Snippets of a Swazi day

I thought I’d share bits of my day with you.  By American standards, it wasn’t very productive, but by African standards, I think we accomplished a lot.  As my time here gets shorter and shorter I realize just how much I will miss doing what I do here in Swaziland.  I will miss this country, the beautiful people and the way of life that is based more on relationships than a to-do list.

Our plan was to be ready to leave Manzini at 9:00 this morning.  Well that didn’t quite work out.  I didn’t even leave my place to walk up to St. Paul’s until 9:15 which is good because Thoko arrived shortly after I got there.  She and Sibongile packed up some donated clothing to give out today.  When we were finally about to pull out of St. Paul’s, Thini arrived.  The project she was supposed to lead today (making laundry fabric softener) had to be canceled because when she went to town this morning to buy the “chemical” used to make it, the store was out of it.  So we waited another 10 – 15 minutes for her to change into her Manyano uniform and come with us.  We finally left St. Paul’s about 11:00.

Our first stop of the day was to go to the Chief’s Koral (homestead) for the area where Mthokozisi’s house is.  In Swaziland, the people that really take care of the country are the Chiefs.  Each Chief is appointed by the King’s inner council.  Only a male can be a Chief.  The job gets passed down to his son when he passes away.  If there are no sons, the Chief’s wife takes over the role until she dies.  We were going to speak to the “acting” Chief.  Her husband passed away 20, yes that is 20 years ago.  They only had daughters so she has been running the chiefdom for 20 years.  From what I know about her and saw, she’s doing a darn good job.  One can’t help but see the irony of this.  Women aren’t good enough to be a Chief, but they are good enough to run a Chiefdom for 20 years.  Crazy.  Chiefs have a lot of power in this country.  Anyway, our mission was to talk to the “acting” Chief about the house for Mhokozisi and his sisters, and let them know when it would be dedicated.  There was also a discussion on Mthokozisi’s gogo who has been giving everyone a lot of trouble.

Today was the day that the women of the various sections within the Chiefdom come to the Chief's Koral. The "Chief" talked with some people (such as our little group) in private.

Some of the ladies sitting around and talking waiting on the "Chief" to finish her "private" meetings so they could start their meeting.

The ladies were bringing bundles of grass cut from the fields to the Chief's Koral because they need to re-thatch one of the roofs. It's the women's job to thatch the roofs.


I am so going to miss these scenes. I don't think I will ever stop being amazed at how the women can carry so many things on their heads.

The ladies waiting to go in to talk to the "Chief." This is taken from the side mirror on my bakkie. We weren't sure if I should go in with them or not, so I was waiting in my bakkie.

The ladies walking into the "Chief's" sitting room. This is a one room structure. When we say someone is a Chief, it conjures up all kinds of visions. Mostly we think their their standard of living should be greatly elevated. But it is not. Sure, they are better off than many in their chiefdom, especially the really poor, old and unemployed people. But they are Swazi's just like everyone else. It is their job to know what is going on in their Chiefdom, resolve issues, take care of the people the best they can. This "Chief" seemed like an amazing woman. She takes care of about 20 Orphans. When I compare what I have experienced and know about this Chiefdom and what I have experienced and know about a few other Chiefdom's, my opinion is that this is a well organized, cohesive and hard working Chiefdom.

Inside the Chief's sitting room. The Chief is the one in blue. We brought donated clothing that she can distribute to those who need it in her Chiefdom. She told us she was very appreciative of what the Methodist Church has done for her people.

When we left the Chief’s Koral went went to LaMawandla High School where Mthokozisi, his sister Nozipho and another boy, Mncedisi attends school.  One Child supports Nozipho and Mncedisi.  The Manyano supports Mthokozisi.  We were going to see how our kids are doing and to bring them a few school supplies they needed.

