Changing lives one smile, one child, one heart at a time

In August, 2014 I started volunteering with a small organization on Bainbridge Island, Island Time Activities. Their mission is to promote independence and empowerment for people with intellectual disabilities through social networking, community involvement, and personal skill development. We work to promote a sense of community, independence, friendship, and mutual respect, through a variety of programs based in our local community of Bainbridge Island and surrounding areas. Services are provided based on individual goals and interests, and are incorporated throughout program activities. Their motto is “changing lives one smile at a time.” I love it! No wonder we are such a good fit.

“My “work” if you can call it that, is to go hiking and then swimming with some of their members every Tuesday. Staff members lead the hike so I am really just hanging out with some really cool and special people. My Tuesdays with my ITA friends is a real close second to my days with my granddaughter! On our hikes we’ve talked about my work and life in Swaziland, as well as One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time. The staff and many of the members have been so interested, wanting to learn more and even wanting to do something to help.

My Tuesday ITA friends and Lizzy on a hike last week.

My Tuesday ITA friends and Lizzy on a hike last week.

Once a month, ITA host a “Saturday Supper.” It is an evening where the members and their friends in other similar organizations can come and have a fun evening and dinner. Their program director and co-founder asked if I would come and teach them about Swaziland. We met several times and planned a Swazi meal, including mealy meal, for dinner. I put together a slide show of many aspects of Swazi life including videos of cultural dancing and African music. The energy and enthusiasm of this group was awesome. They were so interested in the pictures and stories and they asked really great questions. Even more impressive is they seemed to like the mealie meal. Hats off to Deb and the rest of the staff for putting together such a good representative of a Swazi meal for our dinner.

It was not only a fun night with my new dear friends, but such an inspiration. This small group of individuals want so badly to do something to help so they are going to do a couple of fundraisers to support our organization. This group may be small, and they might be a little bit different from most of us, but they have heart, soul and a strong desire to help others. Their energy and perseverance are infectious and inspiring. I am so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful organization and I cant wait to share their story with our Swazi volunteers and kids when I go to Swaziland the end of April.

For more information about Island Time Activities please check out their website: http://www.islandtimeactivities.org/

Lizzy helping me with the slide presentation.  She loves to help her Gogo!

Lizzy helping me with the slide presentation. She loves to help her Gogo!


Our attentive audience.

Our attentive audience.

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Scotty admiring Swazi baskets

Scotty admiring Swazi baskets


Allie trying on one of my Swazi skirts.

Allie wearing one of my Swazi skirts.


Lizzy hanging out with her friend Jennifer.

Lizzy hanging out with her friend Jennifer.


Watch for further information about ITA’s fundraisers to help support our One Child, One Heart kids.

This is what keeps us going

I am embarrassed and feel so bad that I haven’t updated the website or written a blog in over two years. It is certainly NOT because nothing has been happening with our “One Child” kids in Swaziland. It is because it has been a hard adjustment being back in the States and not having the daily contact with Thoko Khumalo When I lived there we would talk almost everyday to plan, discuss issues, keep each other’s spirits up and to remind each other why we have been called to help “One Child at a Time (and/or) One Heart at a Time. I also felt that writing a blog wouldn’t be as meaningful since I didn’t live in Swaziland anymore. However, I go back each year to keep up the relationship with each of our kids, families, Thoko and our other volunteers (Thini and Sibongile). In addition, Thoko and I talk on the phone at least once a month. We talk about each one of our kids, their successes and challenges, and we discuss exactly how the funds have been spent for the previous month and what to expect for the next month. Thoko and I also send text messages back and forth in between our calls. We always have words of love, faith and hope for each other and our kids. Over the next couple of months I am going to work on updating our website and writing more blogs to share more of the incredible stories of our kids.

Through this ministry we have seen lives change in ways that is nothing short of a miracle. Other changes may not be so dramatic but have still been life changing for the kids, their family members, Thoko, Thini, Sibongile, the One Child board and I. Sharing these joys with others makes me happy and reminds me that I do have a purpose in life. I’ve also come to realize that not sharing these stories is like keeping the light under my bed, and that is not what Christ has called us to do. I was given the incredible opportunity to share the life and love of some pretty incredible people both young and old. I can’t let all that I learned through my experiences and all that One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time is doing stay locked up in my heart and mind. So the following update on one of our precious kids is hopefully, the first of many more to come.

Nonjabulo is a young girl that a fellow board member, Deb, and I first met in September, 2009. She was 7 months old at the time and very, very sick. One night, I was leading a board meeting of one of the projects in Swaziland that I helped the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in Swaziland get started. It focuses on OVC elementary school age children assisting them with medical care, school fees and school uniforms. As the meeting was coming to an end, Thini asked if we would pray for her 7 month old granddaughter who was very sick with TB and reactions to the ARVs they had started her on. Normally, they don’t put a person, especially a young child, on both TB medication and ARVs together at the same time because they can make the person very sick. But this baby was so sick they had no choice. We were all so incredibly amazed and shocked that this dedicated, Christian woman who was working tirelessly for sick kids in other families and communities had not shared her granddaughter’s health issues. You can be sure that Deb and I made it a point to go over and meet this baby girl the next day.

Nonjabulo and I when we first met in 2009.  A few weeks after this I rushed her and her mom to the emergency room.  She was admitted, but the hospital was out of the antibiotic that would help her, so I walked to a pharmacy about 2 blocks away and for about $2.00 I was able to buy it and take it back to the hospital.  A few weeks later the hospital ran out of oxygen and we didn't think she would live through the night.  Several of us gathered around her, laying hands on her while we prayed and the next day she when we returned she had already started to improve.

Nonjabulo and I when we first met in 2009. A few weeks after this I rushed her and her mom to the emergency room. She was admitted, but the hospital was out of the antibiotic that would help her, so I walked to a pharmacy about 2 blocks away and for about $2.00 I was able to buy it and take it back to the hospital. A few weeks later the hospital ran out of oxygen and we didn’t think she would live through the night. Several of us gathered around her, laying hands on her while we prayed and the next day she when we returned she had already started to improve.

Since 2009 we have continued to pay for her medical expenses including transportation to come to the hospital to her ARVs. We also supplied her with powdered milk and a fortified porridge to eat every day so she could build up her immune system and take her ARVs. It hasn’t always been a smooth road. There were a few set backs. However, I am so happy to share with you that in January, 2015, Nonjabulo started the 1st grade!

Nonjabulo in her school uniform on her way to school!  If this little girl isn't a miracle, I'm not sure what would be!  Isn't she just adorable?

Nonjabulo in her school uniform on her way to school! If this little girl isn’t a miracle, I’m not sure what would be! Isn’t she just adorable?