Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, Monday

Monday was one of those days in Swaziland. Thoko and I had scheduled a meeting for 11:00 at Lomngeletjane with the head teacher, the RHM (Rural Health Motivator) and the society Manyano CCS (social concerns) person. Our goal was to start discussions and gather information about the children at Lomngeletjane that have health problems or are extremely needy as we prepare to expand Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu to Lomngeletjane. Our plan was to go up there, be back to St. Paul’s by about 1:00 so she and Thini could do some work in my office (really the Manyano storage area and workroom!) and prepare for a Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu committee meeting in the evening. The sponsor for Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu is coming to Swaziland next week to check on the progress of the project and hopefully fund us again.

About 10:15 Thoko called me and told me that one of the children from Lutfotja had come to the Baylor clinic at the RFM (the Manzini hospital) for her monthly medication. We did not leave money for this month’s transport for the child and her aunie with the school so we needed to try and locate them at RFM to give them transport money to go home. We were going to stop by there before going to Lomngeletjane. Just as I was leaving my house, Bethuel called and said he was at Babe Simelane’s office (the Health Inspector) in Matshapa and that the inspector had time now, now (which means right now, not sometime in the near future) and so he was taking him up to Lomngeletjane. The plumber we hired to put in the plumbing on the teacher’s house and lay the pipes to go to the septic tank and French drain that will be built was on-site working. We wanted to ensure we built the septic tank and French drain properly. I told him I would pick up Thoko and we would meet him at Lomngeletjane and then figure out how to get money to the child and her auntie later in the day, thinking it would be about 1:00.

On the way up to Lomngeletjane, Thoko asked if she could share what could be considered gossip about our dear friend Thini. Of course I said yes. She told me that when she had called Thini to see when and where she would be joining us that morning Thini’s grandson answered the phone. Thoko thought that wasn’t right because he should have been in school. The grandson told Thoko that he wasn’t in school because Thini wasn’t able to “top off” (pay) the difference between what the government paid for his school fees as a double orphan and what the actual school fees are and therefore he was sent home from school. He couldn’t go back until his fees were paid. This happens all over Swaziland at the start of the third and final term of the year. I told Thoko to call Thini and find out how much she owed for the child and where we could pay it. Thoko called Thini and asked questions, but knowing that I like to remain anonymous, did not tell Thini why she wanted to know this information. They just talked as two sisters, one listening to the other’s problems. Thini is one of the most loving Christian women I have ever met. It doesn’t matter if she is with a small child, a teenager, a gogo or a grandfather. She literally takes them under her wing and shares her love and compassion with them by her touch and smile. She is amazing. After all that she does for me and the people we visit, I wasn’t about to let her grandchild be kicked out of school because her grandmother who has so little money couldn’t afford to keep him in school. Thoko knew I wouldn’t let that happen either and was hoping Thini would forgive her for disclosing this confidence to me, or as she called it: “gossiping” about her.

Up at Lomngeletjane, Bethuel, Babe Simelane, the plumber and I discussed the work that had been done and what needs to be done. I was very impressed with the work the plumber was doing. He seems to be working quickly and very neatly. It was clear during the discussion with Babe Simelane that the plumber knew what he was doing. That part of the meeting was very encouraging. The very discouraging part was that John, our builder, had not only started digging the hole before the Babe Simelane came up, but as we suspected he had dug a hole about 3 times the size of what it needs to be. That means I paid for work that wasn’t needed (again) and that now I will have to pay to have the hole filled back in as the walls to the septic tank are built. John, the builder, has been making many of these “mistakes” over the last several months which has ended up costing me more money. I am very frustrated and don’t want John to continue work, but it’s not as easy to get rid of someone in Swaziland as it is in the US because of the political and cultural ways of doing things here. If I don’t use John, who is a resident of Lomngeletjane, it may result in hard feelings which may have a bigger impact at the end of the day than the “mistakes” John keeps making.

