Aspire, from the Latin word aspiro, loosely translates as “to breathe for a purpose.” I must confess that I find it perplexing how many of us involuntarily, and somewhat mechanically, follow the beaten path to success, but rarely stop and listen to our heart’s calling. I consider myself fortunate to have found my aspiro – an unflinching purpose that I hope to dedicate my life to.
As part of my role as Miss India Botswana 2014, I was given the opportunity to visit Gamodubu – an impoverished village on the outskirts of Gaborone. Little did I know that this visit would metamorphose into one of most defining moments of my life and kindle my inner calling.
As my friend and I made our way through the dusty roads of Gamodubu, hordes of children frantically chased our car, cheering as though we were heroes returning from a successful conquest. On arriving at Gamodubu Childcare Trust, we asked some of these children what they hoped to be when they grew up. One child shouted “Piloot!” another exclaimed “Teecha!” and a girl shyly said “Social worka.” Their unbounded hope and refreshing zeal for life left me in awe.
Later, I discovered that the 14-year-old orphan who wanted to be a social worker was a rape survivor who had recently given birth to a baby girl. Her story shook me to the core. It astounded me that despite the challenges she faced, she was determined to ease the suffering of others.
In just one meeting, I felt an affinity with the children of Gamodubu; I knew that their dreams would become my purpose.
Mother Teresa’s maxim “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” has found a profound place in my heart. In my own effort to “cast a stone,” I founded Ray of Hope Project with its mission to educate and empower underprivileged children at Gamodubu. As part of this project, our team of dedicated high school and college students has initiated a weekly educational program where we tutor orphans, rape survivors, and HIV/AIDS afflicted children in English, math, and life skills.
It has been two years since Ray of Hope’s founding. As I look back on my journey, I am reminded of instances that reinforced my passion for service, like when I was told that our efforts had resulted in 13 students, some of whom were previously on the verge of dropping out of school, attained A’s in their final exams. Or when I gave a little boy his first pair of shoes for Christmas and he uninhibitedly flung his arms around me and told me that I was his best friend. Or when a 2-year-old orphan (my favorite child at Gamodubu) called me “Mama.” These moments have made me realize that, while I may have made a small difference in these children’s lives, they have most definitely left an indelible mark on me.
If my experience could speak for itself, it would attest to the importance of teamwork and unity of purpose. Though I longed to help the children of Gamodubu, it was only when I brought a team of like-minded people together that we were able to make a lasting difference. As I embark on my path of altruism, I am conscious of my immersion in the realm of all past, present, and future humanitarians, and I recognize that though my efforts may be humble, I am contributing to the ripple effect.
This is the purpose I breathe for – aspiro.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.