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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Children feeding children

 

I can’t begin to put words to the happiness that I am feeling having Chloe home after 16-months apart. Just to hear her in the kitchen in the morning, or seeing her sit on the patio with the puppies makes my heart leap. Being able to go with her and our older kids to ride their bikes through zebras, impala and other African animals was simply the best. And to know that she will be here to celebrate Mother’s Day with me here for the first time in many years is the best gift of all.


 


Chloe was recently hired as the Marketing Coordinator for Heart for Africa (Canada), which is one of main reasons we were able to get her home at this time. She has spent the week with the marketing team from Heart for Africa US and it’s been really interesting to see her look at Project Canaan through a new lens – one of work rather than family.

 

Yesterday the team went out to do homestead visits so that the new marketers could experience rural Eswatini. Chloe has been to homesteads all over Africa since childhood, but this was the first time going as an adult woman, AND we sent  six of our older children out with them. When she came home she was visibly shaken. For perhaps the first time she understood what it meant for a young girl to be at home with her father, brothers and other men in the family. She also had a deep understanding and awareness that our children might have been suffering like the children that she met had they not be placed with us through Social Welfare.

 

She sent me this photo of four 9-year-old boys, the two on the ends are ours, the two in the middle live at that homestead. Our boys are not unusually tall, but the difference between well fed children and children who often go without food was evident.

 

 

While everything she shared was interesting and insightful, it was her comments about our kids that brought me to tears … tears of joy. Our children have not been out to do community visits since January 2020, but they know that people are suffering from hunger because we talk about it frequently. Yesterday they got to see it firsthand, and it made them sad. When they were back in the van they shared that they were very sad to see Gogo cry, and to see how hungry the children were. What made them happy was being able to bring food and clothes and to see how happy the children were to put on their new-to-them clothes.

 

After presenting the food to the family they received a large pumpkin from the Gogo. Joshua said a very heartfelt “thank you” to the Gogo, she had a banana tree cut down to give them bananas because Joshua had been so sweet with his thanks. LOTS of tears, lots of proud moments.

 

 

 

These children are the future of this nation. They will lead with compassion and love. Whether they become farmers or nurses or teachers or caregivers, they will serve the Lord with all their heart, mind and body. I am eternally grateful for all of our incredible staff who do the "heavy lifting" in raising each child, and today I give a special word of thanks to our Lower Campus Manager, Khosie Mamba, and our Middle Campus Manager, Gcebile Shongwe-Dlamini, and ALL of the women who are mothers to our 286 children living on Project Canaan. May the Lord richly bless you today and every day.


 

I am a very proud mother of 288 children and can’t imagine my life without each and every one of them.

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Live from Eswatini … I am thankful.

 

Janine

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Chloe is coming home today!!!

 


Today we will pick up Chloe at the airport and despite Covid-19 social distancing guidelines I will give our daughter the biggest hug possible as we have not seen her since December 2019!  She has been stuck in Canada and we have been stuck in Eswatini and we have missed each other terribly. She hasn’t even seen Spencer in that time period as he has been in the U.S. and the Canada/U.S. border has been closed for more than a year.

 

I recently had a conversation with a local doctor who has been directly involved with the Covid-19 pandemic and she told me that the third wave will be much worse than the second one was. Only 32,000 vaccines (AstraZeneca) arrived in Eswatini and the first dose was allocated to healthcare workers and people over 60 years. We have had some children’s campus staff infected (and hospitalized) and some of our children have tested positive for the antibodies, so we know that virus has (and probably still is) on Project Canaan. We are still strict with staff wearing masks for 10 days after upon returning from their “off” days, and hand sanitizing happens at every building entrance. The border to South Africa is open for medical travel, education travel and employment only, for now, and our lock down restrictions have loosened a bit, so we thought it was a perfect window of opportunity for Chloe to come home.

 

This also coincides with a BIG news that Chloe has been hired by Heart for Africa (Canada) as their Marketing Coordinator and she is a welcomed addition to the growing marketing team. The U.S. team also welcomed a new member last week with Sam Nadolski joining as our new Director of Marketing. Sam has never been to Eswatini so we saw this as a perfect opportunity for her to come and see is during this “window” of opportunity, along with Maggie Lian (Marketing Coordinator, U.S.) who hasn’t been to Eswatini since 2010!

 

As the borders are still closed to tourism we cannot re-opening for volunteers at this time, but we are happy to have this very small team from the office coming to gather photo and video content for 2021 and bring some love to us all. We all need a big hug and a good laugh.

