Monday, July 26, 2010

An Amazing Week in Siyathuthka

We have spent an amazing week in the township of Mufambiza, working at the Siyathuthka community center that was set up by Hands at Work. The kids have been planting a garden about the size of half a football field, painting the community center, hosting a party for the volunteers and 300 orphans from the community and finishing the week by spliting up and spending the night in five different orphan lead homes. I figured the best way for the readers of this blog to get a feel it had on the students was to hear it directly from the kids. From the mouths of babes…

Taylor – New day, new week, new experiences, and new everything! This week Dustin’s Greenhouse finally got to start on the garden in Siyathuthka! Not one person that was in the van felt tired or weighed down. It was quite the opposite really! There was an air of anticipation and fear in the van on the first day we all drove there. The ride there was something else! You wouldn’t even know that the places we rode through were imagined in the mind to be sad and depressing; it wasn’t! Not even close! It was unbelievable. So this is how the week so far went for the Globetrotters:

Monday: We all got to Siyathuthuka at the early hour of 8am and got to meet the women and men of the community that volunteered their time to be there with us. There are up to 13 women and 3 men in all with us, very hard working and dedicated men and women. The women are always smiling and there is not one day they are not! We all couldn’t help but laugh and have a blast with them. After a morning prayer, slowly we all came together and started the first committed day of many to come on the garden. Everyone had a station that worked well with them and worked like worker bees. Monday we got half of the garden done.

Tuesday: The globetrotters split up, the boys were with Marty, they were the first to leave for the garden so that they could get an early start. The girls went to Masoyi were they met with a group of young African mothers who are in a program called “The Young Mothers of Masoyi”. These young women are taught to sew and knit so that they may one day make a living. We heard some of the young mother’s stories and later on some of us shared our own stories and understandings with them. Really something else! After that, the young mothers had a different look in their eyes for us, it was truly inspiring. We passed out give-a-gallon bags to the women and they all had glowing smiles on their faces!

The boys also had a story of their own that we all still think is hilarious! After the boys left, they stopped at a gas station where two globetrotters, got out to use the bathroom. They start asking around for where the bathroom may be and they kept on getting directed the wrong way. After the third time of being messed with, they finally got directed the right way and after doing their business, they came out to find that the workers had locked them in the bathroom!!

Something interesting in Africa is you pay a fee to use the public bathroom and to get in, there may be a revolving door. When they came out, the door was locked and the workers are laughing at them! They put two-and-two together and realize that the workers aren’t letting them out any time soon and are too busy laughing. They asked the counter lady, who was with the workers, to unlock the door and she told them that the key was “lost” and they were locked in, that is when panic started to set in. On the other side of the store, two other globetrotters were leaving when they heard the commotion and came to help. Eventually everything sorta worked out and they had a laugh at the experience. “Sorta” being that security was called over by the commotion also! The boys eventually got to Siyathuthuka and instead of working in the garden they spent the rest of the day painting the little community center where the Siyathuthuka Home Base Care was based. They did an amazing job on it to! We got another half done on the garden Tuesday as the girls came back and helped. Later that night Hands at Work got a snake exhibition here at the compound, mambas, spitting cobras and a boomslang.

Gaby and Lexx - After the orphan party at Siyathuthuka we all sort of stood against the fence and laid around on our twin size sleeping mats waiting for the bus to come that would drop us off at the home of our assigned families. Any worries or anxiety was long gone by then and was replaced with anticipation and lots of excitement with hopes and prayers that our family would like us and welcome us in.

When we first arrived to our home we were given a tour of the small concrete home with three bedrooms, a kitchen, and an outhouse. Our family had two sisters (one with a baby named Pendulo), and two brothers. The older brother we weren’t able to meet until the next morning because he was working. Marty, thought we could cook them dinner, but we ended up mistaking flour for porridge. So we started cooking “porridge” and eventually noticed that it was looking a bit off and discovered we’d actually made them flour water. After that minor set back we got help from one of the sisters and her friend and were able to cook a meal with porridge and chicken stew with vegetables.

