Today was a very moving day. One that
will never forget. I have been in South Africa for over a week now, in
Johannesburg. I came here to play at the jazz festival here, "Joy
of Jazz.” I was a special guest with a band so I arrived earlier in the
week to rehearse for a few days. The Performance was wonderful; the
audience was very appreciative and vocal (love that!) They showered us with
wonderful energy. I got a chance to go out to the audience after and
people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed my playing and music. I
was really really touched by their words. They told me I really moved
them. It continues to amaze me every time I’m in a different part of the
world, how powerful music is and such a universal language.
While I am here in South Africa I am taking in part in helping with a mission
called "Rebecca’s Well.” The first time I came to South Africa (last
year) I did a benefit concert for Rebecca’s well. Rebecca’s well is an
organization that raises money for women in South Africa who need help.
They help with finding housing for women and their children, jobs, emotional
support, whatever these women/mothers need. Yesterday and today I have
gotten a small dose of what the less fortunate areas of South Africa are
like. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,
We had lunch with a lovely woman who owns a restaurant (a friend of the organization.) She took us on a tour of the Township "Alex", which was very eye opening. Shacks, no indoor bathrooms, litter, and houses placed extremely close
together are everywhere. There are over a million people living in this tiny
town of two square miles. Children run into the streets to play since there isn’t any room to
play in a backyard or in their house. The most astounding thing was
driving around. We were in a regular looking area, took a turn and all of
a sudden everything looked so different. Houses turned into shacks, stores turned into dumpster looking trucks. It was so extreme.
Alex was the first city Nelson Mandela rented an apartment in.
And when I say apartment I mean a room. We visited the room he was in and
there was a sign with some historical information.
Today’s journey was amazing. We went to Soweto and went straight to the
children’s feeding shelter. I got to meet lots of adorable children. Our
guide took us to a small house, much better living conditions, Gov’t Housing, than in "Alex" but still no where near how people should have to live in the 21st century. I was greeted by all these incredibly
enthusiastic little kids running to me and grabbing my legs. They were SO
adorable..ages from 5-14. These little girls wouldn’t let go of me or
stop giving me hugs and they lit up my day with their beautiful smiles and
We went to the corner of the "house” (an outside space) and I
sat down. Immediately 12 kids surrounded me and a little girl jumped on
my lap. Then they started touching my hair and kept saying "so
soft.” I told the girls that their hair was beautiful as well.
Everyone had their hair in braids and the texture is very different. I
don’t think they’ve seen anyone with my type of hair before. I took down
my hair for them and everyone was at my head..the girls were braiding it, it
was very funny. While a couple of them were braiding my hair, the others
wanted to hold my hand. I felt a bit like a human playground! (In the best
When it was time for feeding, all the kids got into a line. I helped with
putting food into each plate and giving it to the kids. I was told that
this is sometimes the kid’s only meal for the day, or for a few days. The
shelter tries to provide as much food as they can for the kids but they run out
money quickly and cant always provide. After feeding some of the kids go
back home if they have mothers and fathers to go back to.
We had very hungry children, some coming back for second and thirds. Our very
large pot of food ran out very quickly.
I then took out my saxophone and
started playing for them. The kids were fascinated, their eyes got big while
watching my fingers move and some of them pressed a few buttons on my horn.
The kids sang me a nursery song they
all knew and I played with them. The sound of their voices was so beautifulI
love the pure tones of these young kids; the high notes ringing out so clearly
and together the sound is full of joy!!
I then did a little call and response
song with them where I sang then they sang. I played, and they
sang. I put it in lots of handclaps and fun rhythms for them as well
which they loved. They were full of smiles and giggles not to mention
LOTS of enthusiasm!!! They all clapped at the end and it was already time
for us to go.
As I was packing up I talked to the
woman who is in charge of the shelter. She was saying it’s amazing for
the kids to meet other people and that the gift of music was so special for
them. Earlier in the week they met other people from the US (who were
part of Rebecca’s Well.) They loved all the new faces. She was also
saying any help they can get with funding is extremely helpful. They try to feed the kids as much as
they can, but sometimes they cant because they run out of money.. This
woman hugged one of the founders of Rebecca’s well for a very long time and
there were tears coming down her face. It was very moving. As I was
packing up and leaving these two young girls ran in. They both had their
arms around me, wanting me to pick them up and give them piggyback rides. Which
As I was leaving the kids were all singing the song I had played for them and
clapping their hands. It’s amazing how fast young ones pick up on music.
It doesn’t take them long to get it and the melodies stay in their ears. Even
this melody they had never heard before was internalized and remembered in
their heads 20 minutes later! The woman of the organization said some of
them said to her they were still hungry for more music. It was so
touching. The kids were all waving to me and saying "bye Grace.” I
really wanted to take them all home with me.
I’ve never seen lives like
this before. I’ve only seen things on TV and read about it. It’s a
completely different experience to meet these people, see these kids and
experience it through my own eyes. I realize that none of us have a
choice of what family we’re born into, where in the world we’re born and our
circumstances…it’s something we live with. I feel so fortunate to be in
the situation I am In with an incredible family and a dream I able to
live. My hope was that I gave some inspiration to the kids today. The
translator told them that I was only 10 years old when I started playing (many
of them were that age) and then they were told about my journey in music.
I have no way to relate to they life they live, but I hope and pray that they
will be able to find a passion and talent in life that will help them get out
of their situation and lead a comfortable happy life. Rebecca’s well is helping
them do that.
I also realize that kids are just kids, anywhere in the world. I looked
at one girl who had such a sparkle in her eye when she saw me, so much
excitement. You see that with any 6 year old in the world. We (my dad and
I) walked down the street and saw some kids making up a game with a piece of
string they found. It’s so crazy to me how these little kids are playing with string while
other young kids around the world are playing with their Iphones.
The next day we went back to Soweto to meet with some of the women the program is helping and working with.
Please check out Rebecca well’s website www.rebeccaswell.org and if you have any way to donate
please do. I can tell you that I witnessed with my own eye the good this
foundation is doing for these people. They create a world of difference
for these women to find shelter, jobs and for these children to return home
with a full tummy. If you can’t donate with money but want to do
something, donation of clothes or anything you can think of (old computers,
books, canned foods etc) are all very helpful to the cause and will go to
I hope it doesn’t sound like I am an
advertisement. That is not what I’m trying to do at all. I have
been so overwhelmed with what I saw today and yesterday that I wanted to share
it with you with my own words.