 


We have an incredibly busy week ahead, and I will share as much of it as I can on social media so you can be with us here in spirit.

 

I cannot express how thankful I am that Chloe can come home. I know that traveling during a global pandemic is not easy, there are no direct flights anymore, and flying with a mask will be a challenge, but I am SO VERY HAPPY that she is willing and able to make the trip. The children are excited to see her again too and have been doing the “how many sleeps until Chloe comes home” countdown for the past week.

 

Live from Eswatini … doing the happy dance!

Janine

My new book is now available for pre-order in Canada at  https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B093RX61N1 and you can also pre-order it on our Khutsala website at https://khutsala.com/collections/accessories/products/hope-lives-here


 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

This blog is coming to an end…


 

On June 1,2011, I posted my first blog titled “365 Days and counting…”. It was the beginning of our journey to prepare to move to Africa.  Since then, I have posted 483 Blogs, and had 814,224 reads, but as the bible says, there is a time for everything.

 

But it is time for me to close this chapter and on May 29th, 2021 I will post my last blog on this platform.  Why you ask?  There are several reasons and I will try to explain them.

 

Part of the reason I was writing each week was to share with you what it was like living and serving in Eswatini. I wanted to share the complexities of living in a developing nation and added challenges of living in a kingdom with an absolute monarch. I wanted to expose you to the hardships that many Africans live with every day, while sharing some of the cultural difference that we encounter, without throwing shame or placing judgement. I know that sometimes I didn’t do that as well as I had hoped.

 

Some weeks I was looking for sympathy, some weeks empathy, some weeks financial support or to have people with specific skill sets help us with complicated situations. EVERY week I tried to invite you into the story of what God was doing in the tiny Kingdom of Eswatini so that you could see for yourself, even from afar, that Jesus is alive and well and very much an everyday part of our lives here.

 

I shared highs and lows, births and deaths, birthdays and anniversaries. I shared fires and floods, theft and betrayal, friendship and love. My prayer was always to leave you with a feeling of joy despite the hopelessness and the feeling of hope despite the despair.

 

The reason I am going to finish up on May 29th is because it will complete a full ten years of blogging and frankly, I am looking forward to taking a Saturday morning OFF! However, I will be a guest writer on Heart for Africa’s Share HOPE blog every now and then.

 

The other reason I am discontinuing my blog is that  my new book HOPE LIVES HERE will be published on August 1st, 2021 and is available for pre-order on amazon today!!! I wrote the book during the many months of lock down in 2020 when we couldn’t leave the country. The book was written to outline how Project Canaan came to be, how we do things, why we do them and also to answer the questions that are frequently asked. I weave those three things into my blogs, but the book has it all written in an orderly fashion.   (Canadians will be able to order this on amazon.ca, but I won't have the link until next week).

 


Our Boards of Directors and Heart for Africa staff have read the manuscript, and the general agreement was that while some of the stories are hard to read, reading them is easier than being the people living them. My job, my calling and my passion is to share real stories of real Swazi’s with the world so that they will not be forgotten. You may not want to come and visit, or you may not be able to do so (health, finances, pandemic), but you can still learn about this culture, try to understand a different way of life and pray for those in need.

 

Please join me here for the next five weeks as I wind down with thoughts from the past ten years and hopes for the next ten years. If you have a topic that I have missed that you would like me to write about, please feel free to email me at janine@heartforafrica.org and I will try to address your topic. In the meantime, please hop on over to the Heart for Africa’s Share HOPE blog where you can sign up to get a LOT of wonderful information, statistics and the “meat” of what we are doing here in Eswatini.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 There is a time for everything.
    There’s a time for everything that is done on earth.

There is a time to be born.
    And there’s a time to die.
There is a time to plant.
    And there’s a time to pull up what is planted.
 There is a time to kill.
    And there’s a time to heal.
There is a time to tear down.
    And there’s a time to build up.
 There is a time to weep.
    And there’s a time to laugh.
There is a time to be sad.
    And there’s a time to dance.
There is a time to scatter stones.
    And there’s a time to gather them.
There is a time to embrace someone.
    And there’s a time not to embrace.
 There is a time to search.
    And there’s a time to stop searching.
There is a time to keep.
    And there’s a time to throw away.
 There is a time to tear.
    And there’s a time to mend.
There is a time to be silent.
    And there’s a time to speak.
 There is a time to love.
    And there’s a time to hate.
There is a time for war.
    And there’s a time for peace.