When dinner was over and we’d all gotten to know each other a little better we watched a South African soap called Generation, and then watched and American show called The Game. Thandazile, our “sister”, taught me how to do Shakira’s Waka Waka dance, and then later her and her friend Maudy and Maudy’s little brother sang and danced for us while we recorded and attempted to learn the dance. Once we’d exhausted our energy the boys all went to bed in a separate room with Lexx and Marty on mats in front of our little brother’s bed. I slept in a bed with Thandazile and Maudy but before bed we put on a movie with intentions of watching it, but we never actually got around to seeing past the first five minutes because our girl talked kicked in as it normally does at sleepovers and we weren’t able to stop until late after the movie was over.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and right away began cleaning the house in detail. Marty and our younger brother took the task of gardening and weeding outside. Afterwards we made peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast and then did dishes. We finally met our older brother and got to know him a bit and then were then prompted to go to the stream by a very excited Maudy who kept repeating it was “Maudy River”.

We went down to the stream and hopped around from side to side trying to get to Khaleel and Deshawn’s homestay from there. When we finally arrived we watched the brave boys gag down S’more sandwiches and laughed at everyone’s attempts to dance to more music (people really love to dance here). We hung out with Khaleel, Deshawn, and Silo (their “brother”) for a bit and then invited them back to our place to show them around. When we arrived they were quickly submerged in a game of cards and Maudy stole us off to her home to show us around. She gave us cold drinks and provided Lexx with toilet paper when we had an unexpected nosebleed.

After we sat around on the couch and watched TV for awhile we walked back to our own home to spend our last hour together and pack up our things. When we were done getting our things together we said goodbye with many hugs and pictures. It was a fulfilling and significant experience for all three of us.

Askia, Madelyn and Lauren – Our night started with 20 people crammed in a 14 person van, so we got to know each other very quickly. The head of the house was a twenty year old guy named Richard. He was friendly but quiet as his English was not too good. His siblings: Ness, who was 21, and her daughter, Landumiso (“Faith” in English) who was seven months old, Sandeli who was 14, Innocent who was 16, Freedom who was 24, her daughter Cierra who was 5 months, and Treasure who was 4, lived with him.

Their cousins lived very close where Lou, Melissa and Taylor stayed a couple houses down. We watched a soap opera called Generation in Swasi. Ness seemed very surprised when we told her we did not have the show in America. We ate dinner—pop, porridge, and chicken, no forks and spoons here, meals are eaten with your fingers. Sandeli and her cousin, Gift, played with Madelyn and Lauren’s hair. Gift said it was the first time he touched a white person’s hair and that it was “slippery”. We went to sleep with the light and the TV on. In the morning we cleaned up the three room house, sweeping the floor and cleaning up our bedrolls. Freedom made us butter sandwiches and sweet, hot tea with milk. Lou, Melissa, and Taylor, along with the family they were staying with, came over and we made S’mores on a fire outside.

Then we walked down to the community well that had been contaminated because of a hole in the well that allowed dirty water to seep in. Several families were washing their clothes with the water and taking jugs back to their homes. Later we walked to a store that was also a rec-center with a pool table.

They sold their soda in glass bottles by the liter and we all agreed it was the best coca-cola we’d ever tasted. We walked back to the house, Martin played them in pool (and yes Brad he is leaving Africa 6-0 a perfect score) Richard brought out a stereo set-up and blared, “Waka, Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira; we all danced, much to the delight of the townspeople who came out and watched us.

The neighborhood Go-Gos (Grandmothers) joined us, decked out in traditional Swasi costumes,.which meant beaded skirts and necklaces, and no tops. When the van finally came to pick us up, we did not want to leave. They were such incredibly gracious, open hearted people and it was an honor to spend even one day with them. It was an incredible experience we will never forget.

Khaleel and Deshawn - We have had the honor of meeting Silo Donald Ngoben. Silo is a nineteen year old young man currently in grade eleven living in a one room house with no income, and no one to assist him with his school needs. Silo’s mother struggled with sickness from TB, HIV, and cancer which later took her life in March of 2008, and his father has been absent for the majority of his life. From then on Silo has been totally dependent on himself for school, food, and the basic necessities of life. The only support he receives is that of the volunteers of Siyathathuka home based care, church members, and occasionally his aunt.

