Friday, June 22, 2012
People starving, babies getting needles and summer interns serving
It has been a great week with our 2012 summer interns. They are smart, hard working, funny and willing to do anything. They visited a dozen families in the Project Canaan community to find out what the real needs are in the community homesteads. They collected garbage and recycling from all the buildings on the farm (THANK YOU REECE!!!). They worked at the Baby Home and Farm Managers Building. They gave away new TOMS Shoes up at El Shaddai and best of all, they brought us all joy and made us laugh.
The community visits to our new “neighbors” were tough. Every homestead that we visited seemed empty. Death has wiped out the very life and vibrancy that once filled those homes and the hearts of the people who have been left behind. Visit after visit we found one person, often an old grandmother, left caring for the children as the only income earner had gone off to work at Project Canaan. That income earner was trying to provide for six to twelve dependents, which was clearly an impossible task. Traditionally, Swazi families farm the land around them and provide much/most of the family food from their own farm and garden. The family used to be subsidized by income earned outside the home, which was used for school fees and other family needs. With the drought of recent years very few families are able to grow any food and their cupboards (or plastic buckets on the mud floor where they would store their harvest) are literally bare. There is no food. Several women told us (with embarrassment and a sense of shame) that the only food their children ate was at school from Monday to Friday. There is nothing in the morning to give them for breakfast before they leave and nothing when they get home at night. Weekends are a difficult time for the family as they sit around a fire with nothing to cook. The people around us at Project Canaan are starving AND yet they are some of the “lucky ones” because they are employed. A single income from farm work is far from what these families need to survive.
The unemployment rate in the Kingdom of Swaziland is estimated to be upwards of 70%. ONE of the many challenges we saw with our neighbors is that there are so few adults left and so many children that it is really impossible to provide for all the hungry mouths, even if every available adult was able to find employment. One family we visited only had four people living there, but in housing that once accommodated 30+ people. The woman’s husband had died. One of the sons told us that his mother had lost a lot of weight (a typical sign of HIV/AIDS), but we were assured it was because she had a common cold. The homestead was void of people, void of food and we saw very little hope for the future. But they were very happy that we had visited.
Next week we will visit these twelve homes again, this time with our volunteer teams bringing warm clothes (it is very cold here as it is winter in the southern hemisphere), new TOMS Shoes for the children and warm beanie hats for all to wear. But we can’t go without food. The would be like Marie Antoinette saying, “let them eat cake” when she was told that there was no bread for the people to eat. We will take life-giving, high protein “Manna Packs” from the wonderful people at Feed My Starving Children so that the children can get a healthy meal, a full belly and the knowledge that someone really does care about them.
I won’t lie to you though. The problem is overwhelming and can’t be solved quickly. This is an investment over time, and one that we need to stick with. But we can never underestimate the value of a visit.
Matthew 25 says that we are to visit those who are in prison because when we do it for “the least of these” we do it for Him. I believe that “prison” doesn’t always have bars on the windows and locks on the doors. The women we visited this past week are in prison because they have no choices and no options for a better today or tomorrow. When we visit them, we bring hope, love and encouragement.
On a happier note, the eight little babies who are living at the El Roi baby home all went to the clinic today for their inoculations. Each is at a different stage so each one had a different combination, but with eight women to happily hold them they got through the ordeal in less than 2. 5 hours and they slept all the way home in the van.
Another week has finished at Project Canaan and tomorrow Lori Marschall leaves us for California, Ian and Jimmy will drive to Johannesburg to pick up the June team of volunteers coming to serve, and my #1 son heads back to the US to have some time off before he starts at Florida State University in August. I think Sunday might be a very hard day for me so please keep me in your prayers. I know Spencer will be just fine, but I will miss him desperately when he is away. I am not sure where the last 18 years has gone – they flew by and now Spencer gets to stretches his wings, a long long way from home (and his mama). Gulp. I am sending my love and prayers with him as he goes.
It’s Saturday morning in Swaziland and I am pensive.