 

Live from Eswatini … I am so excited about my new book!

 

Janine

Saturday, April 17, 2021

It's a big deal to us.

 

Norma was one of eight toddlers who moved to Emseni 1.

Today was a big day for 17 of our children – they made the move to their next home, and that is a big deal around here.

 

The whole process takes many weeks as the children first visit their new home for a walk around, look-see, then they spend longer periods of time eventually leading up to lunch and afternoon nap. The last big move, which was today, includes sleeping in their new beds. The Aunties and Uncles make such a big deal of these “coming of age” events and every child feels special, welcomed and loved.

 

Today baby Birch moved from Kuthula Place to the El Roi baby home.

 

Bethany, Kay, Nomsa, Welcome, Connor, Easton, Nicholas and Wonder moved from the baby home to the toddler home.


Norma, Poppy, Praise, Precious, Dillon, Frank, Miracle and Mordecai moved from the Labakhetsiwe toddler home to Emseni #1.

 

 

As of today, we will have four babies at Kuthula Place, 27 at the baby home, 43 in at the toddler home, 48 in Emseni 1 (short term overfilled due to Emseni not being completed yet), and then 40 children in each of Emseni 2, Emseni 3, Emseni 4 and Emseni 5. We have a total of 282 children who call Project Canaan home. 

 

 
Welcome to Emseni 1






 

A larger welcoming committee

Emseni 6 will be completed in early May so we are planning the BIG move on Friday, May 7th. That day we will have 70 children move to their next home!!! It will be an epic day of excitement, special treats, meat braai’s (cookout)  and new adventure.  We don't have the funds to start building  Emseni 7 yet, nor have we started building it, but once all of these children have moved, we "only" have 24  beds left at Emseni before Emseni 7 is built. I will be sure to fill my blog with photos on May 8th.

 

Speaking of beds ... our Kufundza carpentry team is hard at work making beds for the Emseni boys! We are so thankful to have this important group of carpenters working at Project Canaan.




In the meantime, thanks for joining us on this incredible journey and praying with us through the good days and the hard days.

 

Live from Eswatini … it’s moving day!

Janine

Saturday, April 10, 2021

This Swazi man gave all that he had to give

His name is Phillip.

He is a neighbor to our Kufundza Carpentry Center manager and he had a big, bloodwood tree on his property – bigger than any bloodwood tree that we have found on Project Canaan. We use bloodwood trees to make the beautiful charcuterie boards that we started selling in the fall of 2020 through www.khutsala.com  (we sold 500 of them in 2020!). The tree gets its name from the red sticky sap the pours like blood when the bark is cut.

 

In order to make charcuterie boards we must first find the exotic (not protected) bloodwood tree, which are usually up the mountains and through the bush – not accessibly for a vehicle. Below is a photo of some of Denis' guys who had to build a steel frame to carry an estimated 800-pound tree down the mountain. If you go to the end of this blog you can watch the video of the same. It’s grueling work.

 


I have also been looking for larger trees to make table tops and coffee tables to see locally and through Khutsala, but hadn’t been able to find large enough trees here. One day our carpentry Manager Sanele told me that he had found a BIG bloodwood tree on his neighbor’s property and he had asked the neighbor about the tree. Sanele said that it was the tree that the family used to sit under during the heat of the day when they used to work on the farm, but those days and most of that family were long gone.

When Sanele approached the man, Phillip, about the tree, here is what he said, “You may have that tree. I would like to give you that tree as a gift and to support the Swazi children that you are caring for. One day that tree will die and fall down, just like this one I am leaning on, and then it will not be useful to anyone. But if I give you this live tree, you can use it to make beautiful wooden items to sell, and while the tree will die, the children will live. That is why I am giving you this tree. Oh, and there is a big mahogany tree over there that I would also like you to have.”

 

Wow. I have never heard of anything like this before. While we have support from our local community because we are employing almost anyone and everyone who is willing and able to work, this was a different kind of support. This was thoughtful, caring and wise and he was giving us something that did have significant value. That big tree could still provide shade from the scorching sun, and he could have sold it to us for money, but instead he  chose to give it to us as a gift. Sanele thanked him profusely and we went together to meet Philip the next day.

I grew up in Northern Ontario and my dad taught me to LOVE trees. I love working with wood, just as my dad did, so it pains me to cut down trees. But please know that we do it carefully, thoughtfully and use as much of the tree as we possibly can (table tops, charcuterie boards, trivets and coasters). In addition, when people purchase our charcuterie boards this year they will help us plant many more bloodwood trees for the next generation. Details to follow in the fall.


