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Last night in Swaziland Jan 2017

This morning we went to the handicraft market where women make beautiful jewelry and crafts by hand from renewable local materials.  I purchased an entire suitcase full that will be available in America with the proceeds benefiting our programming.  Keep a look out on Facebook for an upcoming post!

We then met with the Princess Chief of eLangeni.  She is an amazing Chief which makes it a pleasure to support her community. She doesn’t expect her people to work hard while she sits around reaping the benefits – she is right there with them.  Actually the first time I met her, she was covered in cow manure!  It is always a special treat to have time with her as her time is so precious and scarce.  It is also a special treat because her speeches always have a hidden pep talk and are filled with wisdom!
It never fails that the car is full full FULL.  We had to pick up 20 children (plus the 5 of us) to take them to the movie theater. The challenge is that we only had time to make two trips and the car was built for 7.  We had people on laps, people on the floor and people strapped to the roof (two truths and a lie)!  The children all wanted to see Sing in 3D.  After the movie Mazwi picked Debonairs – the pizza joint.  We bought 10 large pizzas, 5 appetizers, and 9 liters of soda.  Within 15 minutes everything had disappeared! 

After the movie, I had time to catch up with everyone.  Sibusiso has been working part time jobs and buying bags of cement and river sand with his money.  He is building his own home.  The challenge is that there is no road to his grandmother’s land, so he is carrying the cement bags (120lb) up the mountain by himself (well, with the help of his friend we have nicknamed “the beast” who we also took to the movie).  His home is currently a foundation and two levels of blocks – he has quite a bit to go but is determined to have it finished by the time I am back in March!  He recently graduated and is applying to university in Njabuliso’s automotive engineering program.  I am so so so proud of him! What a successful hardworking boy! But not all of our stories are complete successes.  One of our recently graduated girls showed up at the movie 3 months pregnant.  I was devastated.  What would amount to potentially just a huge “whoopsie” in America is a life sentence of poverty in Swaziland.  Alone with a high school education, she will have to now care for herself and a baby as no one in Swaziland will ever make a mother their first (or only) wife.  She was one of our brightest girls and now her future seems bleak.  Bheki and I had a stern talk with the rest of the kids telling them to use Lungelo, Njabuliso, Sibusiso and all of our other superstars as examples.  If they stay focused – they will win their war against poverty and HIV/AIDS. 

Afterward Philo pulled me aside and said that she is going to be the best winner that I’ve ever seen.  I asked her what that meant.  She said it is her goal to be the very best Give Hope, Fight Poverty student and won’t let anything stop her.  Her mother died when she was 8 and has been raising herself and her brother Mazwi (then 3) ever since.  Her oldest brother has an alcohol abuse problem.  Her oldest sister died after contracting AIDS from her boyfriend.  And her two middle sisters have 1 and 2 kids with boys who have since deserted them.  Yet Philo and Mazwi never let anything come in the way of their determination to succeed.  So proud of these hard working little ones and I cannot wait to cheer them on in every one of their future successes!!
Annie and Philo! 
I cannot believe this is our last night in Swaziland!  Tomorrow we will start the long journey home. It’s always such a mixed emotion.  I am excited to see my almost 17-month old sassafras and give my soulmate a big kiss.  I am also excited to have an ice cold diet mountain dew and a scalding hot shower.  But I always worry about the children when I am gone and wish I could celebrate their victories and hug away their tears every day.  I teach college nutrition in America and on an exam I once asked what nutrients were needed to thrive.  One of my students wrote “Water and encouragement”.  Although I got a giggle from the answer, being here in Swaziland makes me wish I had not marked him entirely wrong.  I remember many years ago Sizo telling me I was the first one to hug him since his mom died. Think of when you are sick, or sad, or lonely… what is it you desire?  As I was squeezing them all goodbye tonight, I held on just a little too long and squeezed them just a little too hard in hopes it would last until I return in March.  I’m not sure if I was hoping it would last for me or for them… they are my inspiration to work hard, complain less, give more, and be a better person. 

In the morning we will be delivering soap to eLangeni Primary as part of our Sanitation across Swaziland program and deliver N95 masks (to prevent the spread of TB), gloves, vaginal speculums, and arm slings to Baylor’s HIV center.  Then, we hit the road for Joburg Airport! Feels like we just arrived and area already leaving…  Goodnight from Swaziland! 

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