Pictured: Thoko, Mthokozisi, Nozipho, Sbongile, Mncedisi. I wonder sometimes what they think about having so many mothers! One of the things I did was bring them a few easy books to read. They are in what we would call 9th and 10th grade but I am sure they aren't reading even close to that level. I gave them a pep talk about the importance of reading and learning English to help them achieve their dreams. I pray that if nothing else, I can get them to understand the power that reading brings. I told them that I hope they study hard and get very, very good grades so that I will have to worry about how to help them go to University. Their dreams? Mthokozisi wants to be an author or a businessman; Nozipho wants to be a nurse; and Mncedisi wants to be a lawyer!

Here's one of those scenes that I won't see in the US; or at least I won't see it very often: Cows in school! These were right outside the Head Teacher's office at the high school.

From the High School we went to pay a visit to Babe Maseko.  He is the grandfather of one of our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu kids, Nothando.  When we met Nothando and Babe Maseko he had 6 or 7 orphaned grandchildren living with him and his wife had a hard time getting around.  His wife passed away last year.   He actually called Thoko and asked if she could bring him some sugar.  It’s not like Babe Maseko to ask for things.    So we planned on bringing it to him and then found out that he wasn’t feeling well.   So, we took him some sugar and tea and sat and visited with him for 20 or 30 minutes.  In situations like this we have a real concern of how to keep the grandparent as healthy as possible because if they get sick or die there is no one to take care of these children.

When we arrived Nothando had just finished washing her school uniform and hanging it on the line to dry. I had to take this picture because she is still wearing the t-shirt donated by my home church in Round Rock in 2008 or 2009.

I got home a little after 4:00 tired, hungry and thirsty.  I didn’t have anything to eat or drink from breakfast on.   (What you drink must come out and I’m not real big on squatting under a tree or by the side of the road!)  Unfortunately, there aren’t any McDonald’s out in the rural area.  (Or in Swaziland for that matter!)  Go figure!

Traffic going to downtown Manzini via the bus rank (depot). This is supposed to be a two lane road. As you can see, drivers have made created 4+ lanes of traffic.

There's two lanes going up the road, one coming down, and the kombie to the far right isn't parked. It has created a fourth lane by driving on the sidewalk.

So this was my day.  It was a lot of driving, sitting and listening to conversations in a language I can’t understand.  But it was a good day and I am beginning to realize how much I’m going to miss these Swazi moments.

My “s” week…

This past week has been a week of sisters, service, school uniforms, school shoes.  The perfect “s” week!  This week started last Saturday when I took the Swaziland Region Manyano executive board out to Mthokozisi’s house so they could see it for themselves and make a plan to get it furnished before it is dedicated on August 27th.   Sunday was my day of rest and trying to get a few things done in preparation for my busy week.  On Monday (the 13th) I had a 10 hour day driving out to the western part of Swaziland and visiting 4 schools.  I stopped in Mahamba and took a new friend who is here with her husband as a peace corp volunteer.  It gave us a chance to visit and it gave her a bit more insight into the Swaziland Methodist schools.  She couldn’t believe how far out and away from each other they were.  Then Tuesday was our monthly Baylor day with the kids from Lutfotja Methodist Primary School (more on that later.)  Wednesday was ladies bible study and afterwards I had lunch with a dear missionary friend who just returned from 6 weeks in the States celebrating her granddaughter’s graduation from high school.  We won’t have many days left to get together before I leave to come back to the States.  Thursday was another “sisi” day as we went up to Lomngeletjane and measured kids for school uniforms and shoes (more on this later as well.)  Friday was my Sandra Lee Center day which I spent helping my sisi Robin sort through donations and organize the garage that she stores them in.  Not to mention the time I get to spend with the kids while I’m there.  Nomile saw me coming down and raised her hands right up with a huge smile on her face to give me a hug and kiss.  Life doesn’t get much better than that!  In the afternoon after the school age kids get home from school, it is a nice way to visit with some of the older children and get to know a bit more about them.  I’ll write more about some of this later on, but for now, I want to concentrate on Tuesday at Baylor / RFM and Thursday at Lomngeletjane.

Warning:  this is a long blog, but I’ve put in lots of pictures which I hope will encourage you to stick with it.

