Happy New Year! Last night we pretended it was midnight at 9:15p and shot off fireworks with the kids in eLangeni, our annual tradition. Luckily the kids agreed to let us off the hook to leave around 10p – our group was exhausted! On the drive home, I started practicing my siSwati and in response I hear giggles from Mazwi in the backseat. If you know Mazwi, giggles are as hard to come by as they are from my daughter Tinlie Lihle….and if you know me, giggles from those two are my absolute favorite sounds in the entire world!! On the verge of happy tears, I kept butchering my minimal siSwati the whole way home to hear the never ending giggle glee in the backseat. I pray every day for Mazwi to reach adulthood and for Swaziland to gain access to more ARV drugs so Mazwi can keep winning his battle against HIV!
We drove to Malindza this morning to deliver food to very destitute families near our Centre. As we approached one family, our amazing teacher Miss Maseko remembered to ask me for Vaseline. She then proceeded to tell me that the family suffers from a dry skin condition and the two children often arrive at school covered in the cooking oil we deliver in their meal packs. Vaseline is very inexpensive here – yet too expensive for those making less than $1/day. I am constantly reminded here how blessed I am and how I must share those blessings with others. After delivering the food packs to the preK and elementary kiddos, we delivered to Sharon, an HIV positive high school student. Her abusive grandfather left the family to move in with another younger woman and I assumed that was a good thing. But when I asked, she said it is about the same – or maybe worse. The abuse is over, but the grandfather worked piece-jobs and now there is no money at all for food or necessities. She said she’d rather endure the alcoholic’s abuse than be hungry. Again…blessings…
We have a soccer team thanks to the jerseys donated by the Kaser family. Today our team played each other as Erika and Maddy “coached” on the sidelines. The boy we called ‘khaki’ (because of his pants) had some fancy footwork! The real coach (Mphendulo’s father for those who have been to our Centre) actually played with the kids – as did his son, the amazing Mphendulo himself! The team is requesting high quality (deflated) soccer balls, and a pump. We’d also love a stop watch, whistle, and sweat bands. If anyone has access to these (even used) please let me know!
We then met with Malindza High School administration where 15 of our sponsored orphans attend school. The challenge is that we at GHFP recognize it is not enough to pay for their school fees if the schools we are sending them to are subpar. The school deputy and head teacher (principal) alerted me today to the fact that they have been contacting the ministry of education endlessly because they are in a state of crisis. There is no water in their area of the country – no rain, and nothing coming from the boreholes (groundwater). They are spending an astronomical amount to get water for the children to wash their hands to prevent disease as well as to cook their food so they don’t die of starvation (most children in this area only eat what is served at school – no food at home whatsoever). But this is taking away from the learning as they do not have money for electricity which powers the computers we donated (thanks Carole Juranek and CMT), for chairs & desks (the students often write on their laps on paper) or for sufficient food. Their class sizes are supposed to be no more than 40 but often reach 60 students! Can you imagine teaching 60 students? What if 1…or 25 need additional help in the 50 minutes they are in front of you? Impossible. We paid $500 for their electricity today. If we can help in the future with reducing the cost of water and electricity, they can spend the minimal money they have paying more teachers to reduce class sizes and purchase more food to reduce hunger… anyone willing to help?
Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to praise Maseko – our village facilitator who makes ALL of this possible and who receives no salary whatsoever. On the contrary, he often spends his own money to drive to our homes and schools to check on the students, he has two of our high school orphans living with him, and he arranges all of our programming for us…free of charge. Simply because he feels he is called to do this work. Today as I said goodbye, I told him to thank his wife also, who allows her husband and his time and talents to be taken away from their home. He said “I thank God for the understanding wife He gave me, as she also loves the children”. I could not echo that enough! When I was traveling to Swaziland 100+ days of the year in my 20s, it wasn’t a burden on anyone. Now that I am in my 30s and have a husband and toddler daughter, my departures to help my Swazi family have been a burden on my American family. None of my work here in Swaziland would be possible without my incredible husband Ty. I know that he takes on the incredible burden because he has taken these Swazi children on as his own. When we married, we feared we would not be able to have a single child – yet we have hundreds. I miss you Ty… and appreciate you more than you will ever know. Sun, moon and stars, Drago….