Words can’t describe the emotion dispersed throughout Silo’s house last night. After reading his bio we were reluctant in how to connect to someone that had gone through so much pain. It was an experience neither of us prepared ourselves for, but subconsciously we wanted to make sure that we didn’t leave without having a positive influence on his humble life. We also wanted to embrace the influence he would have on our lives by making sure we share his life story with everyone. Immediately we were greeted by a warm presence within his one bedroom house. With Barry White’s “Practice What You Preach” playing in the background we soon found that music was the one thing that connected our lifestyles together.

Though his house only consisted of two beds, one couch, a small television, a dvd player that didn’t always work, a refrigerator, and a small propane stove we felt as if we were home. Silo seemed as if he was very soft spoken but that soon changed as we began exchanging our aspirations for the future. He says he wants to become either a “American Superstar” featured in movies or a “Powerful Preacher”, which we saw as total opposites. We shared many laughs and shed few tears after hearing about his mother passing away. Silo gave us a piece of himself in many different ways by sharing information with us he had never shared with anyone else, not even his closest friends. His relationship with God was most significant to us. Throughout all of his trials and tribulations, his faith remains strong, and he continues to thank God for every day he has on earth. This was more than just a home stay with an orphan for a night. This was a chance for us to get outside of ourselves to truly see our world in a completely different dimension. Silo is the strongest person we have ever met. In the “world” we live in, it is sometimes easy to seek support from others. Often we look for tangible things to substitute what we feel, but staying with Silo for a night showed us to appreciate the things we can not physically touch. Last night has changed our lives forever, Silo has inspired us to keep strong faith no matter the situation and to value the opportunities we have been blessed with. Now we live our lives knowing that we hold a piece of him and he holds a piece of us. We can truly say we have a new found brother in the village of Mufambiza that we will never forget.

Sorry to give the parents some bad news but Lou and I have decided to keep your kids! They are awesome!!!

Sorry no pics but it is 3am in the morning and I am beat after an incredible night, day in Mufambiza, shopping, cooking and having a braii with 24 brits here at Hands at Work, I will try to fill you in more in the next day or two. We are headed to Kruger tomorrow and we are all sad that we will lose Mr. Gadget (Marty).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

White River Idol

I wasn’t sure if this trip could get much better after a rough start, then doing a shark cage dive and meeting Desmond Tutu but tonight was another incredible night.

After a day of souvenir shopping with the kids we got ready for White River Idol, a talent show of local kids to raise money for Hands at Work that Paul and Mike Matthews organized. The level of talent was amazing. I thought that I was just going to be taking pictures but I was informed that I was going to be the MC for the evening. Not sure how I got that job, I guess I drew the short straw. The crazy thing is that I don’t remember every drawing any straws.

I received the list of acts with a brief description right before the show started so I was flying blind. Nobody had thought about recording the event on video or audio so Marty and Lexx jumped into action. Mr. Gadget figured out how to patch into their sound system and we had multiple video camera running during the show.

Lou, Lynne and Melissa worked the box office. All of the sudden it was show time with MC Green and the White River Idol. The local acts were incredible, with singing and dancing.

The Globetrotters stepped on stage and blew it away. Their act started with a poem that they had written about Dustin’s GreenHouse with a harmonica accompaniment by Lexx, then they broke into their step dance as the recited Invictus. It was awesome!

Here is the poem out Globetrotters wrote:

Out of tragedy seeds are sown

By the mends of the Green’s their faith is known

And through their efforts our lives have grown

Over the ocean and across new lands

We lay God’s blanket with giving hands
His loving wildness inspires our plans

This journey will forever change our lives

Through planes and sharks, we have survived

We thank our leaders with this surprise

Hope Grows Here

As the show finished our kids ran up on stage and started dancing which prompted all the other acts to join them. The night finished with all the kids who participated dancing on the stage. I can’t wait until you get to see the film, it is amazing! I love these kids!!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010


We started this morning the same way we left off yesterday, in the township of Masphumelele. The globetrotters loved the kids they saw and Shane has told me that he could arrange to have a band who lived in the township play for us so I had him set it up.
Masphumelele is a community like any other with barber shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. It is just a very very poor community. It was fascinating to see how they could set up a grocery store in what was just the backend of a trailer, or a funeral home in a broken down shack.
It was a really unique morning as the band set up in the middle of the street with their xylophones, African drum and Kudu horn. The band is called Buyambo and they have a very unique sound. As they played people came out in the streets and our kids started doing the Electric Slide to the African beat. Wow! It was amazing to watch as a group of American kids danced to the music in the middle of a township in South Africa early on a Thursday morning. What a sight!
The kids stick out in your mind as the victims of poverty but the amazing thing is how everyone still seemed so happy. It is amazing to see how money is not the root of happiness in many African communities. I guess when you think about it, money is never the root of happiness for anyone anywhere.

