Friday, December 16, 2005

Chew & Spit (post by Teresa)

I went last Friday to give worm pills and vitamins to one CarePoint, and as soon as I got there, a little girl was having a seizure. I think that she has epilepsy. She lives with her grandmother (gogo) who gets drunk all the time, so I'm told. So she has not been to the doctor and is on no medication. I couldn't really do anything else, so I prayed for her. The ladies that cook the food for the children, were holding her on the ground to keep her from getting hurt, her clothes were half off of her and she was drooling and having difficulty breathing. After a few minutes, she settled down, and starting breathing normally again, so we carried her inside and put her on a mat to rest. Later, she was up and eating her lunch with the other kids. It is amazing that these kids survive as well as they do. At home, we would have called an ambulance and taken her to the hospital.

Many of the kids I see, have ring worm all over their heads, and big bellies full of worms. They need worm pills about every 3-6 months. This is funny, as I was giving them their pills, I was trying to tell them to chew and swallow them, or so I thought (my siSwati stinks). They were all chewing them and then spitting them out. I said why are they spitting them out? One of the student nurses that was helping me said, because that is what you told them. Evidently the word for chew (kuhlafuna) and spit (khafula) are very similar and I was mixing them up.

One kids’ ear had sores all over it, and it was swollen and full of pus. The whole side of his face was swollen. He said that it started last week with the inside of his ear itching and then the painful sores. I started him on an antibiotic and gave him some antiseptic ointment to put on it. I will have to follow up with the ladies that cook at that care point next week to check on him and see how he is doing.

We started off Thursday with a phone call from one of the teachers at a CarePoint about the little girl that I have been worried about that has had diarrhea for 3 months. She said that she had spoken with the mother and that the child was very sick and she was ready to go with us to take her to the hospital. So we rushed over and picked up the teacher and drove out to the little girls’ homestead which is way out off of the road and onto a dirt road and then you can't drive any further, you have to walk the rest of the way to the little house made of cement, with dirt floors and tin roof. When we got there, her brother said that the mother had to go away to a funeral and the little girl was at the river washing. So we headed down the steep hill via a dirt path, full of rocks. We finally found the little girl, and she said that she could not go with us since her mother was not at home. So we told the teacher to let us know when the mother returned and have her meet us at the CarePoint when she was ready to take the little girl to the hospital.

The kids have been a big help this week at the CarePoint parties. They have been doing face painting, finger printing for the Christmas Cards and dishing out the food for the kids. They are real troopers, Joelle and Nathanael love playing with the kids and making them laugh. Every time I look around, Joelle has another baby that she is carrying around. Danielle, Nathanael and Joelle went up to the rural area with me and another nurse (Robin, our pastor's wife), and our pastor. We go up there once a month to do a health clinic. They had a blast playing with the kids and helping. Nathanael had one little girl laughing so hard playing peek-a-boo with her, it was so cute.

On one of my trips to the VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) clinic where people are tested for HIV and counseled and then started on ARV’s (anti-retrovirals) and monitored, we were waiting in the line (que) for PePe’s CD-4 count. PePe is a 9 year old little girl who is HIV positive and has been on ARV’s for a year. She has made a vast improvement in one years’ time, although we still have a long way to go. We have to watch her very closely for infections which her immune system just can’t fight off. Anyway, we were waiting there and this older Swazi gentleman went up to the front of the line and starts shouting, “please help me I am dying of AIDS”! Everyone in the room (except me, because I didn’t know what he said) started laughing. The lady that was with me interpreted what he said and she was laughing so hard, because, everyone in that room (except me) is also infected with HIV (AIDS). They are all in the same boat, and so they weren’t feeling much sympathy for this older gentleman.

Friday, we had the Children’s Cup staff Christmas party. We had roasted wart hog on an open spit (Swazi version of a cochon de lait). All of the Bible Club teachers, preschool teachers, builders, drivers, secretary, and ex-pat staff were there. It was a great time to come together and celebrate the successes for the year and challenge each other for 2006.