On Tuesday, June 14th, we took the “Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu” kids from Lutfotja Methodist Primary School to Baylor at RFM (Hospital) in Manzini.  Fourteen children that are in the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project come to Baylor every month or every other month for a checkup and to get their monthly ARVs.  (For information on any of these terms, go to the glossary tab on this website.)  We brought them all this month because we wanted to get them on the same schedule again and to make sure the new Doctors understand that as much as possible, these children need to come on the same day.  Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu pays for their transport to and from Baylor and the school.  Our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu volunteers also come to Baylor so we can know what is going on with the children and help where and when necessary.  It’s a win-win for all of us because the nurses and doctors at Baylor know that some one cares and is keeping an eye on their health.  Our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu volunteers are able to keep up with their health status and other needs.  And the children and their gogos, aunties, or mothers know that some one cares and is helping to take care of the children.

At this point, we also have one child from Lomngeletjane that comes on the same day.  We had two from Lomngeletjane, but her gogo was so opposed to her taking ARVs that she removed the child from the community and hid her at another relative’s house.  After trying for over a year, we (Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu) had to let go.  It has weighted heavily on us, but we were so lifted up when one of the Baylor nurses told me that they had social welfare visit the irate gogo who refused to budge.  They stuck with it and actually found where the child is staying.  They are now working to see if the Aunt she is staying with will bring her in regularly so they can start her on ARVs again.  They can’t keep starting and stopping the ARVs because that is actually worse than not taking them at all.

I was able to give hope and encouragement to one of the new Doctors who was seeing Samkelisiwe.  All of the volunteers were busy so at the last minute I ran to go in with her to see the Doctor.  I told him that Samkelisiwe was very, very sick with bad sores on her leg when we met her in August, 2008.  Now, almost 3 years later, she has gained 10kg’s (22 lbs), is healthy and smiles all the time despite her very bleak living conditions.  I reminded the doctor that we have to keep these success stories and the smiles on their faces in the fore front of our minds so we don’t get discouraged and give up.  The Doctor seemed to appreciate those words of encouragement.  It was a good morning all around at Baylor.

Part of what I do on “Baylor” days is to bring buns  or pbj sandwiches, fruit and juice to give the kids as a snack before they go back to school.  On some days they get back too late for their break-time where they would receive their mealie and beans (lunch to us).  Last Tuesday after their snack, I handed out some home made hats that were lovingly made by a woman from my home church.  A few of these hats were made by a woman from a church in California.  I had them left over from last year.  It’s the start of winter now, so it is the perfect time to hand out warm clothes and hats.

The Lutfotja kids and their new hats. Dumsile, the woman on the left in the back, was so thrilled that there was a hat that fit her that she grabbed it! Dumsile is one of the most faithful Manyano women I work with. She is the contact for these children and their guardians in there is a problem. She goes and checks on kids and families for us and she accompanies these kids every time they need to come to the doctor. She is a widow, lives in the rural area, and makes baskets for chickens to lay their eggs in to earn a living. She is just one of my Swazi sisis that have a heart of gold.

This is precious Sebenele with her gogo. They are from Lomngeletjane. She is now in grade two. Her gogo is such a good, caring, hard working gogo. She will do anything to help this sweet child. Their smiles will never leave my heart. Gog's left hand and arm is deformed. It looks like it got caught in a machine or maybe she got bit by a crocodile years ago. (Yes, there are some crocodiles in Swaziland, but not very many.) Sebenele is wearing her new hat. I just knew she would look so pretty in pink!

After their snack, I measured a couple of boys that didn’t have long pants and a couple of kids who need new jersey’s.

My bakkie is my second office! I haul things in it, we have meetings in it, I use the tailgate as a table to hand out food, and I sit on the tailgate to measure kids for uniforms! The front of this little boy's jersey was in worse shape than what you can see from this picture but I feel strongly that I can't intrude on their privacy by taking pictures of the front of their uniforms.

