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Saturday, June 17, 2017

This week’s health issues and surgeries

It’s hard to explain life on a farm in Africa, let alone life with 159 children under the age of seven.  There are so many moving parts, so many facets, and so many complex elements involved in raising these children, that even people who come and stay for an extended period are still learning many months after their arrival.

Today I want to share four specific medial issues that we navigated through this week (among many other day-to-day issues including HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, two sets of head stitches and common childhood illnesses).  I will only use the first letter of each child’s name, in order to protect their privacy.

1.     “B” came to us severely malnourished and we noticed an abnormality in his index finger.  We surmise that his finger was broken as a small baby and it never healed properly.  There is a piece of bone in the top part of his finger and a piece of bone in the bottom, but nothing in between, so the bone on the top is not growing.  The surgeon was very concerned about it because without reconstructive surgery, his finger would need to be amputated in the future. This week he went in for surgery, where they removed some bone from his leg and used it to attach the bones in his finger together.  The surgery was more complicated than expected and we are still awaiting a report from the surgeon. Sadly, the patient/parent/doctor communication system here is not always ideal.
2.     (Age appropriate reading on this one) “S” arrived severely malnourished and abused.  We quickly noticed that he was missing his testicles and took him to a specialist, who was unable to locate them.  He is almost 2-years-old.   We were able to get him in for a Bilateral Orchidopexy (here in Swaziland) and while in surgery they discovered another problem in that area, which required him to be circumcised.  The surgery went well and he is home with us, healing nicely.
3.     “L” is 4-years-old and in good health, but has a reoccurring infection up near her ear that ends up bursting with pus oozing out. We are told that it is an “extra sinus cavity” that continues to get infected and will require surgery. This week our Doctor was on the property and was able to lance it (YUCK!!!).  Now our goal is to get her infection free so that we can proceed with the surgery. 

4.     “M” is our most disable child. He was born to a 14-year-old girl and then left in a rural clinic for many months. After a few days of him being us we realized that something was very wrong.  He is 10-months old and has seriously neurological challenges, and doesn’t swallow properly. We suspect this is due to Cerebral Palsy, but until he gets older, and hits (or misses) developmental milestones we will not be able to properly diagnose.

To quote the movie Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get”.

I feel that way about our children. Each baby who comes to us is a new gift, full of surprises, sadness and joy all in one sweet little package. 

Thank you to everyone has given to our Emergency Medical Fund in the past. I will say that the account is now empty, but we know that the Lord will provide again before our next medical need. If you want to give to our Emergency Medical Fund in the US click here.  For donations in Canada, please click here.

Thanks for taking the time to read about all that is happening at Project Canaan each week. I am grateful for your support, fellowship and love.

Live from Swaziland … preparing to host friends from three countries for dinner!


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Is raising children "women's work"?

Sharing with Dad is important
Next Sunday is Father’s Day and as Ian is father to Spencer and Chloe and also 158 little Swazi children, Father’s Day has become a greater time of reflection for me each year.

I was raised by a wonderful man (Russell Willis) who adopted me (with my mom Bernice) when I was just a baby.  He raised me as his own and provided me with food, shelter, education, opportunity, discipline and love.

I often hear comments about the children at Project Canaan not being raised in a “normal” home with a “real mom and dad”, and how they will suffer because of that.   I find it shocking each and every time because what is “normal” nowadays?  How many people in Canada or the US are being raised by their biological mother and father?  And even when children are raised in a “normal” home, that doesn’t mean the home is healthy or happy. 

I was reading a blog article by Dr. Gail Gross she said, “ Only 20 percent of American households consist of married couples with children. Filling the gap are family structures of all kinds.” 

In 2011 a stat said that 72% of all Swazi children do not have a father in their lives.  I can’t imagine what the current statistic is. 

As many of you know, our eldest children at Project Canaan are 6-year-old twins, Rose and Gabriel.  Each day we are learning and growing as our children grow. Raising 158 is very different than raising two (or six).   Our focus when the children are small babies is primarily health, nutrition and love.  As they get older their emotional, mental and spiritual development becomes more important. 

