The Ottumwa Courier

November 22, 2012

Be thankful for many blessings this season


OTTUMWA — This holiday season, remember to be thankful for the things we often take for granted. I’ve been serving in the Peace Corps in South Africa for the past 16 months, and living amongst some of the poorest people in the world has made me realize how grateful I am for growing up in Iowa.

As you turn on the faucet to begin preparing Thanksgiving dinner, remember the millions of those around the world who live without access to safe drinking water. People in my village push wheelbarrows to the communal taps every day to collect enough water for their families, struggling with impossible heavy loads, occasionally balancing them on their heads.

When you turn up the heat to stave off the winter cold, remember those who brave months of below-zero temperatures, shivering in cement rooms as cold as walk-in coolers. Imagine teaching children who are wearing thin, torn sweatshirts, running barefoot over the frozen Kalahari sands.

As you gather to give thanks over a table heaped with food, pause to consider the children in my village who are painfully thin, with golden, brittle hair due to acute protein deficiency. The school provides one meal per day, and for some children, that is all they receive.

And as you recover from a hearty meal with your loved ones gathered around, think of the 20 percent of the kids in my school who are considered orphans and vulnerable children, largely due to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa that has devastated a generation.

Everyone is surrounded by blessings, and we all must remember to be thankful. Living in South Africa has provided me a personal understanding of global poverty and reminds me to be thankful every single day. As you go about the holiday season, consider giving some time, energy or money to those less fortunate in the USA or abroad.

Jennifer Daugherty

U.S. Peace Corps South Africa