Monday, March 30, 2009
I find it interesting that the people here are used to waiting in very crowded spaces in long lines. I've never once seen anyone bring a book to read or something to drink or eat. Ms. American here, I came prepared with a book to read to help pass the time. People kept looking at me. I'm not sure if it was because I was reading or because I was the only white person around. Probably both.
On the down side of the day: the teacher at Lomngeletjane wasn't at school again this morning. I had to remember that I am not the school's manager and bite my tongue not to say anything. But it is no wonder those kids don't know how to behave and aren't learning much. She's only in class about half the time. grrrr.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
It’s been a rather slow week because the first part was focused on helping Thoko get ready for the Annual Manyano (Methodist women) convention in
Monday morning I drove up to Lomngeletjane to take some three student desks we finally found hidden at
Monday afternoon, I went into my bathroom to use the toilet and found a half a dozen or so worm/guppy type organisms in my toilet bowl. GROSS. I still don’t know what they are and could not find a source of them so I concluded they must have come up from the sewer which had been clogged and leaking into the dirt outside my door for about three weeks and just recently finally fixed. (We think.) These would mysteriously show up in the toilet bowl for a couple of days. Finally on Thursday the plumber showed up. They weren’t there at the time, but agreed they must have come up from the sewer and was going to bring back something to stop the sewer leak. I have no idea what he is talking about and he hasn’t been back (This IS
Wednesday I went to pick up Mthokozisi from school to bring him to Manzini to spend the night so he would be at
Thanks to Skype, I could share my worry and frustration with Richard Bosart in South Africa Thursday morning, which helped. He encouraged me to take it easy and finish reading the book I had started reading in earnest on Tuesday: "Same Kind Of Different As Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. It was just what I needed to be reading on that day. I highly recommend the book to all.
Friday, I decided I needed to just get out in the beautiful country and see some smiling children’s faces. So I drove up to Lomngeletjane. Those children are so beautiful. I consciously reminded myself while there not to focus on the great need and how much these children need help, but just to focus on their beautiful smiles and on the fact that they now know me and are always so excited just to see me. In the little “pre school” I talked to each child and gave each child a little hug of encouragement. They didn’t understand what I was saying, but loved the attention. And it was clear they weren’t going to let me miss one child. After visiting the preschool children, I went to the primary school. I was so impressed that the two volunteer teachers had their classrooms working very hard. The one teacher wasn’t there again. (another source of my irritation and frustration. I don’t understand how she can be a paid teacher and not be at school so much.) However, John, the builder of the school, was there discussing what basic items they need for the school with one of the volunteer teachers. Some parents have finally paid some of their child’s school fees and John was preparing for a parent’s meeting today to get their permission to buy the needed items. This is no small miracle! Then John asked me if I had some time before I had to leave. I told him yes. He said there wasn’t any mealie meal for the children on Monday and wanted me to drive him and the bags of maize to be ground into mealie meal. I thought he was talking about his own children but said ok. I soon discovered he wanted to grind it for the school children. It was fascinating to see the huge electrical machine grind the corn and separate out the chaff and other waste. The owner explained the machine to me, but we both couldn’t figure out how it actually works! John and I also talked about our plans to start on the toilets and how we would use the teams coming this summer. I knew by the time I left that God had prompted me to go to Lomngeletjane this morning because I needed to be there not to see the children, but to have that interaction with John because John gave me hope and restored my faith in Swazi’s, particularly Swazi fathers. I was reminded once again to turn it over to God. He will take care of everything.
The icing on the cake was that I picked up my new passport from the Embassy and then went to lunch with a friend from Bible Study while I was in
Friday, March 20, 2009
A side note, I peaked into the classrooms and all of the children seemed to be engaged in learning activities. John had built two more long desks for Grade one. It's not enough but it helps.