Today, I met a little boy named Gift, who is probably about 9 years old. When I first saw him, his face was painted with red paint like spider man. It was the CarePoint Christmas party, and the kids were getting their faces painted by volunteers. He wanted me to “shoot” his picture with my camera. After that, every time I turned around, he was at my side. I asked him if he went to school and he said yes, and that he going into the third grade. He told me that his father died this year, with his head bowed, I told him that Jesus would be a father to him. I asked him if he had Jesus in his heart and he said yes. Later he asked if we could get him a book to read, I told him that I would work on that. As I sat there on that hill in Mbabane , watching all of the children eat their Christmas dinner (chicken, rice, potato salad, coleslaw, and red beets) with their little hands, I thought, how much we have to be thankful for and what a wonderful privilege it is to be able to work with these beautiful little children. I felt a tap on my shoulder, it was Gift, he said, pointing to his plate of food, “this is nice”. I told him that I was so glad that he was enjoying it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On the road to Nhlangano

We were on our way to Nhlangano today to meet with the Rural Health Motivators regarding children for the CarePoint we are starting there.

The drive down is breathtaking in places. So picturesque. Swaziland is an absolutely beautiful country. From a comfortable distance. From the passenger seat I could concentrate on the task at hand and didn't have to worry about the cows and goats wondering across the road.

The task. It was a surreal conversation about a task that struck me as totally absurd in the extreme. I can’t picture ever having this conversation in the USA. I can’t picture the reality of what we were really talking about.

We had a list of 270 orphaned and vulnerable children compiled by the RHM’s for their four areas that surround the location of this CarePoint. 270 OVC’s in a radius of 5 miles. Average age is 8. Of these, 62 are double orphans, 170 are single orphans, and 38 are vulnerable.

We were discussing how to whittle the list down to a “comfortable” 200-230 that the sponsoring group can accommodate. As I was paging through the list, and considering what we were trying to do, it struck me just how absurd, strange, surreal, tragic, ????? it was. We were literally talking about children locked in a struggle for their life. Its not just numbers we are dealing with. It is small children who are forced by the actions of their parents, their society, their customs, to have to struggle for everyday survival. How many know what it is to be tucked into bed at night or even going to bed at night without a real care?

I know I can’t help everyone. I know Teresa and I are limited in how much we can give of ourselves: emotionally, physically, materially. But it is heart rending to still have to make decisions based on numbers when you have to look at their faces.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


It is real easy to concentrate on the “what” of what we do versus the “why”. The why is infinitely more important. The why is why we are here in the first place. It’s easy to get lost in the details of the what. The why is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, to give a generation hope where there is none. The what is a vehicle to do this. How can we share the gospel without meeting the physical needs of the children we hope to reach? The CarePoints provide the opportunity for these kids to see the love of Jesus in action: meals, pre-school, literacy, health, …...

It has been an eye-opener trying to get a handle on Swazi construction. Very reactionary. Trying to do real scheduling is proving to be almost impossible. Work depends upon volunteers from each community to contribute labor, actually finding the material to build the structures, and coordinating the builders and deliveries. Supplies, tools, and building material are stored at each site where “secure” storage can be found. This can be in someone’s homestead, store, or in some cases out in the open. Each community is tasked with providing security. Thievery is a constant problem. A chain link fence was even stolen after it had been installed to encircle the CarePoint at Ngwane Park to provide some security at the area. Construction at two of the CarePoints in Manzini was halted after critical material was stolen.

Teresa has started working with a volunteer nurse who visits the Kakhoza CarePoint once a week. She is also starting to help with an orphanage here in Mbabane that takes in abandoned babies from the government hospital. Today she is helping take the babies to have them tested for HIV, later teaching a class on puberty to the female camp councilors for the girls from the CarePoints at the upcoming youth camp (ages 12-16).

