What. A. Long. Day. (Happy anniversary Jan and Paul!)
Today we sent Amilcare and Bheki to do the wiring at our primary school for the computer lab. They had to combine 14 plugs into a single socket in the wall – all protected by an appliance sized surge protector we purchased since the electricity is so unstable in the rural areas. They did all of the wiring from scratch and did such an amazing job!! THANK YOU GUYS!
While they were busy working hard, we went to Baylor for a tour from Dr. Sarah. So many changes each time I come. Today we learned about the spread of XDR-tuberculosis. This is a strand that is resistant to all drugs (no treatment whatsoever) and it is becoming more and more common among the children treated at Baylor. They see over 100 HIV-positive young patients (and their care givers) per day and, right now, is staffed by a single US pediatrician. These patients are given ARVs (antiretrovirals) that are the size of horse pills. The children must take these at the same time every morning and evening and there are only 2 strands of pills possible (much less than in the states). Once the kids become resistant to these two strands (the second being very toxic and causes a lot of side effects), they will die – commonly of tuberculosis or another infectious disease. She introduced us to 3 boys who were chosen as the teen leaders of teen club. Teen club is a monthly program where teens who have recently received their positive HIV test results join together to receive counseling and share their stories. These teen leaders were sent to the Prime Minister today to be granted permission to go to the United States to a Clinton Health Initiative conference in Washington DC at the end of the month. These are rural children who have never experienced life outside of their villages, let alone in a developed country – what an opportunity!!
Then we went to town to grab some food and we saw the protestors. The teachers were protesting that they should receive higher wages. There were soldiers and police everywhere making sure things stayed peaceful…no worries, they did! The Prime Minister later made a statement that he heard the teachers pleas but the country is in a very bad financial situation and they are unable to grant the teachers any increases in wages for the next 3 years.
The girls found the public kombi’s exciting and wanted to ride one to the village to meet up with Amilcare. We hopped on and held on for dear life. These drivers are in a HURRY! We managed to dodge other cars and a stray cow all while staying inches from the edge of the mountain. The girls looked terrified. I hope they got that out of their systems.
While at the village, we ran into the Headmaster of the secondary school who wanted us to go to the school as it was lunchtime and GHFP donor Mitali is supporting all 620 children with school lunch for a year. He wanted us to see what they currently eat and what they wanted to be eating. My girls were daring enough to even try it! Today’s lunch was sour porridge. It consists of mealies (ground corn maize that is boiled and drained) covered in sour milk. The girls compared it to cottage cheese. The kids said that they would prefer to eat meat sometimes as currently that is never offered. They said that their favorite meal would be some rice topped with beans and a small amount of chicken with tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. When I spoke with the headmaster he said that they were dreaming and we should prioritize the necessities – cooking oil, firewood, soap, soup mix, beef stock, frozen mixed vegetables, and mealies. I think we are going to throw some chicken in there too – hopefully we can afford it, these kids need protein! To feed the entire school for a single day with the chicken it will take 20kg. Crossing my fingers that it’s in the budget…
Afterward the girls went to the Cultural Village and I took Nomfundo, one of our students, to the exams council. We learned that Nomfundo only passed half of her graduation exams so she did not receive her high school diploma. She needs to retake the geography and physical science exams and was too embarrassed to tell us so she wasn’t in school. Today was the last day to register and the money and paperwork was due at 4pm in a neighboring village. We had to hop on two very questionable busses to get there and I was offered marriage proposals by men and grandmothers for their sons in the meantime. I graciously declined the offers. We got to the exams council at 3:50p and everyone had closed up shop. Nomfundo looked defeated and swore that if she had to wait until October 2013 to complete her exams, she would not go back. So, I ran up to one of the men and begged him to find the time to complete our paperwork. At 3:58, we were walking out the door with a newly registered and smiling Nomfundo. October is also her 21st birthday so I said that she will have good luck on her exams. What a sweet girl.
It was nice to be with her alone today as she felt more comfortable opening up to me. I asked what she has been doing since she was not in school and she said that a friend of hers introduced her to a teacher in Manzini who was looking for a nanny. Nomfundo gladly took the job as the lady promised to not only pay her but also send food home to her little brother and sister now living alone in her village. She said that the work was very hard as the lady expected a lot from her and she had two children, one being severely disabled. Then, one day, the woman’s husband stopped coming home at night and accused Nomfundo of stealing her husband and fired her immediately. Nomfundo was devastated and said that it was hard to return home and tell her siblings that the food would no longer be coming. Then I asked about her half-brother who used to sometimes give them leftovers, and she said he is now in prison for the next 5 years but would not tell me why. It’s such a blessing that Mitali is donating food because with her money we will not only be able to afford to feed the children at eLangeni Secondary School lunch everyday, but we are going to provide a weekly meal bag to the children we sponsor so they will not be hungry. Every single day I feel guilty for being one of the haves…instead of one of the have nots. We are staying in a guesthouse where the shower is cold and it takes somewhat of a 3-armed contortionist to squat down to ensure that the water stays in the tub as there is no curtain, hold the broken faucet into the wall with one arm, hold the shower head with the other, and wash yourself with your 3rd. But then I think about the children who do not even have clean water to drink, let alone bathe and I wish I could just use febreeze if that meant they could have something to drink.