After Lomngeletjane, I met Thoko and Mthokoisiwe in down town Manzini and we shopped all afternoon to get everything Mthokoisiwe needs to complete his school uniform and a couple of books he needs to take to class. One is a dictionary and the other is a book on English grammar. It was tiring but Mthokoisiwe was so thrilled. I can see his confidence growing bit by bit each time we see him. Next Thursday the Manyano will be taking him to South Africa for the annual district convention. We had to get him a passport. This will be quite an experience for him as he has never been out of Swaziland. He will have so many mother's fussing over him that he won't know what to do! I'm very excited for him. Thoko and I are working to make sure he has everything he needs and that he looks very sharp. Thoko is even teaching him that he can't use a slang form of yes which is not much more than a grunt when he answers people. It's cute to watch. I kept thinking how different it was taking this young man school clothes shopping than it was to take my own boys school clothes shopping. It was night and day difference...Thank God.
Mthokoisiwe in his new school uniform:
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Today we went to
Anyway, back to Lutfotja: After working at Lutfotja we ended up getting involved with 12 families. We could have helped 100 families, but out goal is to go to all of the schools and institute this program at each school. With the funds for this grant we help pay school fees, we pay transport so the children can go to the Doctor or clinic to get their monthly ARV medication, we’ve helped some families with fencing and seedlings so they could grow their own food, and we’ve helped some kids with uniforms and shoes. The need varies depending on the situation. Our goal is to help them help themselves and not to make them dependent on us. Although I must say, I wonder what will happen when the funds are gone. We are working on the sustainability part of this project. So, per our plan, today we moved to Salukazi. Salukazi actually has the highest OVC rate of all the Methodist schools in Central Circuit. We had our initial meeting today with the Deputy Teacher who is also acting as the school’s counselor. She also invited the Rural Health Motivator (RHM) who is appointed by the chief. Her job is to know the health issues and status of all the families in the chiefdom. We were also going to invite a woman from the local Methodist society, but as God would plan it, the RHM is a member of
The Deputy teacher and the RHM had a list of 12 families for us to help. Most of the children on the list are either single or double orphans. The number of children in these 12 families who will actually be helped by this program probably well exceeds 20. They also had a second list of about 12 families. We put them in group 2 meaning IF we could take on more families, we would start with group 2 children. The number of families that need help is overwhelming. We have to limit the number of children we can help for obvious reasons. But it is very hard to tell the child that we may help him or her in the future. Most of the conversations with the children are in SiSwati so I can’t understand most of it. I get the highlights at the end. I figure my role is to pray over each child, the teachers and the volunteers while they are gathering basic information about the child and their family.
From Salukazi we went to La Mawandla High School to talk with the school and Mthokoisiwe. The District Manyano have given Mthokoisiwe a bursery grant for 5 years so he can attend high school. The Manyano are having their yearly convention next week in
So as usual, we had two extremes today and it was so obvious that God was very present in both situations.
Lutsando Lwa Krestu…For the love of Jesus.
Pictured from Left: Volunteers Thembi, Thoko, Gladys & Thini, Ann Dlamini the Deputy Teacher, and Mrs. Zubuko the RHM.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Then I took two ladies who are on the executive committee for the Manyano in Central Swaziland District to see Mthokoisiwe’s sister. Both ladies are Swazi, very well educated, successful business women and pretty well off. They couldn’t believe where I was taking them and then they couldn’t believe what they saw. They thought it was so cute that the kids recognized me and came running to meet me. And they were amazed that I knew their names. When we left they said they didn’t know how Thoko, the other volunteers and I do this. They said they had every emotion possible. They were trying to hard not to be mad, hate the parents of these children who have abandoned them, be mad at the Chief for allowing this to happen, etc. I completely understood. It was good we went today. We discovered they have an older sister who is 18 years old. She was at the homestead, but she was working in Ezweleni and living somewhere near there. She lost her job or quit and so she came home for the week. She said she is going back to look for a job next week. She told us the mother lives not far from the homestead. That really made us angry, confused, etc. It sounds like the father is abusive which is why the mother left. But none of us could understand why she didn’t take the kids and why she never goes and checks on them. One of life’s mysteries I just don’t get.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Below you will find the picture of the finished building at Lomngelejtane. Yeabo! Then there’s a picture of the two desks that John, the builder of Lomngeletjane, built out of left over scraps of wood. Yeabo again! If there is enough wood, he needs to build about three more for first grade. Not sure that will happen but then I didn’t think they would find a solution to the desk problem at all, so wonders never cease.
