Need for Change – My Sister (Aunt Doreece)

My Sister, Doreece Devone Lawrence, has a personal goal to visit all 50 states in her lifetime.  Because of this goal, we have lived In in different city and states most of our adult years.  We did have the opportunity to live together in Oakland, California (1987 – 1989), until her continuous desire to move surfaced.

Our tenure together in Oakland, California gave Aunt Doreece the opportunity to build a relationship with Magic (my Son).  Our continuous residential distance has caused her to be far from her dear ones and miss most of our family milestones.  This challenge didn’t seem to bother her until my GrandDaughter Mink was born.  Mink was 3 months old, when they were able to meet personally in St. Louis, Missouri.  Because Mink was just a little baby, Aunt Doreece didn’t really expect her to know her.079

Though we have been distant in location, she has always been close at heart.  She would consistently send Mink gifts in the mail.  She was sure this practice would ensure to build on the relationship bridge with her.


Yet, when they met again in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico for my Son and Daughter-In-Laws wedding, Mink treated her like a complete stranger.  Mink was only 16 months; she was dealing with stranger anxiety and viewed most people as a threat.  Aunt Doreece’s feelings were really hurt and making Mink like her was her goal.

She was so determined to turn Mink around that she volunteered to babysit her on my Son and Daughter-In-Law’s wedding day.  She bathed her, dressed her and made her sleep with her.  This is a picture of how Mink felt about it.


Unfortunately, Aunt Doreece left Mexico without being able to break through Mink’s stranger anxiety.

They met again a month later, when Aunt Doreece came to Chicago for my Surprise Going Away to South Africa party.  And the gap still existed.  Mink was comfortable playing with other children, but still was not feeling Aunt Doreece.  Our little cousin, Kaliyah (7 years old) had to be a buffer in order for Mink to even take a picture with Aunt Doreece.

I tried to convince Aunt Doreece that she needed to be patient and allow Mink to grow up more to get to know her better.  Just as I advised her, when she came back to visit in December for Christmas (after my return from South Africa), Mink (22 months) was more comfortable with her and they were able to engage with each other.

Though Aunt Doreece was very happy for their new found relationship, she vowed that if/when my Son and Daughter-In-Law had another baby, she would not have this problem again; she would come around more in order to be able to spend more time with the baby.

Opportunity for Change

When my Son and Daughter-in-Law informed us (November, 2014) that they were expecting again, Aunt Doreece cancelled all of scheduled travels and immediately started making plans to be in the Chicago area for the birth and every milestone after.  She confirmed this vow, when we went to visit Mink’s Godfather Eric and his Girl, Rachel in Atlanta for 2015 Spring Break, she came from Virginia to join us.


Just as she said she would, when we called Aunt Doreece to let her know that my Daughter-In-Law was going into the hospital for delivery, she jumped in her car and drove to the Chicago area from Virginia.  She was able to meet Magic Deuce, when he was 1 day old and was one of his first visitors, when he arrived home from the hospital!

Even though the internet and smartphones are the next best thing to being there.  Hopefully, Aunt Doreece will continue to choose the Best and has learned the value of being there!


Will she change her quest to visit all 50 State to ensuring that she makes it to all family milestones?!

Heritage Day Celebration at Charles Duna Primary School

Heritage Day is a public holiday in South Africa celebrated on September 24.  On this day, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.  Because school was closed for the Spring Break on September 24, Charles Duna held its Heritage Day celebration on October 03.

Under the leadership of Mr. Mfunda, with us (Study Abroad Interns) as Project Managers, the 7th Graders created and presented a Heritage Day Celebration, where they honored the culture heritage of the India people, San people and the Xhosa people.


Jaimee was the Project Manager for the India people.

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Amber was the Project Manager for the Xhosa people.

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i was the Project Manager for the San people.

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Former students of Charles Duna came and performed at the celebration.

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Even the 4th Graders dressed for the occasion.


Me and the San people


Emmanuel Advice Care Center – Spring School Break – September 23 – 30

School was closed from September 23 – 30 for Spring Break, which meant we would have been on break from our internships at Charles Duna and Tshume Primary Schools.  NOT; instead we spent the Spring Break at Emmanuel Advice Care Center, which is a  non-profit community development project dedicated to the high incidence of HIV/AIDS.

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Estolene Esau is the Project Manager, responsible for Finance and cares about the staff and funding.


Thembeka Klaaasen is one of the Founder Members; started as Care Giver and is now the Supervisor.


With her son Emmanuel


Sarah Sass is another Founder Member, who has known many of her clients for a long time and has a close relationship with them.

Sarah with her Daughter

Anita Hutton is another Founder Member; started as a Care Giver, appointed to Team Leader and is now responsible for Administration.


With her Daughter

Veronica Mantile, better known as “Mama Arch,” started as a Cook and when they had to stop the kitchen because of funding, she began to work as a Care Giver.  She still helps in the kitchen, when there is a need.  And boy, did we need her!

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Thokozile Buyaphi is also a Care Giver.

With her Daughter


Vuyo Oliphant started as a handyman and now works as a Care Giver.  He is also a very good keyboard player and often assists with the OVC’s Dancing Group.


Pumeza Ndyenga is the Crèche teacher.

With her Grandson

With her children

Rosaline Pullen began this year as a Crèche teacher and an administrator.

With her Daughter