Today was our last day in Malindza until I return in May – I hate goodbyes! We paid the Mpaka school fees for Sharon, Nomalungelo, and Mpilo (we pre-paid Nothando’s last year). We were trying to rush to a meeting with the Chief’s Council at our new school site but in the meantime the whole school Morning Prayer assembly had commenced. How do you escape past 611 students singing their morning prayer unnoticed? Don’t worry – we blend in here in Swaziland... Then Sharon came running through the crowd toward us to give us a hug and wish us a safe journey home. I will be praying that Sharon keeps tolerating her ARVs and Luyanda (Nothando’s daughter) is not HIV positive.
We then visited Give Hope, Fight Poverty’s Malindza New Hope Primary School to meet our orphaned students for the very first time (the Swazi school year started mid-January and this is the first service-learning trip since then). We have 8 preschoolers (one of which was terrified of white people) and 20 primary grade one students who go to school completely for free – no uniform fees, tuition, school supply fees or lunch fees. It might have been one of the best days in my GHFP history to see the amazing 5 year olds in their new uniforms in brand new desks using brand new colorful pencils to write siSwati words seen on a brand new chalk board. Orphans here are so used to being second-class citizens rarely seeing brand new things or experiencing free high caliber education. Mr. Maseko (our village coordinator) and GHFP want to make a change for our kids, and it’s necessary that they understand it: They are loved. They are special. They are important to the future of their nation! The students now receive free school lunch (thanks Mitali/FOODOM!!) and GHFP employs two teachers, a cook, and a gardener who manages our vegetable plot that supplies nutrition to the otherwise rice & beans school lunch menu.
Miss Mahlalela (1st grade teacher) is a petite soft-spoken very smiley young adult who is just what these kids need. In her, they have not only an educator but an adorable caring mother figure who gives abundant hugs they so desperately need. I was overflowing with love today for these kids and looked them in the eyes searching for a glimpse of their futures. What will they be doing in 10 or 20 years? Making a difference, I am sure!! I pointed to one and said “What school do you go to?” and she shouted in a boisterous proud voice from a tiny little orphaned body “My name is Neliswe,I am 3 years old, I go to Malindza New Hope Preschool!!”. It felt like my heart broke into a million pieces and then was put back together stronger than ever. WE CAN DO THIS!! Thank YOU for your continued support. These kids would never have an education without you!!
We then played with the kids for hours. You could order them a command, like “JUMP” and they would do it while shouting, “I AM JUMPING” over and over until the next command. Ty loved this game!! He also loved showing the kids his muscles and having the kids show him their tiny muscles but I am only writing this because Ty is currently sleeping so he doesn’t know I’m spilling those bean! The kids are brilliant. I asked the kids to start counting and thought most would trail off around 30 which is the goal for pre-school students in Swaziland. Most were reciting all of the way to 110 when I finally stopped them because we were getting ready to leave! I could not be more thankful to everyone who has sent a donation, a warm wish or a thoughtful prayer for these kids. I couldn’t be happier to offer them a chance at an education and I cannot WAIT to see what they make of it. There could be the next Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein in our group – keep reading for the next 20 years to find out!
Tomorrow we will be taking Mazwi to the hospital. He has been complaining of a fever lasting for over 2 weeks, a swollen face with bloody sores, and a stomach ache. Luckily I am friends with doctors at Baylor’s Pediatric HIV clinic who agreed to see him. I am praying so hard tonight that it’s just an allergic reaction to something that can be easily fixed. It hurts every inch of my soul to think that he has had such a tough childhood and may never make it to adulthood. To donate to any of our programming: www.ifightpoverty.org/donate.html