On thing that remains the same is that we strive to be intentional in everything we do.  We are now reviewing parenting courses that can help us with not only training our staff in how we want our children to be parented, but also forcing us to make parenting decisions all over again!  What is important in THIS culture that may not have been important in Canada in the 1990’s?  What was important to us as we raised Spencer and Chloe that is irrelevant in Swazi culture?  And how do we have fun with our children and our caregivers?

Tickle fights with Dad are important!
My point of today’s blog is that no two families are the same. We all parent differently.  We are all doing the best we can with what we have and what we know.  Our family looks very different than any other around the world, but we are doing the best we can, with what we have and what we know, to raise God-loving, God-fearing children who will contribute to society and change the face of a nation.  God is our heavenly Father and He is the perfect father who never ever lets us down, and we are secure in that knowledge.

I am so grateful for Ian who is a wonderful father to Spencer and Chloe and being intentional to be a Godly role model for our other 158+.  I am grateful for the Swazi men who God has brought to us to be big brothers and uncles to be positive role models for our children.  And I am grateful for our male volunteers (single and married) who are investing in the lives of our children and showing them what Godly men look like.

Having fun with Dad is important.
Raising children is NOT woman’s work. It takes a village to raise a child, and a village requires men and women to be strong and courageous together, whether they have been blessed with one child or a village of children.  Raising children is not for sissies either, it is hard work, all the time, so let us encourage one other, and build each other up, not tear each other down.

One more thing – we have added some educational tools and materials to our Amazon Baby registry. Feel free to shop for books, textbooks, teaching aids and, of course diapers and wipes.  US shoppers click here.  We are no longer accepting items for the Canadian container as it ships next week.  Canadian shoppers will need to access the US site please.   THANK YOU!

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful for the men in my life.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

What is a "mushroom daycare"? You might not want to know.

You likely haven’t heard of a “mushroom daycare” before.  I had not heard the term until a year ago when we picked up a baby (Margie) from one such “center”.   The reason it is called a “mushroom daycare” is because there are many (literally dozens) of children being cared for in a small, one room building in the dark with no exposure to sunshine, daylight, proper food, stimulation or love.  These children are growing like mushrooms, in the dark.

Please take a moment before reading on to stop and picture that in your mind.

Here is what is happening.  Young woman are getting pregnant often through false promises of love/marriage/free KFC/money and/or and then there is incest and rape.  The “middle age” generation has been wiped out by HIV/AIDS/TB and there is no one to care for the young children back at home (which is typically what happened in the past). The young mothers need to find work so they leave their children with a local “daycare” person, which means an unofficial caregiver takes the children in to her home for a month at a time and the mother should arrive with money at the end of the month when they are paid.

Sometimes the young mother just runs away and never returns, leaving more mouths to feed with less money. But how does the caregiver find the mother?  Sometimes the mothers come and pay the daycare lady a small amount of money and then go back to work, leaving the children living in the dark.

The result is an uncountable number of children living like mushrooms around the country.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for writing this, as it is a well-known problem to the police, hospitals and social welfare, with action being taken, but it’s a huge challenge, in a country with lots of other challenges.  No one wants the children being left at home alone, so what other alternative is there?  I believe this is a direct result of a missing generation.

Yesterday we welcomed a baby whom we call Wendy.  She started off life in a bad way, arriving three months early in her mother’s mud hut, weighing only 3.2 pounds.  But she lived.  Her young mother had no family to help care for the baby (and her other two children) so she sent the 4 and 7-year old to other homes and then took Baby Wendy to a local “daycare”.    The baby got very little food, nutrition, care or love.  She started to stop growing and was always sickly. 

15-month-old baby weighing 6.6 pounds
When Baby Wendy was 15-months-old (this past April) the mother took the child to a government hospital that has a wonderful pediatrician and nutritionist who specialize in malnutrition.   At that age, Wendy weighed only 6.6 pounds.  After two months of specialized nutritional care, medical care and a lot of love, Wendy was ready to be discharged.  But the care that the mother could provide wouldn’t be any better than what she had already given, so she begged for help. 

We brought home the 17-month-old baby and she weighed 14.5 pounds (the size of a 5-month-old).  It was a heartbreaking moment for all, but joy-filled at the same time because now Wendy has hope for her future. 

