How to Leave a Legacy? Volunteer.

me and dog

This post is by TheNotMom team writer Laura LaVoie:

Someone once asked me, what I am doing to create a legacy since I don’t have children. This is, of course, a very strange question. I am a lot of things: an aunt, a writer, a ‘tiny house’ builder, a cat-mom. There are so many things that make me who I am. I had never really thought of a “legacy.”

The question did get me thinking. By the dictionary definition of legacy, I won’t really have one. But, what I can do is leave the world a slightly better place than I found it.

In 2011, my husband and I had an opportunity to travel to Durban, South Africa to work with an organization dedicated to helping orphaned and vulnerable children living in the townships there.

We were connected through a friend who had moved to South Africa to help these children. They both had a dream of building a sustainable shelter for the 27 kids living with Mildred in her very small house. Since Matt and I had built our own tiny house, our friend came to us for advice.

Advice quickly turned into volunteering, and next thing I knew we booked a trip to KwaZulu-Natal.

The organization was partially inspired by a movie titled Rough Aunties. This documentary was made for HBO and featured Mildred, a woman we met and worked closely with while we were there. (She is the one on the far right in the photo on the website.)

Many of the kids we met were survivors of sexual abuse and assault. It is currently estimated that 40% of South African women will be raped and, of course, more assaults go unreported. More than 1/3 of all girls in South Africa experience sexual violence before the age of 18. These statistics are enough to make you sick to your stomach just thinking about it. I know I was. When the opportunity came to do something, we couldn’t say no.

Upon meeting Mildred, I knew she was special. She has a survival story of her own. She has her own kids and has taken on the responsibility of caring for not only abused girls, but also children orphaned as a result of the country’s AIDS epidemic. The instant we stepped out of the car, she welcomed us into her arms and into her home. She is truly inspirational to Moms and NotMoms alike.

I’ll be the first to admit, I am very uncomfortable around children. You can even see in the photo that while my friends were engaged with the kids, I was just as happy to play with the dachshunds.

busi and bubbles I did fall in love with one little girl, Busi. She was a busy and very talkative toddler, but even the Zulu-speaking people in our group had no idea what she was saying most of the time. In this photo, she’s chasing bubbles.

No one knew Busi’s real story, but there was something in her eyes that made you believe her first couple years on this earth were painful. Whatever happened to her before she came into Mildred’s care was probably horrific. Because she has the opportunity to grow up with such a positive female role model in the Zulu community, she has a real chance to make her own difference someday.

I can’t save the world, but I can help one person at a time. I made the decision not to have kids and that has given me a different perspective. I have an opportunity to do other things – things that are different than raising a family but no more or less impactful. As just one person, that is all I can do.

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