Nkambeni Care Point

Today some of the ladies and I went out to Nkambeni care point /preschool.  Nkambeni is a little over an hour away from Manzini.  It’s way out in the rural area in what is called the low veld of Swaziland (lower elevation.)  What this means is that it is dryer and hotter with less access to water than some of the other areas of Swaziland.  Last night and this morning was very cold (upper 30’s, but remember, there’s no heat here.) so going to the warmer part of Swaziland was a good thing.

Nkambeni was built by the Young Men’s Guild of the Methodist Church, Central Swaziland Circuit.  They finished it in late 2006.  It started as a place where kids could come to get something to eat.  And then, as is so often the case with the care points at Methodist churches or schools, it became a “preschool.”  I use the label “preschool” very loosely.  There are generally very few materials and the teachers aren’t trained.  Indeed many of the teachers haven’t even completed a primary level education.  Nkambeni fits this mold.  However, not long after I came in 2007, we did a workshop for the carepoint/preschool teachers.  The two teachers from Nkambeni came.  They were very quiet and spoke almost no English, but they learned a lot.  And now when I go visit Nkambeni I am so thrilled to see that they are still using the concepts they learned.  They are actually doing something with these children.

Today my goal was to read them a story from the Children’s Bible and introduce the kids and teachers to finger painting.  I made 50 PBJ sandwiches to take to the children and also brought oranges.  In addition I still had some toothbrushes and toothpaste that had been donated and the last team left some extra Mardi Gras beads so it was a perfect opportunity to give these items away.  The ladies also brought some clothes and shoes that had been donated for the children.

What a face! Between a white woman communicating by talking a funny language, pointing and making this poor child put his fingers in yucky stuff, this little one looks a little overwhelmed.

This child was a little older and was using both hands, but if you look closely, you won't see smiles on any of their faces. The other amazing thing is that they sit absolutely still and there is no talking. How many preschoolers do you know that would finger paint and only get one hand dirty?

At first I was focusing on not getting frustrated and giving up. It was like pulling teeth to get the ladies focused to come in and help me do this. But after a bit I noticed that all of the Manyano ladies and the preschool teachers where showing the kids what to do. AND they seemed to be really enjoying helping the kids. Not enough to get paint on their hands, but they were fully engaged. That was a minor miracle.

After painting and handwashing we handed out the PBJ sandwiches and oranges. The kids had to sit outside to eat them since their wet finger paint masterpieces were drying on the tables in the classrooms. Oh well.

Juliet, Thoko and Thini ready to start handing out the Mardi Gras beads.

Juliet putting a string of beads on a child. The kids didn't say a lot, but you could tell they really liked the beads.

Three kids with some of their goodies. By the end of the morning I was starting to get a few smiles from some of the kids.

The kids in Swaziland are used to standing around or sitting and waiting for whatever will happen next. Waiting is part of the Swazi way of life. Here the kids were waiting while we made sure every child had everything.

Finally, at the very end I was able to read them a short bible story.  I read to them the story of the disciples trying to stop the children from coming to Jesus.  When I was finished we sang a few songs, including Jesus Loves Me.

When we were done at Nkambeni, we stopped in a nearby town and picked up the Manyano CCS (Christian Community Service) and then went to take some clothing and small food parcels to a couple of elderly people from the church in that area.

This gogo was at the first house we visited. She and her husband live alone in this homestead. She is blind. It was a bit cool out, especially in the shade. I felt so sorry for this lady. I wonder if she ever gets warm on cold days. I also wondered who was going to help this couple cook something to eat for dinner because neither husband or wife could get around very well.

Mr. and Mrs. Magagula with the Manyano ladies. Juliet is wearing black because she is what they can an evangelist.

This is the last elderly lady we visited. Her house was made totally of sticks and mud. We were there a chicken went into her hut, found a piece of food probably left from her last meal and walked out of the hut eating it.