Imagine spending close to three years outside the classroom before hitting age 13, wandering about aimlessly and feeding from any source?
Yet after the entire rough patch, you are invited to perform as part of a marching band in front of multitudes in America; it sounds too good to be true, isn’t it? But this is the account of five boys from low-income Tlokweng whose footsteps brought them face-to-face with the Ditsheko family in the Village suburb of Gaborone.
It was exactly 15 months ago when the quintet hollered from outside the gate of the Ditsheko home begging for soul food. They got more than what they bargained for as they washed up, each got a set of used clothes and shoes and joined the family for lunch.
I remember that day so very well. Rev Ditsheko is my elder brother since we both originate from Maun. But he is also my spiritual father as Bishop. I had paid them a visit that day of 31 December 2013 as we happened to celebrate the holidays in the city. These boys knocked and he, myself and their seven-year old boy met the boys. It still touches me deeply to remember how the Bishop demonstrated God’s love when he taught his son even at five years at the time the need to share with those who are underprivileged. It was Mogolodi who shook hands first with the boys and welcomed them; sharing what he had with them. The boys all smiled and from that day, they were part of the family, Eddie Phenyo testifies.
Fast-forward to March 2015 and you are counting 40 boys and girls who followed in the footsteps of their own kin and neighbours to receive God’s love under the tutelage of the Ditshekos. The five boys 15 months ago might have been considered trash by a judgmental society, but their charisma as the ‘five wise men’ as they are affectionately called by their peers have attracted more youngsters who probably might fall through the cracks into a life of misery.
Dipalema Brass Marching Band was formed after the Ditshekos collected musical instruments from their Mennonite friends in Canada and the United States last July due to the hunger of music the children and youth expressed. The Ditshekos had also realised that the absence of engagement in positive extra curricula activities was responsible for the unwelcome behaviours amongst the group.
I am known as a writer and journalist in the Botswana society. What people don’t know is that music runs in my every vein. In fact those that know my family well will attest to the immense talent of music we have been blessed with. I sing from so many of the hymnals, and I continue to learn. Hence I was most pleased to meet youngsters hungry to engage in something like music to keep them away from mischief in their spare time, Rev Ditsheko explains.
The journey with the children has not been without bumps as the more the numbers grow, the tougher it gets to keep them under control and imparting social graces to a group of youngsters requires extraordinary patience and understanding as the same errors are habitually made and you start to realise that indeed you can’t teach an old new tricks.
But I am most disappointed about how the larger society and in fact extremely privileged members of our nation view these children. We cannot transform this nation if those of us who are wealthy shut ourselves in the closets to embrace them. This attitude is a sorry state of our Botswana. What has been a worse source of pain for me is that these children have in fact had vicious dogs set on them by my neighbours who incessantly complain about their level of noise whenever they come to visit. I have been to the police on more than one occasion to explain the noise levels. Mind you, these are children like yours and mine and one way to express joy and happiness is by being loud. By this I don’t mean that these kids’ rights are greater than the rest of us. But how do you humanly spite innocent children and yet stand tall as a citizen of Botswana who cares about the vision and its pillars, Ditsheko asks, rhetorically.
Almost all children do not have passports, nonetheless they are bound for the United States and Canada in July to be a part of the Mennonite World Conference slated for 21-26 July in Pennsylvania, United States of America. Forget their backgrounds and attend any of their shows, when they belt out hymns such as “Rock of Ages” and you’ll be transformed into a new creature. An appeal for financial sponsorship for band uniform, addition to their old instruments for each of the 45 members and to raise enough funds for travel in the winter is being sought. Anyone willing to donate to their needs can write out a cheque to Little Eden’s Justice and Peace Centre or by direct deposit into the charity’s account as provided below:
Bank Name: Banc ABC
Bank Code: 55
Bank Swift Code: FMBZBWGA
Routing Number: 021000089
Branch Name: Fairgrounds
Branch Code: 550267
Account Name: Little Eden’s Justice and Peace Centre
Account Number: 1472472560701