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.

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One thought on “My “s” week…

  1. Loved this blog and all the pictures! You are certainly busy in these last weeks in Sz. Did you get my email last week? Hope all is well and that these next couple of months are filled with joy and hope, Love, Jeri

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