Day 2: That will be the mother of all parties!
Today was 12 hours of action and far too much happened to describe all of the details, but here are some highlights:
1. The day started off by delivering food (Thanks Mitali!) to the eLangeni Primary school where Ty, Andrea and Michael chopped onions, potatoes, and carrots – enough for 634 children. Ty’s eyes were burning from the onions and Andrea’s hands hurt from forcing the dull blade through the thick carrots but Michael seems to have a future in Swazi culinary arts. Then they dished to 634 kids wearing the exact same uniform yet tried to memorize faces to avoid the children cutting back into the line… And they did so with ease.
2. Today we met with the Deputy Teacher at eLangeni Primary who was saying that the fruit trees we planted previously are abundant with fresh produce daily. The kids are free to go to pluck the paw paws at their leisure and there are enough to go around. She was asking if we had funding to provide seedlings of various varieties of fruit so they had more of a mixture. Thanks to my brother Jake for his recent donation toward sustainable programming, we were able to purchase 8 mature fruit trees for eLangeni Primary including orange, nectarine, mango, avocado, and peach. The problem was that the rental car is quite small, so 8 mature seedlings + 4 adults + Ty’s lost luggage we finally retrieved from the new Swazi airport = not a whole lot of room. Andrea kindly drove the entire 30 minute ride back with a suitcase on her lap and peach trees in her face. We will plant tomorrow.
3. Thanks to Will Bendix’s IndieGoGo campaign (link here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-send-50-kids-to-school-in-swaziland), the Bendix family’s support of the campaign/fundraising, and Andrea McCurdy’s family bypassing Christmas; we were able to not only sponsor our previous orphaned students’ tuition, but add 3 more children! Senzo, Zinhle, and Mlondi - more to follow on our young ambitious new eLangeni high school students.
4. Tonight we went to Nando’s with Philo, Mazwi and Lungelo – three of our original 9 sponsored students. It was to celebrate victory because Mazwi is in position 1 in school despite his consistent absences due to his HIV status and subsequent illnesses. Philo has just finished primary school (we have been with her since she started school!!) and we just registered and paid her high school tuition today (thanks again Bendix’s). And Lungelo will be done with his first semester of college next week (Thanks Inbodens!)… Often when I’m here in Swaziland, I am on the verge of tears – and not due to sadness – rather the pride I have for these kids and the extreme happiness I feel that they have been able to overcome their bleak futures due to the generosity of our Give Hope, Fight Poverty donors. I cannot believe that TWO of our recent high school graduates are now receiving GHFP scholarships for university – qualifying for university is an insurmountable feat for village kids, let alone orphaned village kids! Tonight, I told Mazwi and Philo that they were looking across the dinner table at a real life university student, at which they both exclaimed that they want to go to university as well! Although Mazwi still wants to be a kombi driver (bus driver), so I told him that he will be the highest educated absolute best kombi driver in the entire world!
5. At Christmas time, with the help of the Bendix family, we will be throwing a party for all of the orphans in eLangeni village. I spoke to our village coordinator Bheki about it tonight and told him that we want to have a huge barbeque, Sizo’s quartet sing, my friend’s dance group perform and of course, lots of meat. Bheki replied, “Wow. I cannot wait. This will be the mother of all parties!!” It is still a month away, yet the anticipation is killing me. Most of these orphaned and vulnerable children haven’t been able to celebrate Christmas since their parents have died and they are all looking forward to this event even more than I am. It never ceases to amaze me that the children here are only wishing for a big hug and a piece of meat in their metaphorical Christmas stocking while children where I’m from won’t be happy unless Santa empties his pockets and sells his sleigh. I continuously learn more from my Swazi kids than I will ever be able to teach them… about life, happiness, hard work, love and faith.