And so when a fairly solitary someone once said, “Carolyn, you collect people,” I was taken aback, paused to ponder the notion and have reflected on her comment over time.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My experience tells me most everything is co-created; and due to friends, my dream has unfolded.
They have shared their essence, hearts, souls, talent, fun, intellect, ideas, laughter, tears, irreverence, camaraderie, craziness, confidence, honesty, integrity and encouragement. They have and do share their lives with me.
There is nothing quite like a gathering of ovaries!
Ukulapha’s gestation, birth and growth have everything to do with friends. And so this article honors them all and taps into the deep sense of gratitude and love I feel from my core.
Let’s start at the very beginning: my mother Estelle.
Mom is in South Africa; and aside from Ukulapha, was part of my grand plan to return home. In her 90th year, she is vibrant, vital, kind and generous, and, since she retired at 80 after selling her business, her passion, talent and relationship with plants has evolved into a stunning garden for all to enjoy. Her patience and fortitude are amazing. Having me as a daughter, I’m sure, is a never-ending challenge! Whenever she sighs, I remind her that she role-modeled independence, courage and initiative, and blazed a trail that was counter culture in her day. She has been my anchor through life, always there, always forgiving, always generous, always understanding, and she loves me regardless.
So many women throughout my journey have coaxed and encouraged me, shared laughter, dreams, stories, Kleenex, delicious food, wine and single malt. Their steadfast friendship I honor with every molecule of my being. For without them, Ukulapha and my work would still be a dream.
Bearing in mind that I “collect people,” many gals have influenced and shaped my life; however, it’s time for me to name some names. I shudder at condensing the list to meet restrictions. Sigh… Friends know how I can talk!
There are those who’ve been to visit Ukulapha and those who are still to venture out; regardless, the magnitude of their friendship is magic to me.
A core of gals have waded with me through the mud and we’ve also danced the jig together. They helped me stay afloat, especially as I embarked on this major venture back to my homeland. They are my teachers, role models and soul buddies in a myriad of ways.
Let’s begin with Jane
We met through Citizens Counselling Centre (CCC) as training assistants way back when. Jane is steadfast and present as she walks beside me, neither a step ahead nor a step behind, a truth speaker. She is solid and unwavering, endlessly kind and generous. A warm and loving gal, and so creative and funny. Jane has been a lighthouse during calm and stormy seas and has shown me the essence of good friendship. She is both a floor wax and a dessert topping!
And let`s chat about Sherri, also a Citizens Counselling Centre gal, Sherri is a wonderful blend of courage and adventure. She was Ukulapha’s first visitor, there for its genesis. She is an integral part of Ukulapha’s foundation and, with decades of experience as a social worker and counsellor, has been a guiding light for me. We trudged the dusty roads of Slangspruit together, deliberating, laughing, chatting, shedding tears and sharing immense delight. She started and ran a support group for women as they met over beading, and sat with women one on one as they poured out their hearts and tried to make sense of life. Sherri is a consistent and loving presence, always on the horizon with an uncanny knowing. Our African adventure began as I met her in Johannesburg and a day later we headed out for Swaziland to spend a day with Stephen Lewis, whose foundation helps people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Dear Mags is insightful, with laser beam precision and never a word wasted. She is a crone, a gentle and deeply caring gal. Our mutual passion for soul searching and personal growth has linked us inextricably over the years. Many pots of tea and much deep, rich conversation later, Mags found her lifelong dream unfolding as she arrived in South Africa to visit us all. Her visit was immensely comforting, with solid, honest and loving friendship that nourished a void and filled my cup. With her nursing background we hit the ground running, working with the Ukulapha families and running workshops for the caregivers. In the heat of summer we sweated it out in that small classroom, where Mags even had the women dancing the Hokey Pokey, for which she is fondly remembered!
And since, I have ‘collected’ so many more amazing and inspiring women since these foundational and pivotal years, as I ‘found’ myself as an independent woman with a voice and an opinion!
They are for an upcoming blog, so stay tuned!
I feel immensely seen and understood by the women who are a part of my journey. They hold me, care for and about me, provide exquisite mirroring and are a constant presence in my life. They have shared themselves fully and their friendship has left an indelible mark on my soul.
These women I continue to meet are linked through destiny, exquisite friendships and Ukulapha. I am deeply grateful to all the “people I have collected.” They sustain me, especially during my alone and doubtful times. They have borne witness to the work of Ukulapha and to my life unfolding.