A Lifetime of Learning: MacDonald’s Story – Part 1
Being an Orchard: Community Member means owning your impact with a deeper connection. This update is the first in a series of in depth profiles written to help you better know the people you partner with in South Africa. It is our hope that this deeper connection will empower everyone in the Orchard: Community to further their impact with a renewed sense of teamwork.
At 37 years old MacDonald (often referred to as simply ‘MacD’) has worked with Orchard: Africa for nearly half his life. In 2001 he was working for his local church by collecting rubbish around the church property. It was through his involvement with the church that MacD was introduced to Orchard: Africa in 2002 (which at the time was called “Helping Hands”). When MacD joined the Orchard staff his role of rubbish collector quickly evolved into, for lack of a better job description, a community spokesman. He communicated with children in the village about their needs and helped Orchard: Africa, through the local village church, keep track of the kids that came and went from the feeding projects.
As Orchard: Africa grew so did MacD’s role within the organization. When Orchard projects expanded, transport was needed to deliver food all over Mafikeng and the surrounding area. Although MacD didn’t know how to drive at the time he was up for the challenge of learning how. MacDonald failed the drivers test four times before getting it right, but while reflecting on that memory he was quick to point out, “I never failed for the same reason twice – I learned when I failed”.
It’s this part of MacDonald’s story that continues to define him. Ten years later, MacD is still armed with a bold humility to do whatever is asked of him, and an eagerness to learn how he can do the job better. Anyone that has worked with MacDonald knows how much he values doing every task well.
When MacD is given a list of things to accomplish for the week he returns it with a list (twice as long as the original) of questions seeking clarity on every errand to ensure it gets done properly. When asked what aspect of his employment has been the most difficult he responded almost immediately,“Orchard: Africa has shown me that nothing is too difficult if you try and are taught”.
It’s this kind of go-getter mentality that has led to MacDonald’s longevity in the ministry. Learning his way through every new role and responsibility all the way up from rubbish collector to Operations Assistant. Now serving as the right-hand man to the South African Operations Director, it’s safe to say that the work being accomplished on the ground couldn’t be done without someone like MacDonald.
The implications behind that last sentence are sobering. Through Orchard: Africa partnering with the local church literally thousands of kids are fed daily, hundreds are attending preschool, and leaders are being developed in dozens of impoverished communities. All this hope and much, much more is possible because of people like MacDonald, and Orchard: Community members all over the world, doing the quiet, behind the scenes work that often go unheralded. Chances are that many of you reading this have spent time in South Africa. Some of you may have seen MacDonald during your time in the country, and some of you may have had the privilege of meeting him.
Whatever your degree of interaction with MacD may or may not have been it’s very unlikely that you walked away from your encounter knowing just how valuable he is to the work being done – and that’s how MacDonald likes it. There is a reason that many in the Orchard: Community don’t know much about MacD despite the fact that he is one of Orchard: Africa’s longest tenured staff members – he’s not trying to make headlines, he’s just out to make a difference in his lifetime, and he’s still learning how he can make that difference even better.
It has been said that a smart man learns from his mistakes. MacDonald can relate to this statement (please refer to four failed driver tests) – but a more defining statement in his life would be that a wise man learns from others mistakes. In the next part of MacD’s story we will explore how his childhood taught him that learning is a lifelong endeavor.
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