Shark Diving and Base Jumping on Table Mountain

The rest of our afternoon was full of adventure as we did our shark cage dive and base jumping on Table Mountain. We headed out in our shark boat towards Seal Island. Seal Island is about 25 minutes off the coast, an island with over 40 thousand seals hanging out on it. When you get downwind of the island the smell is overpowering. Unfortunately not a recipe for a bunch of kids who are seasick which is exactly what happened to almost all who went for the dive. Some sweated out the sickness and jumped in anyway, just two were too sick to think about jumping into 50 degree water.
As we anchored they dumped the cage in and tied it off to the side of the boat, then started chumming. Madelyn, Minesha and myself were the first to jump in. The crew had a fish head tied to a rope and a seal decoy they would toss out. When a shark came along they would lure it towards the cage.
The sea was pretty rough and you were constantly worried about a limb slipping though the cage and a Great White nabbing your arm or leg. Sometimes as you came up for air a swell would come at the same time not giving you any room to breath or your snorkel would fill with salt water leaving you gasping for air and a mouth full of salt water but when they lured a shark close enough to the cage you got up close and personal with one of the most dreaded creatures on earth. It was exhilarating!
The shark would grab the bait sometimes and the crew would bring the shark within a couple of feet or even inches of the cage. A couple of times the shark would actually bump the cage. These creatures are magnificent! Watching from the boat was just as thrilling as 10 to 15 foot sharks swarmed our boat right on the surface. 
I could not have been prouder of our Globetrotter kids and want to thank all the parents for loaning us 10 amazing people. People thank Lou and I all the time for giving these kids amazing experiences. The real secret is that we are granted an opportunity to mold and watch your children experience a whole list of “firsts”. It’s like letting us teach your child how to ride a bike and getting to watch them the first time the can ride without training wheels. Thank you so much!
Watching a bunch of high school kids, some who have never been on a boat, jump into a cage in freezing water when they are sick as a dog, throwing up over the side of the boat but still tough enough to do one of the scariest activities in the world is an experience that I will never forget. These kids are AWESOME! So you don’t owe us any thanks, we owe it to you!
I can check one more thing off my bucket list. As for the base jumping, it was off a park bench but Table Mountain gave us some spectacular views of Cape Town.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Going to the End of the Earth to Find Hope – Cape Hope

We joined the first group in Cape Town and were relieved that we all finally made it to Cape Town. Our guide, Shane Pinear picked us up and after dropping off our bags at our beautiful guest house, Moon Bay Guest House, we headed to the Cape of Good Hope. The kids were amazed with the beauty of the cliffs, the crashing waves and the flora and fauna. We made it to a restaurant overlooking the ocean and had a wonderful meal that was finished by all the wait staff singing some African songs. Really cool!
Then we climbed up to the lighthouse. The kids got to see penguins, a whale, and ostriches and millions of sea lice. You quickly understood why the coast of Africa is so treacherous. The kids finally got to see some of the incredible beauty of Cape Town.
We went into a township and the kids got to see how many of the people of Africa live. The township was really awful but a country club compared to some of the shanty towns.
So here are some of the pics you have been waiting for… 

