New Year’s Eve: My daughter Tinlie Lihle always askes me “Mommy, will you rub my arm?” as I put her to bed. Tonight (after a much needed nap), we went to eLangeni to shoot off crickets (fireworks) with the Msibis and Mazwi & Mphilo – a tradition we started many years ago. I don’t even like fireworks, but it is so beautiful here. You see, there are no lights in the rural areas. No street lights at all. It’s complete darkness other than the glitter shooting up from the ground and exploding in the sky. We were dancing and singing and playing games in the light of the fireworks and in the black darkness of the night. But just before midnight, Junior (5 years old) woke up scared from the fireworks. He came to the door crying. I left the others to put him back to bed - on his blanket on the cement floor. As I snuggled him back to sleep, I rubbed his arm the way I do with my 3 year old and sang “Jesus loves me, this I know” just like I do with her, into his sleepy ear. Missing my baby girl tonight!! Can’t wait for her to be old enough to tag along with me in Swaziland…
But let’s back up! This morning we paid the eLangeni high school fees for all 11 orphaned students (THANK YOU SO MUCH!!). We pay these fees directly to the bank eliminating any chances of corruption. We are very grateful that you are investing in these hardworking amazing children!! Siyabonga!! Watching what the children are able to accomplish with your support is one of the biggest blessings in my life!
Afterward we went to Malindza village where we hosted our annual NYE party. We had over 100 children attend. These are orphans from preK through primary. We played games and the children ate the chicken we provided (meat is an extreme luxury here!). We also spent the day getting Banelile prepared for her first year at the school for the Deaf. It makes me so sad that there aren’t services here. I couldn’t stop thinking about one of my best friends Lindsay who is a speech pathologist and how much I wish she could help. Here I go getting ahead of myself again… Banelile is 6 years old and mute. But she is very sharp! She understands commands and can write. She just can’t talk. And because of this, in Swaziland, they will not accept her into the public schools paid for by the government. Without our donor Anika paying her school fees at the school for the Deaf, she would sit at home every year while her speaking peers would learn and grow. But the school for the deaf is a boarding school. It may be a blessing in disguise that she has a place to live – as long as she learns to love it – because her mother is dead. And her father abandoned her when he realized she “wasn’t perfect”. She was being raised by her grandmother, but she had a stroke and is immobile. Banelile is now alone. Perhaps although in my Western mind, I’m cringing that she has to go to a deaf school although she hears perfectly, she will gain a new community of peers, friends and “family”.
Okay, we’re back to the fireworks part of my story… Someone brings out a radio. Suddenly dance music is playing loudly in the dark, under the glittering sky. Mazwi hears the beat and starts swaying. We form a circle around him cheering him on, and he starts dancing… SO BEAUTIFULLY! (Although if you know me, I am biased. Sweet 3 year old orphaned Mazwi, 12 years ago, is the main reason GHFP was formed – everything he does is beautiful to me!! And I pray every day that a cure for HIV is found so he can live “forever”.) As he was dancing, I couldn’t help but remember my friend Sifiso, who died of AIDS last November. Sifiso was a professional dancer and 6 years ago, when Mazwi was 9 years old, he gave Mazwi his first unofficial “dance lesson”. Sifiso would be so proud to see him now!! It is now 1am and I’m tired. Sorry if this blog is scrambled thoughts. But my main thought tonight is gratitude. Endless thanks to all of our donors who make these children’s lives better. When I see these kids now, smiling hopeful and happy, my mind always momentarily flashes back for a second to their previous life – before your sponsorship – scared and unsure… and I am giddy with endless abundant gratitude!!
New Year’s Day: Today we drove to Hlane Royal National Park. Elise was hopeful to see an elephant. As we drove into the park, we saw giraffes along the highway eating leaves from tall trees. During the safari, they also saw lions, rhinos, warthogs, impala, hippos bathing in the watering hole, and ELEPHANTS! We dropped off our used clothes with Nomalungelo on our drive. She will sell them and use the money to support herself (she is done with high-school but there are no jobs in her rural village, so we try to support her this way). Once we arrived at home, the girls spent 2 hours sanitizing soaps. We collect used soaps from local hotels and sanitize them in a bleach solution before distributing them to children in the rural communities. Tomorrow we will distribute them to the refugee camp and at our rural pop-up pediatric clinic.
Goodnight from eSwatini!! To the Dorsch, Kaur, Madhan and Andersen families – THANK YOU for sharing your family with us… the ladies have been AMAZING here and have been crucial in the implementation of our programming! I hope they have gained a fraction of what they have given back. If anyone would like to support our programming, you can do so here: www.ifightpoverty.org/donate.html