After we finished with the kids at Baylor Thoko, Thini, Gladys, Dumsile and I went to St. Paul’s to gather the donations we had to give to the children that are on the children’s ward at the hospital at RFM.  Most of the donations came from donations that have been made to One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time.  A few things came from St. Paul’s Manyano.  I was most pleased that we had about 10 Manyano come to St. Paul’s to go with us to the hospital!  This is the first time Thoko has been able to get this organized since I came.  It was a good reminder that seeds are planted, they sit and germinate for awhile and when the time is right, they sprout.  Yep, nothing worth doing, gets done quickly, especially in Africa.

Packed and ready to leave St. Paul's and go to RFM.

Outside the children's ward.

I'm including a lot of pictures, because our visit gave me the opportunity to take some pictures on the ward. This is the hallway leading from outside past 3 TB isolation rooms on the right, and one on the left that is for the very, very terminal TB patient. I have been in each of these children before visiting sick children. Praise God, only one child passed away. The rest are now healthy. There is also a triage room on the left, a galley and area to wash up in. The nurses station is on the right with a window looking into the actual ward.

As always, there is singing, a short "sermon" and praying before anything starts. The blue at the bottom of the pictures is actually a counter that is divided into about 4 little sections. Small babies who need IVs and special care are put into these sections. Their mothers have no choice but to stand or sit on the floor next to their baby 24 hours a day.

This little one loved taking off the hat! The children's ward is divided into 4 sections with a wall that goes partway up and has a window in it. Each child has to have a relative stay with them as a care taker. The relative sits in a small, hard back chair by the bed all night or sleeps on the floor underneath the baby's crib.

Two patients on the ward with their new hats. By the way, I gave myself the job of handing out the hats while others handed out hygiene bags, clothes, fruit, stuffed animals, etc. I always like doing the part that involves a bit of human touch. This is the only way I can communicate with most of the children and their parents. A tender touch and a smile is what I can give them.

Some of the ladies holding some of the children. The ladies really enjoyed this outreach.

This is a picture of some of the nurses and aides. When I walked into the malnutrition room, it was amazing how many of the staff remembered me! The lady in the middle with the red blouse, red sweater and white skirt is the registered nurse. They always have on tight, tight white skirts and usually wear 4" heels. I can't help but wonder how they can do anything. I must say that nurses here don't do a third of the work that they do in the States. Or at least they don't on the day shift.

This is one of the main makes (mahgays) that takes care of the children on the malnutrition unit. I got to know her when Nomile was there. All of the staff that was here when Nomile was in the malnutrition unit were so happy to see pictures of her at the Sandra Lee Center. They sang, danced and praised God!

I made up 48 of these little "hygiene" kits to give out to the makes (mothers) of the children on the ward. We also gave them to the aides / nursing makes. We gave the registered nurses a baggie with hand sanitizer and pieces of candy, mainly chocolate. Each kit contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, Vaseline, and a wash cloth.

It was a long, busy day, but everyone was singing, dancing and praising God.  We all agreed that we were so energized after doing this outreach.  I am hoping they will continue to do this, or at the very least that we can do it again when I come back to Swaziland next year.

On Thursday, Thoko, Thembie, Dumsile and I went up to Lomngeletjane to measure orphans that need part or all of a uniform or shoes.  We measured 50 kids for some part of their uniform!  Here are a couple pictures of the condition of the kids school shoes.

This child at least has socks on with her shoes!

So does this child, though girls are supposed to wear white anklets. I'm not sure this shoe really counts as wearing shoes.

This girl was wearing plastic backless sandals that were falling apart. Flip flops and these type of sandals are often donated by Americans and they are fairly easy to get here and are cheap but they don't hold up well on the rough terrain of the rural area. In this picture the girl is wearing a boys sock to try the shoe on. This time around I bought one shoe in size 12 to 3 for both boys and girls, took them up to Lomngeletjane and had the children try them on to make sure (hopefully) that we know the correct size for the child to wear. I'm hoping this will result in less trips back to the store to exchange shoes for the correct size.

