“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I finally made it home at the age of five.

Home - the country from which my father had been exiled for sixteen years when he actively opposed apartheid. Home - the land that he could only hope to one day see again.

When apartheid finally ended, my family moved from Poland, the birthplace I share with my mother, to live with my grandparents in the bustling township of Soweto, in the heart of South Africa. For the first time in my life, I would see for myself the new South Africa that Mandela had emancipated.

I walked the dusty-red streets, looked in the faces of our extended family and neighbors, saw difficulty and struggle scars that were more than skin deep. But most striking to me was the palpable sense of hope and optimism embodied in each person I encountered. With unwavering certainty, they told stories of a better tomorrow: one filled with equality, prosperity, and greater opportunities for all.

Today, when I visit my grandparents, at that very same house in Soweto, I marvel at the great strides that have been made toward political equality. But I realize we are still far from the socioeconomic equality of our promised tomorrow.

So I'm again returning home – to the economy that I am determined to actively grow into a powerhouse that can fully support our shared needs. Home – the land where I strive to create opportunities for better education, jobs, and prosperity for our children.

Yes, I am going home – where our dreams of tomorrow, I will build into the reality of today.

— Maria Makhabane