Final Day of Jan 2019 trip

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” I think about how often I have been speechless when I sit down to write my blogs at night.  Any words I type don’t seem to adequately capture the inexplainable beauty and the underlying pain so abundant here in Swaziland, but I try.  I can’t wait until May when Hannah will return to capture the children’s stories in their own words…but until then, here I am, your storyteller. 

This morning we started early to fetch Raymond – our builder.  We drove to the hardware store where we purchased the materials for two more rain catchment systems, this time for granny headed homes in Malindza village.  As we followed the “for hire” truck carrying all of the building materials, I prepped the group to meet “dancing gogo”, my hero!  And, sure enough, she lived up to her nickname.  She even ran inside to tie traditional Swazi ankle bracelets on that sound like rain sticks when she moves. Dancing gogo dances to the beat of her own drum – with a nearly toothless smile on her face – despite the tough life she lives.  Almost all of her children are dead and she’s raising her grandchildren without a job or any income.  She works tirelessly while smiling and dancing.  Previously she had to walk very far pushing a wheel barrow full of tanks to fetch water.  Now, thanks to your generosity, her work will be a little easier because she will have access to water on her homestead through an enormous tank Raymond is installing tomorrow!  Thank you so much!

After getting Raymond set up to build the two tank systems, we went to our New Hope Centre where we met with Nurse Kandas to host our free pop-up clinic.  We saw around 100 orphans and elderly people from the village.  Sweet Banelile (you have read about her in past blogs this week) was the only one we couldn’t treat on site.  She needed an injection for her asthma.  So, we drove her with us to our next stop – the refugee camp - where Kandas was able to provide the injection at his clinic there.   

Pulling up to the camp, I didn’t know what to expect.  I only knew beforehand the very basics:  There are around 500 people living in the camp with almost 300 of them being children under the age of 17 – some even unaccompanied minors.  The refugees are escaping war and famine around Africa.  The camp is a severely underfunded.   When we asked the Director why they kept admitting new refugees when they could not properly accommodate the ones they currently have, he said Swaziland has a law that prevents them from turning anyone away.  But he also mentioned that when he pleads with government for funding, they tell him they are already stretched too thin.  There are many problems at the camp, but one is that there is not enough free food, so they only offer it to the children and disabled.  But they end up sharing it with those around them creating a culture of malnutrition.  Also, there is no water and hasn’t been for almost a year.  They built 16 pit latrine toilets at some point, but they are now all overflowing.  Since many of the refugees have cholera upon entry, sanitation is so crucial to prevent the spread of disease – particularly to the 65 children who make up the youngest and most vulnerable cohort: aged 0 - 4y. 

Thanks to a dear friend of mine matching donations in a recent facebook campaign, and all of you donating to reach the goal, we were able to raise enough money to build toilets at the camp. However, the director told us that the lodging actually has flush toilets inside.  The only problem (and the reason why they built the pit toilets to begin with) is that there is no water to flush the toilets.  They have a borehole but the pump malfunctioned a year ago and they have been unable to fix it due to a lack of funds. Therefore, instead of building more pit latrine toilets, we went to a drilling business where we commissioned them to fix the borehole.  They said that the previous pump was much too weak to accommodate a 500-person community causing it to die before it was destined.  We bought a larger, more powerful pump that is supposed to last at least 10 years! I’m prayerful that the pump works perfectly and the refugees are able to have access to clean fresh water for the next decade!  Your donation is a blessing! Water is life!  

On our way out of the camp, a man came up with an excited grin!! He pulled out a stack of papers and said “Hello.  I need an American wife.  I have my paperwork!” I’m not exactly sure what paperwork he was referring to, but shucks…I’m already married. I let the other girls fend for themselves as I took pictures of the children playing barefoot in the rain.  I couldn’t help but think how awful their lives must have been back home that they would pack up their small children and flee to Swaziland’s refugee camp located in the middle of a desert without access to water, minimal access to food, and sanitation levels that are a recipe for a public health outbreak.  Thankfully, through the generosity of our donors, the water will solve many of these problems for the women and kids who make up a majority of the camp.  Siyabonga kakhulu for your support…

This is the last blog until our next group arrives on the ground the 1st of March.  Until then, thank you so much for your generosity! Nothing is possible without you.

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