Rough Start

Never a dull moment on a Globetrotter trip and our first 48 hours of this trip were no exception. It started with a flight delay in Greensboro that almost made us miss the last plane to Johannesburg out of Atlanta. We found ourselves running through the Atlanta airport to catch the flight and jumped on the plane as the doors shut. Missing that flight would have meant we would not have been able to fly out until Tues night, we dodged one bullet.
The second bullet came three quarters of the way through the flight when Lou told me she was having severe abdominal pains. Neither one of us had any pain killer so she toughed out for a couple more hours before she said she couldn’t stand it anymore. I know she is in serious pain when Lou let the flight attendant page for a doctor onboard.
A really nice doctor came forward and we found some strong pain reliever. The flight attendant radioed ahead for an emergency removal from the plane. The doctor felt that Lou was suffering from kidney stones. Then they moved us into first class. What a cheap way to get into first class. Unfortunately by that time there was only 45 minutes left in the flight.
A wheel chair was waiting for Lou when we touched down and we went to the medical clinic in the airport where they checked her out. The pain killer had kicked in and she was feeling better so rather than have an ambulance take us to the hospital my good friends Paul and Mike were waiting in the lobby took us to a private hospital.
Meanwhile back at the airport, since we were so late getting into Joburg we missed the last flight to Cape Town. Marty started working his magic with his co-workers in Greensboro, (thank you Melissa) to find a hotel and rebook our flight. Melissa called me at the hospital and Paul suggested that he make the hotel reservation since he was local and knew a good hotel close to the airport. After the hotel reservation was made we called Marty and the rest of the group and told them to go to the City Lodge Hotel, which they did. Unfortunately there are two City Lodge Hotels. Yeah you guessed it, they went to the wrong one. Now don’t forget Marty has two leaders, 10 kids with baggage and 14 duffle bags full of “give a gallon” bags.
Meanwhile back at the hospital, Lou is feeling much better. They still think it is kidney stones but not much they can do for her so we head for the right City Lodge. We finally meet back up with the kids about 11:30pm after starting our journey 33 hours earlier.
We got all the kids in their rooms and settled down about 12:30am on Wed and told them we had to be up at 5am to try to catch the 7am flight to Cape Town.
Everybody was up and ready at 5am and off we go to the airport. When we arrived they told us to get on the 7am flight we would have to rebuy all the tickets at $300 per person but if we waited until 12pm we could go for $45 per person.
That would mean we would not get into Cape Town until 2pm and another day would be wasted. I knew there was a chance that we could get Delta to help us because their delay made us miss our flight so I left the group and ran to the international terminal.
Of course when I got there Delta desk was closed with no one to be found . Now am I running back to the domestic terminal. Suddenly I remembered that our trip insurance included flight delay and cancellation coverage. I called and they said it should be covered, the only problem was there were only 9 seats available on the 7am flight and 8 seats available on the 7:30am flight and it was 6:15am, we had 45 minutes to rebook, check our luggage and get on the flight.
Marty was working the ticket rep and I was getting the kids ready. He told them to put Lou and I along with 7 kids on the first flight and the rest of the leaders and the remaining three kids on the second flight.
They close the flight 30 minutes before takeoff so we had 15 minutes to get our tickets and check our luggage. As they printed out the boarding passes I sent Lou with the kids to security. Our boarding passes were the last ones to print. They had printed all 7 kids boarding passes and they had headed for security when I was informed that the flight was closed and we would not make the flight.
Now I am running towards security to stop the kids because we have no leader on the flight. When I get to security I see Lou sending Lauren through security the last one to clear, all the others have already gotten through. So I grabbed Lauren told her she had to make the flight without an adult and we would be ½ hour behind them.
Here we go again, I am running back to the counter to try to make the 7:30 flight. When you are in a hurry nobody seems to move fast enough and as the clock ticked the second flight was about to close. We got our boarding passes just in time and again found ourselves running to the gate. Again we were the last people on the flight as they shut the door behind us.
Lou is feeling much better and we are on our way to Cape Town with enough running through airports to last me a lifetime.

On Their Way!

All 15 Globetrotters made it to Jo-burg.  Unfortunately, due to the delays, they missed their Capetown connection.  I think they will attempt tomorrow.  

Thursday is swimming with great white sharks, Friday is coffee with Desmund Tutu!  Then the Globetrotters will get down to the serious work of planting a garden for an orphanage and setting up the irrigation system.  They've allowed a week for that.

Thanks for all the warm wishes and support.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Great Kind of War!

On Tuesday, June 29th The Bistro at Adams Farm is having a RESTAURANT WAR.

