Friday, April 3, 2009

Lutsando Lwa Krestu Homevisits

On Wednesday we started making the visits to homesteads for Lutsando Lwa Krestu. We visited four homesteads that were in close proximity of Salukazi Methodist Primary School. The first homestead was that of a gogo (granny) who is taking care of 2 granddaughters in primary school and a grandson in high school. The mother died 4 years ago and their fathers deserted the children. Their were abouts are unknown. As always we sat on mats, prayed and then the ladies talked about the situation. I would get the important information via translation. I would sit and observe the faces and silently pray for the children and caregivers.

From there we went to a second homestead where two girls, ages 11 and 8 are living with an uncle and his three children. I assume his wife also lives with them. The father passed away and this time the mother deserted the children. They know where she lives, about 1 1/2 hours drive from this homestead, but she won't help with the children. My guess is she is probably living with another man or trying to work. As we were sitting with the uncle and his 3 year old son, the family dog came and laid down on the ground near where we were sitting. I looked at the dog and thought "Wow, I've never seen this behavior in a dog here. He seems well fed and seems to want to just be near people." That thought no sooner flashed through my mind when the rural health motivator, who is also a member of
Salukazi Methodist church's Manyano called the young boy over and told him something. She had told him to go get a stick and scare the dog away. So I am watching in horror as this 3 year old boy beats the dog with a stick until he gets up and leaves. Then he and the woman started throwing rocks at him so he wouldn't come back. I was mortified, but had to hide behind my sunglasses and hat rather than express my horror. I don't understand how children or adults are supposed to love one another when they can't even treat an innocent dog with tolerance, much less love. As I said, most dogs here are so skinny and mangy that I wouldn't want them near me. Rabies is also a big problem here, but this dog wasn't being a threat. I just don't understand things some days. Maybe I'm not supposed to.

At the third homestead there were three girls, ages 6 and 7 living with their grandmother and great grandmother. They are cousins, but both parents of the girls have passed away. The great grandmother was the one that seemed to be most in control. The grandmother came out with only a shawl around her shoulders and a skirt on. We briefly saw a
elderly man in the house and I assume it is a grandfather, but who knows? She also seemed like she might be ill or on some sort of alcohol or drugs. Homemade beer is quite common around here especially this time of the year when the marula fruit is ripe.

fourth homestead is that of a girl I've been helping get medical care for almost a year now. She and her younger brother and sister live with an uncle, his wife and 3 year old child. Both parents have passed away. The homestead actually looked better than any I had seen that day. There was actually a nice (for Swaziland) house built out of blocks with a porch. The blocks had been plastered and painted at one point. This child has some sort of a skin fungus that is very bad. It has gotten into her eyes and she has lost some vision because of it. The most frustrating part for me is that we are trying to help, but we doubt she is taking the medication she needs, probably because of cost and she doesn't tell us when she needs to go back to the Dr. so her medical treatment is very sporadic. Her body language tells a story of a very low self esteem. We wonder about abuse as well because she looks so horrible with all of the sores on her head, face and neck. Once again it is a situation where we are trying to help, but its not getting any better. One of the volunteers is going to take her to the Dr. next week and we are going to dig a little deeper to try and find out what is going on medically and at home and then be more firm in getting the correct medical attention and monitoring to see that it is followed up at home and at school. This child was tested for HIV a few months ago and was found to be negative. The volunteers want to have her tested again because they are sure she is positive. This is where there is a fine line where the stigma and discrimination of HIV/AIDS raises it's ugly head. To appease the volunteers we will have to have her tested again, but they still will have a hard time accepting a negative outcome, if that is what we get again. The possibility taints every ones opinion of the situation.

Over all, the four families we visited didn't seem to know their HIV status and there wasn't any talk of "the sickness" or "tablets", but in some ways the needs were much greater than they were at
Luftoja. All of the families were growing food, but none could pay the child's school fees and all of them needed decent uniforms and a pair of shoes. So the challenges will continue. Next week we hope to visit another four homesteads but with preparation for the Easter services, that may be difficult.

Pray for these children and their guardians. Pray for strength and wisdom for the volunteers and I.

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