Our new ongoing project, "Mary's Children," pays homage to individuals who demonstrate unwavering strength and courage in the face of tragic events and challenging life circumstances. The name carries importance, as it symbolizes the genuine heroes and heroines (actual Everyday Saints) whom I find truly deserving of admiration amidst a world consumed by the pursuit of fame and wealth.
In a society where celebrities and the affluent often take center stage, these remarkable individuals embody the true essence of heroism and strength. They radiate a light of the Spirit and possess a remarkable strength of Faith, demonstrating courage and openness of heart that surpasses that of many self-proclaimed spiritual leaders and gurus. Unfortunately, their stories often remain untold, overshadowed by the noise of mainstream media.
I want to bring attention and visibility to these extraordinary human beings. The inspiring journey with "Mary's Children" serves as a confirmation of the boundless capacity for growth and courage within each of us.
Zikhona & Paru
Being the only breadwinner providing for two kids is not a small challenge in South Africa. When little Paru lost his mommy to domestic violence, his youngest aunt Zikhona adopted him and his older sister without hesitation. Little Paru, scarred by a devastating fire that had ravaged his tiny body when he was just two months old, requires extensive medical care and specialized daily care. What Zikhona is doing while putting her dreams and goals on hold is an incredibly inspiring act of unwavering love and steadfast courage. She chose what was right and not what was easy—in the true essence of humanity.
The path to discovering his beauty and self-acceptance was difficult for 19-year-old Lethu. At just six months old, a devastating fire ravaged his face and hands in the township where his family resided, forever altering his life. Enduring numerous reconstructive surgeries and navigating a sense of being different while facing bullying, Lethu remained unbroken, emerging as a resilient yet kind-hearted young adult. During his formative teenage years, he wholeheartedly embraced his uniqueness, teaching himself to cultivate self-confidence and a sense of inner beauty. Harnessing his background as a driving force, Lethu became determined to achieve success to be able to help and inspire others. He beautifully states, "Embrace your true self, love yourself as you are, because if you don't, no one else will."
Lethu recently launched his fashion brand line “Missteaks”—a collection of t-shirts inspired by his journey of overcoming limitations and embracing individuality. Lethu's fashion brand line is more than just clothing; it is a story of his transformation and a symbol of empowerment. With every t-shirt he creates, Lethu hopes to ignite a sense of courage and self-belief in individuals worldwide, reminding them that their unique journey is something to be celebrated.
Three years ago, Valerie's world was plunged into darkness when she tragically lost her daughter to domestic violence. The light in her eyes and heart dimmed, leaving her in the depths of grief.
About a year and a half ago, Valerie took a courageous step and opened a small tea stand offering her unique tea blends and products created by local artists. To her surprise, this modest establishment became a gathering place for many local young adults, mostly artists, seeking a sense of belonging. Along with tea, they found comfort in Valerie's love and affection.
Valerie's tea stand provided invaluable support and solace to these young individuals. They affectionately referred to her as their "Hippie Mama," finding in her a refuge during difficult times in their lives. Not a day goes by without Valerie missing her daughter, but she has channeled her tragedy into creating a meaningful future, offering a place of comfort for others who are struggling.
From a young age, Cynthia discovered that being different is not easy. Cynthia, born deaf and non-verbal, endured harsh forms of bullying throughout her life. In her adult years despite the disagreement from her immediate family and community, she always cherished the dream of becoming a mother. When a few years ago her daughter was born, Cynthia chose the name Buhle, which, in Xhosa, translates to Beautiful.
When Christopher Samuel Braaf, a 56-year-old man, lost his beloved wife Gloria, with whom he had shared 30 years of companionship, his world crumbled. Both Christopher and Gloria were practitioners of herbalism, contributing to their local community by providing teas and ointments made with detailed care and indigenous wisdom.
In Gloria's absence, Christopher redirected all his love and time into helping his only daughter Selin raise her two young children. Little Chrissy, a 4-year-old boy, spends his entire day in the company of his wise grandfather. Together, they go on daily rides on an old bicycle to the mountains before sunrise, where they gather herbs and spring water. The afternoons are spent sorting herbs and making ointments.
In his youth, Christopher had acquired indigenous knowledge from his bush doctor grandfather. Now, he imparts the same wisdom to his grandchild Chrissy. This newfound role has given Christopher's life a new meaning and joy, creating a deep and lasting bond between a grandfather and a grandson.