We have come across several special projects that we would like to tackle, but that would require special funding.

  • Right now, all the CarePoints are cooking over open fires. A volunteer lady at the Zakhele CarePoint actually caught on fire and had to be taken to the RFM hospital in Manzini for burns to her leg and thigh last week. We have also seen times where the wind was blowing so strong and continuously that the heat was literally blown out from under the cooking pots. Smoke under the cooking area is also a major problem. While cooking with wood probably can’t be eliminated, we have seen proper wood “stoves” for cooking that are constructed out of brick and mortar. The cooking pots are actually embedded in the stove and a proper chimney moves most of the smoke above the roof of the cooking area. The stove contains the fire and also helps conserve fire wood by burning more efficiently. There are a total of nine CarePoints that Children’s Cup is either responsible for or have a part in as the chief implementer of the program. We would like to be able to construct a wood “stove” at each site.
  • While the CarePoint structures provide rooms for pre-school and storage, the children who come daily to be fed have no place to sit and eat when it is raining. We would also like to be able to facilitate building a covered area next to each CarePoint that will provide some shelter form the elements.

If anyone is interested in helping with these projects, please let us know and we can work out the logistics (these would also be excellent projects for short term mission projects!).

All the kids are in school, adjusting well. We have not found the soccer playing opportunities that great yet, but are still looking. Have our cars and have been promised a very nice house to rent that will be available mid-December. We are settling in.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Feet on the Ground (Running)

We are starting our third week here in Swaziland shortly. We are grateful for everyone’s prayers and financial support. Please continue to pray for us. We are finding the cost to live here very expensive. It is hard to imagine that the majority of the people here have to survive on less than $1USD a day. It is a beautiful country and everyone we have met has been most friendly.

We are still trying to get all the little details straightened out (like vehicles, house, schools, etc.). But (& thank you Jesus) it looks like everything is coming together. Daran made a trip to Durban in South Africa with several other Children’s Cup staff to pick out used Japanese imports. It looks like we should have those early this week as God speeds their passage through the red tape at Swazi Customs. Thanks to the kindness of our friends here, we are currently driving a borrowed car and living in a borrowed house. We have looked at several houses and found one that is to come available early-to-mid December. Gabby was accepted at Waterford Kamhlaba UWC and will (re-)finish out eighth grade (Form 2) before staring Form 3 in January. The other children will be testing at Sifundzani Primary School Monday. Hopefully they will be able to start the following week. The school year starts in January here, so everyone will have a chance to finish out this year and get used to the new schools before starting the new year fresh.

Daran has been given the responsibility of managing the construction of the CarePoints that are currently under construction in the peri-urban areas of Mbabane and Manzini. There are two sites in Manzini and two in Mbabane that have been started (the pictures here show the Mangwaneni and Fonteyn sites in Mbabane). There are five completed sites in Manzini that feed hundreds of children every day and provide a place where they can learn that there is a God that loves them and has a special purpose for them in this place of little hope.

Actual construction revolves around a community action committee that helps motivate local volunteers to help with the construction and one experienced construction supervisor. Daran’s job is to monitor progress and work with the supervisor, volunteers and community leaders to make sure construction progresses and is done properly.

Children’s Cup hopes to begin work in the rural areas that are really the most desperate with respect to health care and food. Much of the country has experienced a ten year drought, the land has been overgrazed, and AIDS has decimated the population. We visited a Catholic mission in an area called St. Phillips that is providing care to several hundred orphans in a boarding school (Swazi government does not like the term “orphanage”). According to the sisters who work at the mission, the actual HIV rate in the rural areas is closer to 70-80%, but because there is no proper health facilities close and there is little if any government presence, most are left to fend for themselves. Many of the homesteads have no adults at all, only the surviving children. We are praying for God’s leading to work with this established work to provide help in the form of CarePoints in the rural areas.

Friday, September 30, 2005