Thembie is measuring a girl for a new uniform. What you can't see is that there are holes in the skirt and the bust is too small for the child. In addition the hem has been taken down to provide a little length, but it isn't enough. She has black tights on that are full of holes. She will get a new uniform and a track (sweat) suit. Her shoes were actually ok so she won't get a new pair of shoes.

When I hand out a new pair of shoes I always include two pairs of socks and when I hand out a new pair of trousers or a girls uniform I put two pairs of underpants in the pockets.  The girls especially seem to be almost as thrilled with the new underpants as they are with the uniform!

It was a very busy week, but it was a week full of blessings.  As hard as it is to see the condition of some of the shoes and uniforms the children are wearing, it is energizing to know we are able to do something to help at least some of these kids.  I’d love to be able to put decent uniforms and shoes on every child that needs it, but that may take awhile.  The thing I still wrestle with is that we are making sure the child has one decent uniform and pair of shoes.  Usually each school has a main uniform and then an alternate uniform that they wear a couple days a week so that the uniform can be washed.  The alternate uniform for girls is usually a skirt and school t-shirt.  For the boys it is usually a different color pair of trousers and a school t-shirt.  By providing only one uniform or pair of shoes per child it means that their uniform or shoes will wear out quicker.  But we can buy for more children if we only provide one uniform.  Life in Swaziland is full of these types of dilemmas.  With God’s help I make the best decision I can and thank Him for such giving donors that allow Thoko, Thini, Dumsile, Thembie and I to help as many children as possible.

Osuthu Methodist Primary and High School

One of the things I’ve done over the almost four years that I have been in Swaziland is to gather information on each of the 34 Methodist schools in Swaziland.  I have attempted to get updated information each year so that I can present it to the District Bishop and then at the District Synod that occurs each May.  It’s not an easy job because most of the schools are around the perimeter of Swaziland.  Many are over 100km away from my place.  In addition, most are down dirt roads without signs and I don’t have contact details for most of the schools so I am stepping out in faith that I will get there without getting lost.  Most people in the rural areas don’t speak much English and I butcher the names of the schools so asking for help is usually out of the question.  This year, the Bishop is counting on me to get updated information on each school because the World Methodist Conference is being held in Durban, South Africa.  It is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of our schools not only within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, but to all Methodist affiliated churches around the world.

I tried to get information on the schools in the other two circuits in Swaziland by going through two head teachers who volunteered to help me get the information.  But there are 7 schools that they just couldn’t get information on.  This past Monday I went to visit two schools that are close to the Western border of Swaziland.  I had been to theses schools only once before so I was going on a wing and a prayer.  I was amazed that as I got closer I recognized a few things and then recognized the dirt road I needed to go on.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to navigating using street names and addresses!

Osuthu Methodist Primary school is in a very remote area of Swaziland.  It has 348 students with 22% of these students registered with the government as being OVC.  The head teacher, Mr. Dlamini, told us that he attended this school in 1968.  He was in grade 7.  It was the first year they had a grade 7 at this school.  Much of the school looks like it hasn’t had anything done to the buildings since then which is very common.  There often isn’t money in the budget for maintenance or renovation and it is easier to get grants or donors to build new buildings than it is to get help funding maintenance.  It’s not very glamorous to provide funding and labor to renovate a school, but it is so needed.  I’m sure it would lift the moral of the teachers, students, the local congregation and the community if their schools looked nicer.

The blocks are on the roof to hold the roof down when it is windy. Both times I've been at this school it has been very windy. It must be at a higher elevation because it was also colder than other parts of Swaziland.

The corrugated iron roof is rusted and I'm sure leaking. In addition the wooden beams look like they are well past their prime.

Notice the plaster coming off of the blocks and the roof starting to come off. Most of the schools need repairs to the roof, re-plastering of parts of the walls and floors and a good coat of paint.

The school got a Micro Project grant from the European Union to build a new kitchen. They cook for the kids in big iron pots over a fire that is built from an opening in the back of the building. The kids are lining up to get their food.

After eating the kids "wash" their bowl in a pan of cold water without any soap. They all get stacked together and are used the following day. Kids are taught to do this from the time they start pre-school.

