Plenty of Gratitude


The book is in press! I’ve been tardy with sending my blurb over to Heleen for publishing. My dissertation colors all my energy and effort. However, this morning I’ve put together a blurb and thank you that I believe is book worthy. One of the students texted me last week SUPER EXCITED that the book is being published! His text, made me SUPER EXCITED all over again. I wish I could be there to see their faces when the book is in their hands. I hope they have a camera available and can at least snap pictures of the event to share with me. Most of you won’t have an opportunity to see the printed book. I hope the note below adds to your insight about the project.

I enjoy working with young people. Not always and easy task, but always a learning experience for everyone. While serving as a Rotary Ambassador Scholar in 2008, through a partnership with Dr. Yvonne Sliep and the Narrative Foundation I begin working with a group of young people in the Valley of 1000 Hills. Equipped with cameras, brainstorming tactics, warm-up activities, and informal interviews, their task was to write stories.

Throughout the process there have been opportunities, small and large that have contributed to making this publication very special. Our early meetings were graciously translated by Casper. Community-based work always calls for improvising, work with youth means bringing high energy and enthusiasm. Our very first meeting happened curbside outside the gate of the S’thandokuhle Center (see an earlier post about the project). It didn’t take long before our meetings required less translation-unless of course the assignments hadn’t been completed. I knew when the work wasn’t done because the young people would switch to isiZulu and ask Casper to translate! Even when the days were chilly and rainy we met. There were days when a 35 minute ride took me 90 minutes or more. There were also days when a youthful weekend made a Monday morning writing meeting a low priority for the authors.

The stories inside are inspired by childhood memories, photographs snapped over the last 1 1/2 years, and imagination. Community change, a conversation overheard or family members also served as inspiration. One of the authors has really caught hold of visual writing-drawing a picture with words, his stories vividly bring characters to life. I hope he gets to write more. The other authors have dreamed up elaborate plots, which seem at times unbelievable and are comical at once! There are stories that were group efforts-pictures were scrambled and the youth worked together to create stories that incorporated all the pictures. Initially written in English because of my bilingual deficit, the authors definitely wanted the stories published in Zulu to reach their community. We all agreed publishing in Zulu and English would reach a broad audience. We started this project with almost a dozen young men and women, we finished with 3 young men who were tenacious enough to stick with it and “trust the process”. They’ve written over 25 stories in English and Zulu! 

I would truly like to thank the Rotary Foundation and Rotary District 7450 for selecting me as a 2007-2008 Ambassador Scholar. Special thanks to my host, Rotary Club of Durban Umhlatuzana and my sponsor, Rotary Club of Edgehill at Abington. Thank you to the Narrative Foundation, Dr. Yvonne Sliep, Heleen Sliep and Casper for your patience and the opportunity to work with you.

There are always many people behind the scenes whose support make projects like this a reality.  Thank you to my host father and his family, Preggie Naidoo, for sympathetic ears. For their, support, encouragement and muscle for the financial resources to see the project through, I must thank Brent Drage at the Rotary Foundation and John Washington of the Rotary Club of Edgehill at Abington. I especially thank  Ms. Charlotte Holt Fuller and Dr. Diana Slaughter Defoe, two ladies of distinction whose graciousness and fortitude carried me safely to Valley of 1000 Hills on multiple occasions along with God’s grace. Oddly, I must thank my academic advisor Dr. Howard Stevenson who sent me a simple note to use my time in Durban to write. Although the writing was not mine, the stories in this book were worth the time, attention and effort.

It goes without saying, no authors, no book. It is with true gratitude that I thank Byte, Handsome and Sphe for time well spent. Thank you. You are the authors.


  • March 6, 2010

    Nice! It goes without saying, hard work pays off!

  • March 13, 2010

    Go Val!! I am so excited for you and those involved in your work. Keep me posted. And I look forward to securing my own copy with an autograph!

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