Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kumbambisana - to work together; unity

February, it is so hard to believe that it is February when it is so hot outside. It cools off a little at night, but because of what might be coming in the window, I sleep with my windows closed. Thank goodness I have electricity and a fan! It goes from room to room with me in the afternoon, evening and throughout the night. It is my best friend.

This week has brought more reunions with the people, especially the women of the church and in my Bible studies. It has been so good to see everyone after such a long time away. Either I must have looked pretty stressed before I left or my trip home did me a world of good (or maybe a bit of both) because everyone talks about how much better I look and how rested and happy I am. I thank God for the time spent in the US and for all the time I had with my dear family and friends both near and far - my church families and my biological family.

My friend Thoko and I went up to Lomngeletjane to re-measure the children for school uniforms and check on the progress of the school. Thoko is the woman in a red t-shirt with a black hat in the pictures below. She is the Social Concerns Manyano lady who I’ve come to know and love. It was so good to go back up there and see the teachers and the children. Progress is being made on the school, but there is a lot of work to be done before the school can be finished and registered, dedicated and opened. We would like to have it opened before winter comes because the temporary building will not keep the cold wind and temperatures out. While I was there, I learned that the children don’t have a temporary toilet. There is a pit toilet for the adults at the church, but the seat made out of blocks and cement is too high and too big for the children to use. Therefore, the children are going wherever they want to in what is the school and church yard. It is very unhealthy. I also discovered that someone had brought what looks like a big tractor tire to the school yard for the children to play on. Indeed, several children were playing on it when we arrived. However, upon closer inspection, the tire was full of very gross standing, green water. While we were there a member of the newly formed school committee which is comprised of parents and members of the community came to have a meeting with the teachers. I was able to point out these areas of concern and ask that they be rectified. He was also very concerned and said they would resolve the issues. He suggested maybe someone could puncture holes in the side wall on the tire so that the water could drain and that a small pit toilet could be dug for the children to use until the formal school is finished. It was very encouraging, but I will see if those items are actually resolved and how long it takes. Thoko and I came back after about 4 hours at Lomngeletjane. We thought we would be there for about an hour and a half. It was time well spent and several issues were raised by the school committee members, the teachers and I. We discussed the issues so that we could all work together for the common good. Kubambisana.

Today was another lesson in the ways of the Swazi’s. One of the things I learned today is the process used to verify that a child is an OVC (Orphaned and Vulnerable Children). The chiefdoms have “home based carers” appointed by the Chief’s inner council. These people are responsible for knowing and checking on the health and welfare of the members of the community. Each Cheifdom also has a Cheifrunner who does just what his name implies. It is his responsibility to make sure documents which need to be filed or obtained from the government are obtained. I am sure he has many other duties. But for the purposes of my work, he is the person who should have or obtain the death certificates to verify if a child is a single or double orphan. I will work with the teacher and school committee chairperson from Lomngeletjane to learn the process and then work with it to verify and register the OVC’s (orphaned and vulnerable children) that are and will be attending Lomngeletjane. This process is the start of what has to be done to register the children as an OVC so that the school can receive government subsidy for the children’s school fees. The subsidy isn’t enough to pay the entire fee, but it is better than nothing. It is a start to get services for the children.

What a day. Every day and each situation brings something new to learn and process.Thoko, Tembie and child being measured for school uniform.

Children singing at start of class.

Children playing on the tire at Lomngeletjane.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Back in Swaziland!

Sanibonani! (Translation: Howdy ya’ll!)

Thursday afternoon, February 21st, I returned to Swaziland after 2 ½ months in the States. It was so good to visit with family and friends both old and new. I flew back to South Africa on Feb February 15th. Unfortunately, I came down home with a stomach virus the night before I left. The few days in South Africa gave me some time to recuperate and meet with some people from the church in the Johannesburg area before heading back to Swaziland. Richard Bosart, of South Africa Methodist Volunteers in Mission (SAMVIM), drove me over. We arrived hot and tired around 4:00 in the afternoon. It was in the low 90’s and more humid than South Africa or than I anticipated. When we entered my cottage, we found it stifling hot and covered in layers of dust, cob webs, dead spiders and ants and no electricity or hot water. Richard and I unloaded his pickup and the trailer that was full of suitcases, and borrowed furniture. It was not fun. We didn’t know where to put things down because everything was so dirty, but we had to hurry and unload so we could be at a meeting at the church at 6:00 and there wasn’t a secure place to leave the trailer full of furniture. Sweat was pouring off both of us and we were filthy but we stopped what we were doing a few minutes before 6:00 to go to the meeting. It was wonderful to see familiar, loving faces, but in typical Swazi style, they were just starting to set up chairs for the meeting and most of the people hadn’t arrived yet. Finally people started coming, and then a few people left to go get some food, and more people kept coming. I still didn’t catch on. I assumed the meeting was to go over the status of the projects, some of which are running behind. When everyone had gathered and the food arrived, the welcome speeches started. They had arranged a welcome home dinner and gathering for me. It was so special! As I was greeting everyone and hugging those I had missed, I realized that St. Paul’s has become my second home and family. It was so good to be back. They showered me with love and a gift of a TV so I could keep up with news from home and the elections. (People here are more concerned about the elections in the US than most people in the US! Isn’t that a shame?) It was a wonderful evening, although I felt so bad that I was dirty, sweaty and had on pants when everyone was dressed up in their Sunday best.

Friday was spent driving to four of the schools to check out possibilities for projects for future teams. It was hot. I forgot to bring my straw hat back with me from the States. Luckily, Richard had packed an ice chest with some tuna fish for lunch and lots of water. After seeing the schools, Richard helped me get a few things done around my place and put up a shelf in the bathroom for me and changed out the shower head so I have a chance at getting a decent shower, when there is water of course. His acts of kindness were probably the most precious gifts of all! That evening we had an impromptu meeting with Rev. Kanana Nyameka, the new Superintendent of the Central Circuit, regarding on-going projects and what he would like me to focus on. Finally around midnight, we realized morning would come early and all said good night. Richard left Saturday morning after jumping my car which of course died about 5 minutes after he left. When my neighbour couldn’t get it to start using his battery, I called Bethuel and when he was able to come in the afternoon, I discovered that my battery is one that uses water and it was bone dry. He took the battery someplace to be charged over night. I spent the rest of the day unpacking, cleaning, and organizing. I have never sweat so much in my life, but I got it most of the way done. I feel like for the first time I really moved in and that I am much more prepared for life in Swaziland. Although, I must confess, there were a few times yesterday when I was so hot and sweaty that I wondered why in the world I have made this choice. I’ve been told that things will start cooling down at the end of March and then we will have liveable weather until October. I’m not banking on it, but am trying to keep an open mind.

Today is Sunday. I am finishing up a few things, but mainly observing the Sabbath with a day of rest. I even took a little nap after church because it is so hot at night, sleep isn’t very easy. I will update the blog with updates on the schools over the next week or so. Stay tuned.

Thank you so much to everyone for your love, support and prayers. I miss you all, but know you are with me in spirit. The little bit I understood of today’s sermon was about the need for companions during our walk of faith. I am so blessed to have so many companions to share my walk with, even if we are over 9,000 miles apart. God Bless you all.