17-month-old baby now weighs 14.5 pounds
The nutritionist shared with me that she had lost 15+ babies so far this year, in that small rural hospital, due to babies coming in too malnourished to come back from the brink of death.  She shared her pain and her frustration that these deaths were preventable.

Another government official told me that she had found a “mushroom daycare” recently with 40 small children living in the room, under the table, just lying on the floor.  They are working diligently to shut these unofficial daycares down, but what is the alternative?  I simply don’t know the answer, but I do ask you to pray for the front line people who are dealing with these real life situations every day, and rarely have a viable solution to provide.

Today we have 158 children under the age of 7-years old living at Project Canaan.  We need your help more than ever. If you can help give monthly, please sign up to be a Heart for Africa Angel in the US or Canada.

If you want to help us today, please shop on our Amazon registries in either the US or Canada and send little Wendy diapers and wipes.  Every dollar spent helps us reduce our operating costs for these little ones.

Please pray for our staff who are tasked with the enormous responsibility of helping each of our children heal with special care and a lot of love.  As my friend Denise said last week, we are “loving them back to life”.  Amen.

Live from Swaziland … I am praying for all the mushroom babies in the country.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Who cares?

Gogo Mona Lisa
I cannot tell you how encouraging it is to me to receive your kind comments, emails and words of encouragement each week. It shows me that YOU CARE, and you care very much.  This week I am going to give you a few fun updates on things that I know you care about.

·      We have 157 children under 7-years old. 
·      Our two severely underweight babies are doing great! Peace (who arrived 4-weeks-old weighing 3.7 pounds is now a whopping 7.5 pounds at 10-weeks-old).  Baby Amanda arrived as a newborn at 5 pounds and at 6-weeks-old is 8-pounds. Both are healthy and happy.
·      We expect another baby girl to arrive early next week. Stay tuned.  We are still very much in need of monthly donors to help us care for these children.

Ice cream:
·      On April 29th I posted a blog asking “How much is too much?” (  It was regarding whether or not we should splurge and buy a soft ice cream machine for our children.  Many of your sent me resounding words of encouragement AND put your money where your mouth is.  Within days, we had the funds to buy the machine and it arrived this week! 
·      What I didn't know about getting the ice cream machine was the sheer joy that would come to the staff, volunteers and our favorite Gogo when she had ice cream for the first time in her life!  63-year-old, Gogo Mona Lisa, giggled like a school-girl (even though she never went to school) when she received her very fist ice cream cone, and her joy was beyond anything that I had expected. Thank you all who made this possible.

Sr. Supervisors Welile and Khosi enjoy the first batch of soft ice cream.
Speaking of  “too much”:
·      Just days after I posted my blog about whether an ice cream machine was too much, we had two really cool (and affirming) things happen. The first was a couple who contacted us to donate $70,000 worth of brand new Montessori School tools/equipment/materials (yes, $70,000).  There are things for our smallest children through our oldest in our schools.  The second thing was that the new Golf Director at the Golf Course down the road, told us that he would like to start golf lessons for our big kids and get them involved with golf. WOW! I promise I don’t make this stuff up, but at that moment I realized that it is God who decides “how much is too much.”

Diapers Drive:
·      Our goal is to collect 146,000 diapers, which should last us a whole year.
·      Our goal is to collect 584,000 wipes, which should last us a whole year.
·      300 friends of Heart for Africa have already purchased 96,000 diapers and 315,00 wipes to date! We still have a ways to go before the container ships at the end of June, so please go to our Baby Registry Amazon accounts today and help us reach our goal. When you shop on those registries, the diapers are shipped directly to our warehouses in Canada or the US. It’s just SO easy.

Aquaponics test:
·      It has begun! 
·      We have started the system by putting ammonia in to the water.  Nitrates and nitrites are registering, which means that there is bacterial growth (which is a good thing). 
·      The first nine trays of lettuce seeds (1,100 plants) have been planted and have started to sprout.  This week Jonathan Marsh is heading to Colorado for an intense training course with our partners from EMERGE Aquaponics.  When he returns we will work on the next stage of the process.
·      We are all really excited about the growing potential of this innovative initiative. 