After our meeting, I walked up to the head teacher’s house and we talked about the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project and the needs of the children and families. Listening to the needs of the children and homesteads is always a daunting, overwhelming experience. There are always more people on the list than we ask for and they look to me to make the decision on whether or not a child is included in the program. It is so hard for me to say “no” because even though a child may have overwhelming need, they don’t the criteria for the program. The RHM for the Lomngeletjane is the woman who actually was the driving force to start the original carepoint at Lomngeletjane. She always has a list of wants she is trying to get from whatever source will help her and she always asks for more than one can give. That is a good thing for the community, but very stressful for Thoko and I. True to form, she had a long list that we divided into three separate lists. One of adults and gogo’s of the community that the church needs to try and assist, A second of people in the community that are part of a program already in place to follow up with TB patients. (TB is a big problem in Africa and is considered an opportunistic disease for people who are HIV+. Because people have a hard time getting and staying on the correct medication there are several resistant strains of TB that no longer respond to the normal medications.) And finally the list of children, some of which don’t live in the area or aren’t old enough to attend school yet. The children that don’t live in the area or aren’t old enough to attend school caused us the greatest concern. The children that live out of the area walk for two hours each way to attend Lomngeletjane because the school fees so far are so low. Basically the school fees is the same amount that the government pays for OVC’s so there is no need to “top off” the child’s fees. However, these children are not doing well in school they suspect because it is just to far for these children, most of which are in first grade, to come to school. But they also suspect that the food they get at school is the only food the children are eating. So, what to do? But finding a way to keep them at Lomngeletjane may not be the right answer in the long run. When we discussed the children that are too young to attend pre-school or primary school I didn’t know what to say. How does one say no because they don’t attend school yet? And should make that decision? It’s certainly not me by myself. I made a note for the committee to discuss the situations and come up with a plan. In reality, I know I am just putting off the decision and that I will be responsible for making sure the decision is upheld no matter what it might be.

As usual for Africa (TIA-This is Africa), our day ran very late. We didn’t finish our meeting with the head teacher, RFM and local society CCS until 3:00 pm, and of course we hadn’t had any lunch, although in keeping with the Swazi culture, the head teacher did give us a tasty roll to eat and something to drink. By the time we got to RFM, we knew that the child and her auntie would be gone, but we felt we had to try and locate them just to be sure. We went to the Baylor clinic and Thoko went into one of the rooms to talk to the nurses and I sent a text message to the three people on the executive committee to remind them of the meeting at 5:30. I almost immediately got back responses from all three of them that they wouldn’t be able to make it. (TIA) This left me feeling even more overwhelmed and discouraged than I had been in the morning. Soon Thoko motioned for me to come join her. The nurses knew “our” children by name. They told us the status of the two that had come that day. We also discussed getting some training from them regarding the specifics of the medication – how to take it, what the side effects are, and how long to keep on it even if the person thinks it is making them sicker. They encouraged us and thanked us for the work we are doing. Thoko and I left the RFM realizing that our plan didn’t happen because God knew we needed a bit of encouragement so He brought us to this meeting at this time. If we had come earlier in the day, the nurses would have been busy and would not have been able to talk with us or we would have found the child and her auntie waiting and never tried to go speak with the nurses.

By the time we got back to St. Paul’s it was after 4:30. I went to my place and grabbed the few cans of soda I had, a few apples and the last remaining granola bars one of the team members left to share with Thoko, Thini and Gladys because I knew they would all be hungry. I knew Thoko and I were starving. While we were eating and preparing for our meeting, although I wasn’t quite sure why we were having it other than Gladys would already be on our way and we were too tired to move at the moment, Thoko shared with Thini her secret – that she had gossiped about her to me. I gave her the money for the school fees. Thini was so touched and was in tears. I told her we are family and that as in Swaziland, that’s what families even in the US do. They help each other when they are in need. I told Thini I had been looking at some of my pictures and I was so touched by Thini. I had my computer so I turned it on and started showing her some of my favorite pictures of Thini “in action.” As we all looked at the pictures, lovingly marveling at our dear sister Thini and how she reaches out to young and old (and saws off wooden doors better than an American male can!) we realized that we had a good story to tell the sponsor next week. Thoko and I had been so discouraged because the needs are so great and we are so limited because of our lack of human and financial resources. We didn’t know what to share with the sponsor next week because we felt like we haven’t accomplished much since his last visit a year ago. But as we looked at just those pictures from the last two or three weeks that show Thini in action, we realized that we have some true success stories. There are some children and families that have truly been helped so that their health and/or quality of life has significantly improved. We came up with a plan for our sponsors visit next week and left with a feeling of hope. We thanked God for the opportunities He presents us and for his strength, guidance and especially His blessings that keep us encouraged and determined to continue His work.

Since it was about 7:30 at night and I was the only one with a car, I had to drive all three ladies home. That took me about two hours. I got home exhausted but so glad I am in Swaziland and have such dear sisters here to work with. Yep. This was just another day in Swaziland; full of challenges, opportunities, love and blessings and I am so grateful that I am here to be a part of it.

No comments: