Are we going hunting?" --Rachel Starnes upon entering a game reserve where a lion park was located.


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Do You Remember My Name?

Laura Sessions Stepp

Molly and Zizipho (Alice Keeney for the Washington Post)

Of all the Xhosa names I learned to semi-correctly pronounce, Zizipho was the first one I memorized. On the first day of camp, Zizipho came up to me and we started talking. She told me her name and said, "Don't forget my name!" At first we didn't quite know what to say to each other, so we kept on asking each other "Do you remember my name? What's my name?" We ate lunch together and talked about everything from school to boys.

On the second day after we had finished lunch, Zizipho grabbed my hand and started pulling me away. Because the school the camp was at her school, Ndzondelelo, she decided to give me a tour. She pointed out her classrooms and the library and computer lab of 25 computers, both of which were financed and set up by the Ubuntu Education Fund. There are about 740 children in her school. In her class, there are 54 students who all fit in to the same classroom and all have seats. As we walked around, it was clear that she takes a lot of pride in her school. Later Zizipho said, "I'm proud of my school and I love my school." She takes seven classes -- mathematics, physical science, Xhosa, English, life oration (basically health class), history, and geography. Her favorites are mathematics and physical science.

She lives in a house with four rooms, two dining rooms, and a kitchen. She shares the house with two younger brothers ages three and two, grandmothers from both sides, both her parents, her uncle and two "cousin-sisters." I found it very interesting that she calls them her cousin-sisters, but they have lived with her for three years, ever since their mother died from meningitis. Even though the house is tight on room, Zizipho does not mind. When asked if she could live anywhere, she simply said she would live in a town closer to the

She only really knows one person with AIDS, her neighbor, who was diagnosed with HIV at age 15. She found out that she had HIV from her boyfriend, who had gotten tested. Now, at age 17, it has progressed to AIDS. She has been on ARVs for a year and a half and still is pretty healthy. She still goes out and plays with other kids.
She was already educated about HIV and AIDS at school before she became infected with the virus yet did not heed the advice. Zizipho was very upset when she found out, but always treats her the same as she did before she found out about HIV. She then gave her friend advice: "Eat some vegetables, foods that's healthy." Zizipho said the girl went to Ubuntu for advice. Luckily, her family was very supportive. They were angry but accepting because "she is their child and they love their child."

Zizipho plans to go to university and wants to be a physical scientist. Despite the large amount of poverty in townships, Zizipho said that most of her neighbors and family had gone to or are planning to go to university. However, with high unemployment rates, it is unclear how much a university degree is beneficial in obtaining higher paying jobs or jobs at all. Both of Zizipho's parents went to university, but now her father is unemployed and her mother works at General Tyres. With the combined salaries of Zizipho's mother and uncle, also a worker at General Tyres, there is enough money to save up for university and always have food on the table, as well as other

In one of our first conversations, she told me "Sexy Love" by Ne-Yo is her favorite song. After this week, I know that every time I hear that song I will think of Zizipho.

By Laura Sessions Stepp
Previous: Last Day of Camp | Next: A Confidence Shared, Two Lives Changed


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Wow molly, you really know how to move someone, like "this moved me" not like move move. Well, I really miss you and I'm happy, but defenetly not surprised, that you made new friends in south africa. I miss you a lot here too. I won't get to see you until thursday (which we need to work on convincing mom and dad to let just you pick me up). I hope you had a ton of fun, and learned a lot!!

I love and miss you!!

Posted by: Anna Brune | July 7, 2007 11:11 AM

I think its great that you have taken the extra step to make friendships with these girls. I love that you all are making the best of your time in South Africa. Can't wait to see you back in TP though.


Posted by: Vanessa | July 8, 2007 11:37 AM

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