For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, it breaks down to a BIG trading of places. For one night, The Bistro's head chef, Kristina Fuller and her culinary crew will drop their cutlery and leave their stove tops in exchange for serving trays and some customer facing. Likewise, the maître d’ and her wait staff will head to the kitchen tasked with everything from menu design through to "order-up" preparation.

The Bistro is never shy of friendly faces, entertainment or excellent food. They are also incredibly philanthropic, and in that light will be donating 15% of the night's proceeds to Dustin's GreenHouse.

So for a number of reasons, please call and reserve your space before it's too late! This is one you really don't want to miss.

Reservations: 336.294.4610 (Make sure to tell Rhonda I sent you!)
Entrée prices will range from $15-$17.

5710 High Point Road
Greensboro, NC 27407  

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Many teens send 100-plus texts a day, survey says...

I am fascinated by the social constructs that exist in today's high schools and the ways in which teenage girls in particular are communicating with one another. This article on validates a lot of assumptions, but 100+ text messages a day... wow!

Makes me wonder how many text messages I send in a 24 hour time period. Also gives me reason to think that there must be a number of ways our education system could be leveraging this communication vehicle.

Here's a link to the article if you are interested:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A text I received from one of our GreenHouse girls this morning:

"Everyday I can speak of our trip!!! In almost every class I can use our trip to explain or inform the class about me. Thanks again."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The 2010 Globetrotter Team!

We have selected this year’s group of Globetrotters and what a GREAT group of students!
This year’s group of students include a 16 year old mother, a 16 year old who is being raised by her 23 year old sister, a student who made his way to America from Sierra Leone as a refugee and now is a star soccer player for Page High School, and a future filmmaker from the Middle College of High Point.  All students where someone, (a teacher, counselor or a neighbor) who saw through the smoke and saw that sparkle in the kid who is underserved and/or under-recognized, our diamonds.

A special thanks to everyone who has supported Dustin’s GreenHouse and/or nominated a student for this year’s program.  We have a tremendous mix of talent, cultures and enthusiasm and we hope that you will all get a chance to meet and get to know our 2010 Globetrotters!

Congratulations to:
Minesha Carter - The Academy at High Point Central
Shatora Blackwell – Ragsdale High School
Gabriel Scott – Grimsley High School
Madelyn Rindal – Ragsdale High School
Lauren Nunley – Western Guilford
Taylor Woody – Ragsdale High School
Askia Abdul-Rahman – Smith High School
DeShawn Adams – Middle College of High Point
Lexx Truss – Middle College of High Point
Hassan Kouyateh – Page High School

We would like to thank all the people who helped during the nomination and selection process, Lynne Bergeron, Lin Bostian, Sam Bostian, Dan Turner, Joan Wellman, Janie Carter, Quana Gainey, Meghan Benz, Frankie Goins, Fanny Taylor, Brad Harder

This year’s Globetrotter Program theme is “responsibility”. What is your responsibility to yourself? Your community? Your world? Do you accept responsibility for your actions?
We will be headed for South Africa on July 15th and will be working with orphan children through Hands at Work ( There are a ton of plans in motion, from celebrating Mandela Day in South Africa on July 18th to camping out on the African savannah. Ohhh lions and tigers and bears…. Well lions at least.

How can you help?

  • We are still looking for a male leader to mentor our Globetrotters and go on our trip to Africa. Any ideas?
  • We will be collecting and distributing “Give a Gallon” bags. Put some of your favorite things (shampoo, lotion, birthday supplies, mosquito repellent, etc) in a  gallon ziplock bag.
  • Mosquito nets, if you have a few extra hanging around the house.
  • We are looking for fundraising opportunities or part time work for these students. Got any yard work that needs to be done? For many of these students if may mean you have to provide transportation but how often do you get to help a kid who has no mode of transportation?
  • Sponsorship – we can always use help sponsoring these kids.
  • You can help provide shelter, education and healthcare to an orphan in Africa for $15 per month. Go to Hands at Work to find details.
  • Storybags ( has designed a new line of story bags and is donating part of their sales to Dustin’s GreenHouse.  

We would like to thank the community for all your support for Dustin’s GreenHouse and the kids we have touched. None of it would have been possible without our village! I hope Dustin is J.

Martin, Lou, Ashlie and Mallory.