There are so many moving parts here at Project Canaan.  I will confess that I am pretty tired at the end of each day, but my head is spinning at 3AM with thoughts, ideas and prayer for the day ahead. I am thankful that the Lord continues to give us “one page at a time”, and that each new chapter is more exciting than the next.

Live from Swaziland… looking forward to Sunday, and a day of rest.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why are people so nasty?

Aphiwe and Brooke
We have the opportunity to squeeze 240 boxes of diapers and wipes in to a 20ft container in Canada that is coming to us filled with donated educational supplies.  We don’t want to ship the container with any empty space so we have actively been asking our Canadian friends to shop at Amazon in Canada and buy diapers and wipes to fill the container.  We have received 90 of the 240 boxes that we desire.

We needed a place for those diapers to be shipped and a dear friend agreed to have them shipped to her school, but they could only be there for a week due to limited space.  So another friend said she would be happy to borrow/rent a truck, go to the school and pick up the boxes and store them in her garage until the time of packing the container.  I love my friends.

I was so thrilled to see how smoothly this all happened with many people offering their assistance.  I saw photos on Facebook of the diapers being loaded in to the big box truck and volunteers happy to be involved.  It made my heart happy.

Then there was the Facebook comment.

Right below these happy photos was a comment (I have permission to share this) that read “Why are you sending those diapers to Africa when you should be sending them to the flood victims in Quebec?”

Honestly, I was shocked.  And I know I shouldn’t be because people post stupid comments on social media all the time, but really??  Why should you send diapers to orphans in Africa who don’t have parents to care for them?

I am proud to be a Canadian.  I love that when tragedy or natural disasters strike we have a country where family helps family, neighbors help neighbors and communities help communities. Many of us also have the opportunity to purchase insurance and then there are our Provincial and Federal governments who quickly jump in to help those in need.  It may not be perfect (and yes our taxes are high), but I am proud that the system works better than most.  When there is a problem, Canadians know that help is on the way.

I am now living in a country where families have nothing to give other families. Babies are dumped in out door toilets to die because young mothers have no food or even a blanket to wrap them in. Children die of malnutrition and neglect, right in front of our eyes, because we just don’t have the resources to save everyone.  In fact, just this week we saw an 8-month-old in our own immediate community die and we will have to bury him on Monday.  (Note, this is not a baby who lives at our baby home).
I am thankful that there are people who are helping my neighbors in Quebec who are in need, but to the lady who posted that comment … I hope you are actively involved in helping in Quebec, not just sitting on the sidelines taking pot shots at others trying to help orphans in need.  Furthermore, stop being so nasty.

For those of you who support Heart for Africa and the children of Swaziland, I say THANK YOU.  For those of you who want to buy diapers for these babies I ask you to shop today in the US at  and in Canada at  We are only half way to our total goal.

For those of you who support other charities, ministries and organizations either financially or with your time, I THANK YOU!   There are a lot of people who need a lot of help around the world. I encourage everyone reading this today to get involved SOMEWHERE. It could be in Quebec, it could be in Swaziland or it could be right in your own community. 

It takes a village to raise a child. Please be active in your own village and for a very small group of you, please stop being critical of people for helping in a different village.

Live from Swaziland … thankful for all who can help us.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

When a wave of sadness hits.

Early Mother's Day photo with 76 Emseni children, 40 Toddler home children and Spencer. 


Two days ago I was overwhelmed by a wave of sadness.  We dropped Spencer off at the Johannesburg airport (after 8 wonderful weeks with us in Swaziland) and while I only shed a few tears at that moment, I got a message before we left the airport that our sweet kitty from back in our Aurora/Alpharetta days, had died.  Her name was Daisy, and she was a stunningly beautiful Bengal who we have missed dearly.

The tears started to flow, but then the phone rang. It was a social welfare officer asking if we had room for three small babies? There was an 8-month-old baby who had been hospitalized for malnutrition and abuse. Then there were two siblings who were being badly abused by their mentally disabled mother.  The 10-week-old baby boy would be thrown on the floor when he cried and the 2-year-old girl was being abused as well. 

