A new post was long overdue and I’ve been racking my brain for topic ideas, but obviously came up short. Here’s the thing: I wanted to write something meaningful; something profound or wise. Sure, there will be posts about holidays, or me giving tips on or advice about certain things, or a list of favourite restaurants or something. But I also want to offer something more … Words or thoughts that I can share with you and hopefully make a difference, big or small. So, on that note, let me share something with you that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

In yoga, the teacher will often start the class by saying that you can set an intention for that specific hour’s practice. And lately the word that I then immediately think of is gratitude. Because I know that nothing I have can be taken for granted … I know I am blessed in so many ways and I am just beyond grateful for this life I have. I am not even referring to big or “materialistic” things like being able to travel all over the world or my collection of handbags. I am referring to the most basic of things: I have good health, I have a roof over my head, there’s food in my fridge and I have a job with a good income. I have a wonderful life partner, a supportive family and great friends.

Living a life that I love is a blessing. And the best way to stay grateful, and grounded, is by paying it forward. That’s why I started volunteering at one of my church’s outreach programs some time ago. We work with a school in Crossroads (an informal settlement outside Cape Town) where we lend a helping hand wherever we can. We do maintenance on the building, like painting, replacing light fixtures, putting up shelves, etc. We also provide learning materials for the classrooms, such as books, educational posters, blocks and toys. And sometimes we just help with the day-to-day stuff, like washing dishes or feeding the special-needs children.

Helping with an arts and craft project.

Working in an environment where poverty hangs heavy in the air, one realises how tough life can be … How so many people are fighting to just make it through the day, working and living head down in total survival mode. They live with insufficient education, lack of work opportunities, and constant threats of violence and gangsterism. I then look into those sweet little faces of the school’s children, and my heart breaks because I know that even at that young age their little shoulders bear the weight of the life they were born into. But I also realise how lucky I am and that by giving back to those in need I serve God, and I’ve learnt that at the heart of it all, regardless of race, income or one’s address, we are all His children.

On this note I want to share some exciting news with you! I am now a proud ambassador for LIV Village, a Christian-based non-profit organisation. LIV was founded in 2009 by Tich and Joan Smith when they bought a piece of land in Cottonlands, Kwazulu Natal. Here they built a “village” (modelling an African village lifestyle) where orphaned and vulnerable children are placed in a home with a trained foster mother and offered the opportunity to go to school. LIV now boasts with 96 homes, an early childhood development centre and a primary school, with speech, occupational and physiotherapists. A more recent development is their own high school with the first students matriculating this year! For tertiary education, LIV Training offers the option of attending the LIV Culinary School or Liv Welding Academy. These initiatives are aimed at equipping individuals with skills to enter the labour market, earn a living and eventually uplift the surrounding community.

LIV is built modelling an African village lifestyle.

Founders Tich and Joan with some of the children placed at LIV.

Trained foster mothers look after vulnerable and orphaned children.

How cute is this photo of these kiddies at LIV?!

LIV Village is a safe haven where children have a sense of belonging and where they stand a chance to grow to their full potential. Here socio and economic barriers fall away and everyone, children, staff and volunteers, come together as one community to support each other and honour God’s goodness. They really live out the saying of: It takes a village to raise a child. If you want to be part of this “village”, you can go to their website to make a donation or find out more about their volunteer work.

I am so excited to be working with LIV Village and share in their mission and goals! I hope I get to make a difference, not only in the lives of the children, but also my own … “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

No matter what you believe in or what religion you practice, there is no denying that what you have and where you are in life, is not by your own doing, but because of a greater good. It is therefor so vitally important to live with gratitude by building a life you love, by serving others and by lending a helping hand to those less fortunate or in need. After all, it is not happy people that are thankful. It is thankful people that are happy.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: Deep down in every human heart there is gratitude and generosity. Find yours, and live it.