This is Osuthu High School which is directly next to Osuthu Primary School. They recently got a few new buildings from Micro Project as well. It also looks like they just renovated the outside of two-thirds of their classrooms.

An Update on Mahlatsini Methodist Church

It’s been two months since I’ve given you an update on how the construction work on Mahlatsini Methodist Church is proceeding.  I’m happy to report that things are moving along.  I must admit, there have been a few bumps in the road such as the congregation running out of money to pay for labor and running out of water in the water storage tank and waiting for over a week to get water delivered to the building site, but things are progressing.  It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not the church will be finished by the middle of July.

On April 5th, the builders were just finishing putting up the tresses for the roof.  Since then the roof has been completed and the workers have plastered about 3/4 of the walls on the inside of the church.  When the water ran out they had to stop the plastering, so they switched tasks and started putting in the drop ceiling.  I’m pleased that they made this decision on their own.  This is very encouraging.

The roof is on! This is the same view that I posted on April 7th.

Another view...

The view from inside. They mix the sand and concrete by hand on the floor in the middle of the church. When the plastering is finished, they will then put a fresh level of concrete down for the floor.

The guys plastering the walls, before the water ran out. We are now in late fall, early winter so things are very dry, especially in the low feld where Mahlatsini is located. Most of the smaller streams, lakes and reservoirs have dried up so there is a big demand for the one water delivery truck in that part of Swaziland to provide water to stores, schools and homesteads. The church has to wait their turn and we all have to pray that the one truck won't break down before they get to us. If they break down, who knows how long it will take to fix the truck. It could be weeks or even months. By the way, the water isn't free. The tanker holds approximately 5,000 liters of water which costs approximately R500 which is about $80.00.

About 1/3 of the 16 windows have been put in place. The builders purposely leave an opening bigger than the window frame. Then they fit the window in the opening, propping it in place using blocks, bricks, wood or whatever they have. Then the builders come back and fill in the holes with concrete and plaster the frame in place to make it neat and prevent theft. Obviously, the rest of the windows will not be able to be put in place until we get more water. The glasses won't be put in the windows until the outside of the building is also plastered.

The walls have been plastered and the drop ceiling put in the office and storage rooms at the back of the church.

The construction guys are putting in the frames that they will attach the drop ceiling panels to. Notice their scaffolding!

OSHA definitely wouldn't approve of their scaffolding. Ladders or true, metal scaffolding is very scarce, expensive and difficult to transport without a vehicle so builders build their own at the building site. I am always amazed at their working conditions which they don't seem to have a problem with but which we would never allow in the States.

Absalom Dlamini and I standing in the front door to the church. The gentleman off to the left is the main interface for the congregation: Babe Langwenya. He is the one who is on-site to accept deliveries of building materials, works with the congregation to hire the builders and pay them, and arranges for the sand, gravel and water. I didn't realize until just the other day that he speaks very good English. He generally doesn't say much to me but the other day I took out a bunch of electrical conduit, wiring, breakers, outlets, etc. by myself. He was so surprised I had driven all that way by myself! They are always amazed that a woman can do that. I've actually been told a few time by men that don't know me that my bakkie is too big for me and that I shouldn't be driving it. Oh, if they only knew!!

Please pray that we can get this building finished by the middle of July.  I think the Bishop may be hoping to dedicate it around that time.  The  agreement with the church is that I will pay for the building materials but they must pay for the labor.  They are having a difficult time coming up with the labor costs.  They have asked for help from a few of the bigger congregations in the circuit such as St. Paul’s.  Please pray they get donations from those societies.  There are also  items that the congregation would like to have which aren’t included in the basic building such as floor tiles instead of a concrete floor, a pulpit, a communion rail and eventually electricity.  They are hoping that the larger congregations will help them with these items.  I am also hoping they will help this small congregation out


Kalakahle Revisited

I wrote about Khalakahle Methodist Primary school on April 3, 2011 and how the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu program that I have been project managing for the last four years was expanding to this very rural, poor school.  Over the last two months we’ve made several trips to Khalakahle.  We started by having a meeting with the the head teacher, the deputy head teacher, two of the teachers and the rural health motivators for the children that attend the school.  Thoko and the ladies explained what Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu is all about and what our goals are.  We told them that we wanted the school teachers together with the RHMs to identify 12 kids that are the neediest and/or are sickly or are HIV positive.

