Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Busy Week

This past week has been a busy one. It has left my mind completely full. On Monday and Tuesday Rev. Margaret Dlamini, the superintendent of the Mahamba Circuit guided us to 11 of her 14 schools. These schools are all in a very rural and poor part of Swaziland. But it is also in some of the prettiest areas of the country. The circuit is very hilly. Most schools are 3,000’ plus in elevation. We drove over 575 km in the two days. About half of that was on dirt roads. The needs of course are overwhelming. Every school lacked clean and/or adequate water. Because of the lack of water they can’t grow vegetables to feed the children and because of the poverty in the area, they run out of money to buy food to feed the children every day. The Mahamba Circuit serves over 5600 students. Over 41% of these children are what they call “Registered” OVC’s which means they have officially gone through the government’s process to be confirmed as single or double orphans or destitute meaning they live in extreme poverty with neither parent bringing in an income. If I were to add the non-registered OVC’s, the percentage would go up to around 70%. By comparison, the Central Circuit serves about 5200 students. Approximately 30% of these children are registered OVC’s.

In spite of the extreme poverty, the people and the land has an inner, raw beauty. I think of myself. When I don’t have water, can’t shower and don’t have enough to drink or eat, it clearly shows on my face, in my body language and certainly in my attitude. Even here in Swaziland I get extremely testy if I don’t have enough water to at least bathe. When I don’t drink enough water or eat right I get bad headaches. All I have to do is look at myself in the mirror and I know what the deal is. But as I look into the faces of the teachers, the mothers, the children I am so awe struck at how beautiful they are. The children are quick to smile and the adults are very welcoming. It boggles my mind almost more than the bouncing around on very rough dirt roads.

On Wednesday Rev. Kanana Nyameka and I went to visit two of the central circuit schools near the town of Big Bend in the low veld. One of these schools is on the grounds of a sugar cane plant and receives water and some support from the plant. The other, just about 5 km away received non drinkable water from the plant, but mainly serves children of migrant or unemployed sugar cane plant workers and area rural people. I was very encouraged to hear that both schools were going to receive food from UNICEF via the World Food Program for the children because they had gardens ready to plant to grow food for the children. Now the challenge for us is to see how we can help to get the other schools in that position to at least try to help themselves so that they can also receive a grant of food. I know it sounds backwards. You would think that the food should be just given to those schools that can’t or won’t help themselves. In the past it has been that way. But they have learned that it was promoting an attitude of waiting for a handout. They are moving to a program to help those entities, mainly schools, who will at least try to help themselves. They are calling this new program a work for food program. If they show they will work (i.e. grow a garden) in some way to improve their situation, they will give them food as payment for the work. It can’t be any worse than how they did it before, because the food distribution was never enough or reliable under the old system. The new plan should at least encourage and reward those who are willing to do something for themselves.

On Thursday we had a big meeting with Administrative Board members of the Swaziland Ministry of Education Regional Education Office at Lomngeletjane. We are trying to get the school registered by the government so that we can receive the teachers, curriculum and materials, initial desks and chairs. Unfortunately, the construction of the school started before the REO was notified. They are not happy. We have a lot to do by the end of May if the school can be registered in time for us to receive the teachers and materials for the start of the new school term in January, 2009. My prayer is that if this school is God’s will, that he will show us the way to get the leadership, labor, materials and funding to complete the items that need to be completed for the REO administrative board to give us the registration. This is Swaziland. This is Africa. Things don’t happen very fast here. There are always obstacles. This is truly in God’s hands.

Today I am leaving to go to Durban to attend a Deacon’s Convocation next week. I am extremely blessed to have been invited and am looking forward to getting away from all of the need for a few days and having some relaxed time for spiritual renewal and fellowship. I don’t know a soul, but was invited via e-mail by others who know I am alone here in Swaziland. All I know is that we will be at the Jacobs Well Retreat Center in the Valley of 1000 hills. Dress is casual and I must bring my own bible and stationary. It sounds wonderful. I am hoping this means there will be a semi-comfortable bed and a warm shower. Please pray for travelling mercies as well as physical and spiritual renewal.

1 comment:

samhenry said...

Hi Chris, my friends and i are launching a campaign ( to inspire the church to live faith and end poverty. We'd love your help getting the word out and I was wondering if you'd be willing to post some of your pictures to our facebook site? Also, we are partnering with a group called Children's HopeChest who is on the ground in Swaziland. Let us know if we can help connect you with them.