I told her we would take them all, hung up the phone, and it hit me.

A wave of sadness washed over me like a tidal wave and I was completely overwhelmed by Spencer and Chloe living a million miles away, my dead cat (who hasn’t lived with me in five years) and the 157 children whose stories are horrific and haunting.  I sat in the passenger seat and cried, while Ian drove us east to the ocean and the sun set behind us.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and as the day approaches I am thinking about these things:

·      I am thankful for my 15-year-old birth mother who gave me up for adoption in 1963.
·      I am thankful for my adoptive parents (Bernice and Russ Willis) who gave me every opportunity in the world and showed me how to give generously and love completely.
·      I am thankful for my children, Spencer and Chloe, who have made me the proudest mom in the whole world. They give generously, and love completely.
·      I am thankful for (and overwhelmed by) by the 157 Swazi children who now call me Mom. 

Last Sunday at Children’s Church I was presented the most amazing gift by the staff and children at Project Canaan. They knew I was going to be dropping Spencer off in South Africa, and then head away for a quiet weekend in Durban, so they gave me an early Mother’s Day gift. It is a painting of tree that has each and EVERY SINGLE child and baby’s thumb print.  In the bottom right corner you will see the color legend that shows which colors represent which children’s home. 

There are 155 little thumb prints that make up this beautiful painting.
Yes, I stood in front of them all and cried, but they were not tear of sadness, rather they were tears of pure joy.  I stand amazed at the mosaic of circumstances and people that the Lord has brought together to create the most beautiful picture at Project Canaan, and I am humbled to be a part of it.

Please shop on the Heart for Africa Amazon Baby Registry today by clicking on  in the US and in Canada.  We have a lot of babies who have been given the gift of life, and now they need the gift of diapers, wipes and a table to eat at.  Please shop generously, and maybe buy your mom a gift for Mother’s Day too! I promise she will love it!

Live from Durban… Happy Mother's Day.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

That's a load of 💩!

Two weeks ago I got the dreaded call. It was Helen saying, “Mom, we are completely out of diaper wipes!”

What? How can you have 155 babies and run out of wipes?   We change 400+ diapers a day, and we sure don’t want to do that without wipes!  YUCK!

I knew Ian was in town and so I asked him if he would mind stopping at the grocery store and get some wipes. He asked how many, and I said “ALL OF THEM!”.  Within a few minutes he sent me a photo of the “wipe section” at the grocery store and asked if I really wanted them all.  My answer was, no, but get all the big packs.

We have not had to buy diapers or wipes since August 2016 and that is because 300+ people from all over the world shopped on Amazon and purchased 165,000+ diapers and 170,000+ wipes.  We still have some diapers, but the wipes are finished.

We currently change 400 diapers and 1,600 wipes each and every day.  That means 146,000 per year and 584,000 wipes!  That’s a lot of poop!  AND, those numbers do not include days that our babies have diarrhea or when we have a stomach bug whip through the house!  Believe me, you really don’t want to be here then!

Today we are launching our 2nd annual Diaper Drive and I am inviting you to be a part of this important project.  It’s as easy as clicking on this link and shopping!  The shipping address on our Amazon Wish List is a warehouse that has been donated by a friend of Heart for Africa, so your purchases will come straight to our warehouse.

The UPS Foundation has very generously offered to ship a 40 ft container for FREE from Atlanta to Swaziland and it will be packed at the end of June.

We hope to fill the container in the next 3-4 weeks and get it over to Swaziland.  The Amazon list also have a few key items that we need and cannot buy in Swaziland, including two tables that each allows us to feed eight little ones at a time.   We also are looking for a few Little Tykes playhouses, that give our kids hours of activity and “old fashioned” play each day.

Will you help?  Please shop today, and then if you live in the US please copy this link and post on your social media sites to invite your friends to be a part of this great need.  

If you live in Canada, please share this link with your friends and family.  Every purchase helps us reduce our monthly expenses here in Swaziland.  I

f you would like to collect diapers in your community and bring them to us in Georgia, please contact and feel free to use this simple poster.

Ian and I both shopped at before I posted this blog.  I hope you will too.


Live from Swaziland … praying for diapers and wipes!