Thursday, June 18, 2009

Swaziland

Two days after I got back from Zambia we headed to Swaziland for a few days. This time, I was not alone! Jed and Pam came, and so did Dave from Canada. Here are a few highlights...

We met a whole bunch of volunteers who do home-based care for sick people and vulnerable children. Everything in Swaziland is really spread out, so some of them walk for hours just to visit a household of orphaned children...regularly! These are the volunteers posing in front of a maize crib, used for drying corn, that was built by a Hands team about a month ago.


Pam brought about a dozen beautiful homemade quilts from a group of ladies at Grace Church in Hibbing. Not only will they bless families who are cold this winter season, but the ladies were also inspired to try to make their own quilts with a recent donation of sewing machines!



You've heard about chickens in Swaziland before...these are a new project. Not layers this time, but broilers! The project will generate income for careworkers and feed hungry children.


This old lady takes care of the chickens full-time. Taking care of 700 chickens is a lot of work! Fortunately, she has help from these twin boys, who Nomsa (coordinator for the community organization) has taken in since their father died. The boys help feed and water the chickens every day.

I love Swaziland. It's a beautiful country, and the people are incredibly generous. It was a blessing to be able to share a few days there with Jed's mom. Thanks, Pam! We have some great memories of your time here, and we'll miss you a lot!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Other highlights from Zambia

Gift with her family

Chicken feet


Eeew


Seeing the land for a new vegetable garden in Mulenga


James picked casava for me to try...tasted like sweet potato


Everybody sang "happy birhtday" to me at a managers' meeting in Kabwe. Then we found out Floyd and Loveness also have birthdays on May 19th and we got to sing all over again!


Kids who have no toys make up strange games. They tied up this baby bird, who strangely didn't seem to mind.


Children in Mulenga

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hands' role and my involvement

We've just arrived from a few days in Swaziland--me, Jed, Pam, and another volunteer named Dave. It was a great trip. We'll post some pictures soon.

But I don't want to lost the focus on Zambia before I answer a couple questions about that...

So what is Hands at Work’s role in all of this? A lovely guy named James Tembo heard George speak years ago about the Biblical mandate to care for the orphans and the widows. James and his wife Sukai started personally caring for twenty children in Mulenga (in addition to their own five children), eventually encouraging others in the area to do the same and creating Breakthrough Care Group. BCG is fully community-owned. In fact, James has recently joined Hands at Work staff. His role is to serve BCG.

What is my role in all of this? To put it simply, my role is primarily to support James and the other local Hands at Work staff. I helped with the plan and proposal that secured funding and grew the program from 20 to 63 children (and will hopefully grow the program to serve 1,000 in Mulenga.) I helped create and train on some of the tools their using to manage and report on the project. I’ve helped plan for two teams to come from Canada to visit Mulenga in the next few months. These things I can do. Where I feel inadequate is when I’m walking next to the volunteers in the community. They’re doing the tough stuff. But for some reason it seems to be a great encouragement to see me and others from outside their little village doing something to support them. And so I do my best to speak some encouraging words and remind them that they’re not alone. We are together. You know, it easy to say those words, we are together, but now that I’m back in South Africa, the desire to make it true will drive me, keep me focused.

My visit to Mulenga was only one day in the last three weeks. I spent lots of time in the office, supporting the Hands at Work staff, planning, budgeting, and training. I spent a few days meeting with different donors that we work with. This is all much less interesting to write about and read about, but I will post a few pictures next time of my other time in Zambia.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gift

This little one is Gift. Gift has seven brothers and sisters, ranging in age from 17 to 1 ½. Volunteers from Breakthrough Care Group recently recognized Gift and two of her siblings begging with their blind father in the streets of Kitwe. You see, a few years ago Gift’s father somewhat mysteriously lost his eyesight. Now their only source of income is the few Kwacha they receive begging on the streets, on average less than a dollar a day. Although BCG volunteers were able to convince their father to only take once child with him during the day, enabling the other two to go to school, there isn’t much they can do for this family. In fact, in some ways, Gift and her siblings are actually less vulnerable than many of their neighbors, because they have two parents who are doing their best to look after them.


With help from a church called Lakeview in Canada, BCG volunteers recently built this new schoolhouse, made from the scrap wood from a local sawmill.

When I was there last week, the structure had just been finished. (It took a little longer than expected, because the volunteers realized late that they forgot one important factor in building the school—there was no road leading to the building site, so they couldn’t get the materials there. So they built a road! They started with a footpath and then built the new road, about two city blocks long, by taking out and reconstructing fence after fence, uprooting mango trees, and covering two wells. Intense labor!) The children were practically shivering with excitement for school to start. These are a few of the 63 children currently being fed a meal per day and cared for by BCG volunteers. The school will be run completely by volunteers as well. Wow.

Cynthia

I'm back from Zambia. I can't handle writing about the whole three weeks all at once, and I know you'll never read it all either, so I'll post some of the highlights in installments...

Mulenga is a compound near Kitwe, Zambia, with a population of about 17,000—about the size of Hibbing. The first thing that struck me when we pulled into the village was that there were small children everywhere! My companion reminded me that 55% of the population of Mulenga is under 15 years old. Shocking! The reason is undoubtedly related to the high rates of HIV/AIDS in the community. Let me tell about a couple of the people I met there.


These beautiful ladies are Cynthia and Annie. Cynthia is divorced. Her own children are mostly grown, but she cares for two children left orphaned when Cynthia’s brother and sister died. Cynthia was encouraged to start visiting her neighbors and caring for other orphaned children in her area last year, so she joined a local church initiative called Breakthrough Care Group. At the end of last year, Cynthia realized her elderly neighbor Annie was sick with a terrible rash. With Cynthia’s support, Annie was able to get to a nearby clinic and get access to free ARVs. Annie’s feeling much better these days. She’s lost two of her four grown children, and the two who are around don’t care for her much, but she says Cynthia is her daughter now.