Thoko explaining the goals and mission of Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu to the teachers and rural health motivators. To Thoko's left is the head teacher. She has been very ill since last fall. She is just now coming back to school part time. She has lost so much weight that I didn't recognize her. She doesn't seem strong enough to be back to school, but I hear she had to come back to work or she would loose her job.

These are the RHMs. They are appointed by the chief and receive E200 a month to walk to the various homesteads in the chiefdom and report back to the chief the heath and well being of the people living in the chiefdom. It doesn't sound like much of a task, but these homesteads are very rural and not close together. E200 is equal to about $30.00 a month.

The next week we started visiting the homesteads of the children that were identified.  We go to see the living conditions and learn more about the needs and home life of the children.  Even though we ask the school for the names of 15 children, we look at whole family.  For Kalakahle it means we are looking at the needs of approximately 40 children.  If we look at the needs of those that are in high school or aren’t old enough to be in school, the number would probably increase to at least 60 children.

The rural health motivator for the area comes with us to show us the way to the homesteads and to help with the introductions to the family.   The area that the kids come from is so vast that we need to work with 8 different rural health motivators.  We also count on the rural health motivator to communicate what we, members of the Methodist Church and the Lutstandvo Lwa Krestu program, are doing in his chiefdom.

We're sitting on mats in the shade talking to the gogo of one of the children identified. It is customary for us to sit on mats under a tree or in the shade of the house while the introductions are made and our discussion about the family situation and needs commences. Notice that everyone's shoes are off. Even though we are outside and sitting on mats, it is customary for everyone to take off their shoes so they won't step on the mat and get it dirty. The girl on the far right is the child that was identified by the school. Each time we've seen her at school she has had the same clothes on without any shoes.

The rural health motivators getting in the back of my bakkie as we prepare to go to another homestead.

This is another homestead we visited. There are 9 children aged 13 and under living here with the gogo. All children have lost one parent and the other parent has disappeared. Five of the nine children attend school. The other 4 are not school age. After we visited this homestead I asked Thoko if I was imagining it or if this is the poorest and worst homestead we have visited in all my time here. She agreed that this is the worst. There were four stick and mud huts on the homestead and not one of them was in decent condition.

One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time has decided to buy uniforms, track suits or jerseys (sweaters), and shoes for 50 kids.  It took us one long day to measure all the kids and determine what they need.  Some of the kids had part or all of a uniform that may or may not be in decent condition.  In my post on April 3rd I talked about the poultry project that the school has.  They have used the proceeds from it to buy some of the children school uniforms.

These are four sisters from the homestead that has nine kids living with the gogo.

Gladys measuring a little first grader for a uniform. School uniforms for girls must be made to order. You can't just go into a shop and buy one.

A little girl taking her shoe off so that Gladys can measure her foot for shoes.

We make a chalk mark on the floor indicating the length of the child's foot, and then measure it with the tape measure. I will then go to a store that sells school shoes and measure the inside of the shoe. Hopefully they will be the right size for the child. If not, I will have to take them back to the store and try another size. The store is about 75 minutes away from the school.

At the end of the day, we had measured 54 children for uniforms, shoes, or track suits/jerseys.  In the process, we discovered a few more families that should be added to the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu program.  We now have 16 families.  And when we finished up our homestead visits we discovered that we had missed one of the girls from the homestead that had 9 children.  So that makes 55 children in need of part or all of a school uniform.  Days like this are emotionally draining and physically exhausting, but at least we all feel like we have done something to give hope to a few children.

This is the emblem/logo for the school. When I saw it, I just knew this was a partnership made in heaven!