My trip to Lomngeletjane and especially my time in the first grade classroom was three fold. One: to move the desks in because I knew it would never happen if I didn’t move them. The teacher wanted the kids to move the desks, but they were too heavy for the children and they were struggling. So I helped them. At first the teacher objected, but I ignored her and she did follow my lead. The second reason was to bring her some poster board and very directly tell her that I want all three teachers to write classroom rules and post them on the wall. Her first comment was “we don’t have any Bostick (a sticky substance) to put them on the wall.” I knew she was going to say that and told her that. But then I moved on and told her that she can’t be saying kids need to not be in the classroom because they don’t know how to behave when there are no rules. I told her three rules I want to see on the paper, because there have been problems with the issues are: no hitting, no eating candy in class, and do not bring money to school. Some of the gogo’s will give the kids a little bit of their very precious money to bring to school to buy candy from aunties who are selling it by the piece for 20 cents (.20 rand a piece). It’s one of those issues I struggle with….wasting the little bit of cash on candy, but then my mother’s heart understands the desire to give their grandchildren something special. But the point is, in this case it is causing behavior problems between a couple of kids in the first grade so the teacher wants to kick one of the kids out of school. The child just happens to be HIV+ and is very hard of hearing. I told her she can’t kick the child out of school and hence my lecture and directive for classroom rules and teaching the children how to behave.
My third reason was to take a little closer look at 3 other special needs children in her classroom. It felt good to rely on the training I had in college (many moons and a life time ago) when I majored in education for the moderately and severely handicapped as I tried to talk, listen and interact with the kids. The sad part is that while in the
The grade one teacher told me there was a desk (table) in the pre-school that the teacher was using as her desk. I went up to speak to the pre-school teacher, and found that it was true that the children weren’t sitting at the desk, but with 28 children in preschool, no way could I take that desk away. We re-arranged the children so that all three tables were used. These children are all so precious. Two of the five year olds could read and say their numbers from one to ten! The pre-school teacher, and I use the term very loosely, has no training. Indeed I’ve been told she didn’t even complete primary school. She also gets paid 200 rand (about $20) a month, but they actually only give her the money every 6 to 9 months. So basically, she is volunteering her time. It was one thing when there were only 8 or 10 kids, but now there are 28. There are complaints that the kids don’t learn what they should with her as a teacher but in my opinion she wins the teacher/angel of the year award.
I just spoke to Rev. Nyameka a few minutes ago. He said he just talked to the REO (Regional Education Officer) regarding when the school will be registered. The REO said their concern and what is keeping them from registering the school is that there isn’t a place for even one teacher to stay. And if there isn’t a place for a teacher to stay, no teachers will come teach. We both know that is just an excuse because I’ve been to another school that has been registered for 3 years. It is much more remote than Lomngeletjane and it doesn’t have near the facilities that Lomngeletjane has. But Nyameka was informing me that he told the REO that we have a small place for a teacher to stay until a formal house can be built later on this year. Yep, you guessed it – the office/storage/kitchen building. I’ve actually had the same thought but it doesn’t have any electricity or water facilities. However, there is the outhouse and there is a water spicket near the building so Nyameka thinks it will do for now. It’s a ray of hope. The REO is going to have a second meeting with the powers to be. Please pray they will register this school very, very soon.
Friday, March 6, 2009
The good news for the week: The food storage/office/kitchen building at Lomngeletjane is now 100% complete. YEABO! I’ll have to add a picture later, because I can’t believe I left my camera at home this morning. The last 10% took some time to get finished because the builder seems to get to 90 – 95% finished and then looses interest and starts taking on other jobs. The first time around, with the four classrooms he was paid all of his pay before he was completely finished and we had a heck of a time getting him to finish up the last little bit. This time Bethuel and I agreed that we weren’t going to pay John the last payment until the building was finished to both of our satisfaction. It took a couple of trips up there and not paying him until he got the message. He actually did a very nice job.
