Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Homestead visits

It is springtime here in Swaziland and much like Texas, the weather is so hot and still one day and then cold and cloudy the next. That is exactly what happened on Sunday and Monday. We thought we would die from the heat on Friday and then woke up Monday morning to clouds, drizzle and wind.

Monday we did homestead visits as we extend Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu to some of the families in the Lomngeletjane area. I was so cold and couldn't help feeling guilty that I was out in the cold weather for brief periods of time, retreating to my warm car between visits while the people we were visiting had no where to escape to and in many cases their house offered little shelter from the wind and cold. We saw the kids below start a fire (without any adult supervision) to get warm. At one point the little girl in the pink jacket was up on top of the pipe while the fire was burning below her. The contrast between how much we supervise our children on just about everything in the States and how children in Swaziland aren't supervised at all never ceases to amaze and shock me. I've learned to close my eyes and shudder a bit and then whisper a little prayer asking for protection for these children; especially the little ones.

One of our stops was to the homestead of baby Sipho. We wanted to see how the baby was doing. The pictures below are of the "house" they live in. There are 6 children and the mom and baby makes 8. The house is about 27' x 15' and is divided into two rooms. I was surprised to learn that it has a cement floor. Unfortunately there are holes in the walls, the door had serious gaps between the boards and both of the windows, one in each room, were broken. The mother was in the smaller room which is obviously a room for sleeping. She was sitting on a reed mat on the floor (her bed) nursing the baby. She didn't have any shoes on her feet, because custom is to leave the shoes outside when entering a house and of course she also didn't have socks or slippers to put on her feet. The room was very dark. I had to stand against the door to keep the wind from blowing it open. The wind was coming right through that door. Thank God that Deb bought a heavy blanket and a hat for the baby.

In the picture below, the mom is the one seated with the multi-colored scarf on her head. The girl I wrote about in my post for last week is the one standing on the left of the mom. A few of the children are not in the picture.

Another one of the families we visited is a gogo taking care of her 4 grandchildren. The head teacher from Lomngeletjane asked us to visit this homestead because one of the children, a girl, has severe sores on her head. The girls' father is deceased and the mother deserted the child when she was about a year old. It is not known where the girl's mother is or if she is still alive. We arranged for the gogo to go with the Rural Health Motivator to the Baylor Clinic at the hospital in Manzini to have the girl tested for HIV and also receive treatment for the sores. The girl's test results were negative (Praise God!) and medicine was prescribed to hopefully clear up the sores quickly. The gogo is HIV+ which is a concern because she is the children's only caregiver. We have to try to help keep that grandmother healthy and alive long enough for these 4 children, ages 4 to 10, to grow up.

We were also asked to look in on a set of twins, pictured below. They are 4 years old. We were told that the boy had trouble walking because of swollen knees. The kids were so cute. They were very bashful and kept hiding behind their mom. So I went to the car and got a couple of apples and bribed them, one at a time, to come sit on my lap so I could take a look at them. The little boy walked just fine, his knees didn't look swollen and they looked normal. He was so cute. Neither child responded when I said hello to them, but when I asked how they were in SiSwati, they both answered very politely. And of course they took the apple when it was offered to them.

We visited another homestead of a little girl that as been at Lomngeletjane for two years now. When I first met her she didn't look well. The teacher at the time told me she was HIV+. We don't know if that is true or not. The gogo said she was given some tables but she didn't know what for and she didn't go back for more. Someone in that family (a sister or daughter to the gogo, I didn't quite understand) passed away a few days ago so we couldn't visit for very long and we can't take the child to the Doctor for awhile because it is against the Swazi culture to go out in public or socialize with people for 30 days after the death of someone. Luckily the child doesn't appear to be in an immediate health crisis.

We came home and made a big pot of chicken soup to warm us up. It was good, but I couldn't help thinking about how cold and dark it gets and how little food most of the people have. I can't help but wonder how these people manage to survive from day to day.

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