Soon, their 30 minutes together comes to a close.  Siyabonga is encouraged on his walk home.  He has hope for the exams because his mentor, a man he has only ever seen on a computer screen, is actively advocating for him.  

Cars speed past this lanky boy headed back to his shack, one of so many boys in so many shacks.  But this boy knows he is different.  This boy knows that a community of caring adults reads his carefully constructed and heartfelt poems.  This boy knows that a man who lives in Pittsburgh, PA has his picture on his mantle and spends time each week working to make Siyabonga’s dreams come true.  Dreams of a future that don’t have him walking home to a shack, but have him entering a University classroom and a whole new world of opportunity.

This boy and so many boys and girls just like Siyabonga are learning the geography of an email field and the limitless possibilities of technology.  They are using the resources of the internet to expand their horizons and support their community.  The growing community of Infinite Family Net Buddies are overcoming these obstacles with the love, insight and opportunity presented to them by the Video Mentors of Infinite Family.  

We ask you to become involved with this groundbreaking intervention in the life of children so often forgotten in our world.  With just a few hours each month, from the comfort of your own home, you can help to open the door to new opportunities for children just like Siyabonga.   

Visit our website and become a Video Mentor or support the work of Infinite Family with your tax deductible contribution.  

Infinite Family, where the gift is you!

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