Another super thing, is when Bethuel and I arrived at Lomngelejtane, John was building using some of the scrap wood that was left over to make some desks for the 1st grade classroom. There are 48 students in that classroom and not a single desk.
So, that is the bad thing. We're still working to get the school registered with the government so they will provide desks, chairs, teachers and books for the school. The parents are trying to pull together enough money to pay a retired teacher and a high school graduate from the Lomngeletjane community to teach the 2nd (38 students) and 3rd (10 students) grades. A couple of other Methodist schools scrounge up enough extra work books and stationary for the children. I want to scream and holler, but I can't and no one would listen anyway. All I can do is ask questions, tell as may people as I can that the school still isn't registered, be real patient, pray for God to intervene and try to be positive.
The 48 first graders. I'm not real sure what they do other than do some of the work out loud. The teacher of this class was also sick for three weeks and unable to get to the school because of the rain and road conditions for a week before that.
The second grade class. They do have some desks, though not enough desks or chairs. Notice the block the boy on the right is using as a chair!
Third grade class with the new text books. Yes, all boys. God bless her!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Today we delivered the items for the Nhlengethwa family. First we stopped at Lutfotja Methodist Primary to drop off transport payments for 7 kids to get their monthly ARV medication this month. We saw most of the children at school. Their smiling faces when we see each other melts our hearts and I know it makes my day. Then we went to the
There was one of the Circuit Manyano ladies (Dinah) with us that had never been on one of our “outings.” She was coming to help deliver the donated items and meet Mthokoisiwe since the District is paying his school fees. When we had to drive across the stream to get to his house she couldn’t believe it. All the ladies say I drive like a man which is a compliment here because not many women drive. Dinah said I am the best driver in the world. Yeabo! Especially since she was a bit frightened because the grass is so high as a result of all the rain that you can’t see what you are driving on. And then we had to walk to get to their homestead. She immediately sat down to rest once we got there and wasn’t going to move until we left! I think her eyes were opened as to what Thoko, Thini, Gladys, Thembie and I do when we go make the homestead visits.
It did start raining pretty hard just as we were leaving the homestead. Dinah was really scared. I didn’t admit it, but I was a bit concerned as well. I just found myself saying “yea though I walk through the valley of death, thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff guide me.” Don’t ask me why that verse came to mind because I wasn’t that concerned.
The unsettling part of the visit, besides seeing the children’s overall living conditions and knowing that they are there all alone, is that we are wondering if the things we bring are actually being used by the children. I wonder where a few of the things we brought are. Also the shoes that we got the children are worn completely out. I can’t believe that the shoes were that destroyed in just a few months. But the children say they were worn out and the ladies say it is probably true because of the harsh conditions they have to walk on to go to school. I just have a hard time believing that. And then Mthokoisiwe said that we should take some of the food back and bring it another time so that it won’t be taken from them. This leaves me in such a quandary and all I can think of to do is get angry or pray. I chose prayer but the hard part is to turn over to God their father and the people who steal and take from the children and not ask that He punish them right now, here on earth. I had to hesitate before I could do that.
Isn't the countryside just beautiful???
Walking from the car to the homestead.
Mthokoisiwe holding the barbed wire fence for Dinah to go through.
Thoko and Mthokoisiwe on the way to the homstead.
Me playing with the timer on my camera. I think the ladies thought I was nuts.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The last couple of weeks have been full of extremes. So I know, what else is new? This is
Then we went to
Then on the 27th Laura and Danita returned to the
On Saturday, the District Manyano came to
Tomorrow we’re going to deliver the clothes and food items to the Nhlengethwa family. I am anxious to see how they are doing and how they have lived through all of the rain we have been having here.
Have a blessed day!
Lion at Kruger we drove down the rode with on our night drive at Kruger National Park:
View of Table mountain from top of Lion's Head:
View of Lion's Head (yes, we hiked to the very top of it), Cape Town, the bay and Robben Island in the distance:
View from as close to the actual point as we were allowed to walk.
We hiked from the point down to the beach below (over 200 steps down plus Sand dunes) and then over to as far as we could go on the cliffs to the right.
Manyano Outreach food collection: