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.
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.
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.
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.
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.