Friday, October 12, 2007

Lomngeletjane Storm Damage

Water, Water, Water. It is such a basic element to our lives. It seems as if we are always dealing with problems of not having enough or having too much. The good news for Swaziland is that the spring rains have started. For the last couple of weeks it has been raining in the highveld. The hills are a beautiful green. The air has the clean scent of rain. Unfortunately, the lowveld needs the rain even more and yet has received very little rain if any rain.

Last Sunday night, there was a series of thunderstorms that came through the highveld complete with high wind and heavy rain. The high winds tore off the roof of Lomngeletjane carepoint and primary school damaging the insides of the facility and the few teaching and student materials they had. (See pictures at the bottom of this post.)

If you will recall from previous posts, Lomngeletjane is the little community at the top of a hill not far from Manzini. They have a wooden structure for a carepoint which was upgraded to be minimally suitable for a first grade classroom – the start of Lomngeletjane Memorial Primary School. This is the little school that we (One heart at a time, One Child at a time) provided some minimal student and teacher materials because the teacher had absolutely nothing for the classroom. This is also the school that about a month ago Bishop Jennings officiated over the ground breaking ceremony for the new permanent classrooms.

Now this little school and carepoint is back to nothing. They are not able to hold school because they have no shelter or materials for the children. The little church that is next to the carepoint also sustained damage, but is still usable for storage of the desks, chairs and anything they were able to salvage.

The teacher, Celangiphiwe, and I braved the light rain and muddy roads to drive up there on Thursday to survey the damage. Rev. Ngema wasn’t too sure we could make it and was too busy to accompany us. Celangiphiwe was a little nervous but was willing to go with me when I said “Ah, I think we can make it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” I felt a little like a FEMA official. The roads weren’t too bad, although there were a couple of areas that I let a “oh my” escape from my lips. Celangiphiwe didn’t like hearing those words. The hill top is so beautiful and it was so sad to see the damage. The builder walked to Lomngeletjane in the slight drizzle to give me an estimate of what materials he would need to repair the building. He said he would gather up some boys to help him and it would take about a day to do the repairs.

Materials for the repairs comes to R2844. A little something for the boys would probably be another R500. Replacement copies and materials for the teacher to make new teaching charts approximately another R200, bringing the total repair costs to approximately R3544 or $590.00. The good news is, I was going to take some additional teaching and student supplies up to the teacher last week, but the day I was schedule to go, she wasn’t going to be there so I didn’t take them. Thank God or they would have been ruined as well. The bad news is, there is no guarantee that this won’t happen again before the new school building can be built. However, the only other choice is to not provide education or shelter for these children until the new permanent buildings can be built. Not an option worth considering.

My plan is to work with Celangiphiwe over the next week or so to replenish the student and teaching materials; to work with Rev. Ngema regarding the materials to rebuild the school, get the materials on order and the builder and his boys scheduled; and finally to try and get the building of the school moving so the structure can be completed in the very near future.

Prayers, as always, are very much needed. Please pray for strength and guidance for me as I try to navigate the bureaucracy and individual schedules of those involved in this process. Pray I can identify and communicate with those that need to be involved in this work effort. Pray for patience as things will inevitably take much longer than I would like. (This IS Africa!) And please pray for the children, adults and community to have patience and hope as the temporary school is rebuilt and construction on the new school starts. Is it asking too much to pray for continuing rain, especially in the lowveld, but without the strong, damaging winds?

Lomngeletjane temporary school building. Note, no roof!

Window of 1st grade "classroom"

back of building without roof

Window of "preschool" room


inside of 1st grade classroom

Roof blew across the top of the hill and down this ravine. It is the white spot in the to the center of the picture.

damage to Lomngeletjane church.

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