So, I drove to Sigceneni and spent most of the day with three guys cutting down a giant tree with a small chainsaw (if anyone wants to donate a big one or two we would welcome them!), and then cut it in to moveable pieces. The next day the JCB (backhoe) and tractor with trailer made the 7-mile journey to load up the wood. When it got back to Project Canaan is was then loaded in a truck and driven 100+ miles to a sawmill to be cut into planks. 

While all that was happening, our guys had to build a much bigger sun wood-drying kiln (13 yards long) to dry the wood quickly so that we can begin our work in the weeks ahead. Just this morning I took these photos of the beautiful wood that has been harvested and cut. After it dries our guys will plane it, I will spend many fun/dirty days at the shop drawing out each charcuterie to make best use of the colors, grains and live edge, then they will be cut, dried again and then fumigated. The entire process takes many weeks to make a single charcuterie board, but each one is made with love by the Kufundza team (including Nokwanda and me).

These particular boards, made of bloodwood and some with mahogany, will also be sent with love from an old Swazi man who didn’t have any money to help the children, so he gave us what he had - the biggest and most beautiful bloodwood tree we have ever seen. Phillip gave us hope.

This is what the mahogany looks like.

Is there something in your life that you could bless another person with, even if it isn’t money? Look around you and give someone a gift of love, and perhaps even hope, today.

Our goal is to ship another 1,000 boards in early May via seafaring container, which will arrive at our Georgia warehouse for August sales. Please start thinking about corporate gifts or an extra special gift from www.khutsala.com this Christmas. If you have questions about these products, please contact julie@heartforafrica.org

Live from Eswatini … thankful.

Janine

This first video is the guys carrying a big tree down the mountain on Project Canaan.

 

This second video is Sanele climbing the tree (with the help of a human ladder) to cut the next branch off. Enjoy!




Saturday, April 3, 2021

They are hungry, even on Easter

 


 

The past few weeks have been busy at the El Roi Baby home and clinic with six new arrivals. Can you imagine welcoming six new babies into your family within just a few weeks? Baby Solomon and Prosper arrived as tiny, but perfect newborns, straight from their young mother’s wombs.  The four girls that were placed with us after that arrived severely malnourished with bodies “wasted” and I can tell you that three of them were starving to death.

 

It takes a LONG time to starve to death, and it’s a slow and painful death. There are two main types of malnutrition, both leading to death if not stopped and properly treated. The first is called  Kwashiorkor, which is very common here in Eswatini. It is often overlooked in the community because a child might look like a healthy (even chubby with a big belly) baby, but the child is protein deficient and the chubbiness is actually fluid build-up in the body, which can lead to organ failure, heart attack and death.  

 

 

The second most common type of malnutrition is called Marasmus, more easily identified because of the obvious body wasting presenting as skin and bones.

 

This week we saw both. Two of the three girls had obvious Kwashiorkor, which we often treat with a special formula called F75 and F100, then move them to a special diet that we have designed called “The Jonathan Diet”, created for our own boy named Jonathan. It is a high protein, low carb diet. But 2-year-old Nsiki presented with Marasmus, and our pediatrician explained that based on the markings/bruising across her whole body, the orange color of her hair and her teeth that are breaking off in pieces, that Nsiki would have had Kwashiorkor (deprived of protein as a baby), but as the time went on, and a new baby sister arrived, she was simply deprived of all food, causing her body to start to waste away.

 


 

At the age of 26 months she can hardly walk, has very little energy to roll or crawl. Her baby sister (10 months) is in better shape, only because she had some breast milk in the early months and had less time to starve.

 

THIS is one of the results of the Covid-19 pandemic in Eswatini. This global pandemic has upended life as we all knew it, but for the unseen, unknown children living in rural Eswatini it just means pain and suffering, and to their families … hopelessness.

 

We don’t typically accept children over the age of 2 years, but these girls presented the size of, and developmentally that of a 1-year-old. So, we welcomed them home. Over time they will get strong and one day be laughing and playing with the others. But for now we monitor them closely, provide medical treatment, special food and lots of love. We love them back to life.

 


 

I know that this probably isn’t the kind of happy Easter blog that you were hoping to read, but it is what it is. For those of you who believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, and celebrate it this weekend with friends, family, chocolate and a table overflowing with food, I beg you to pray for the children of Eswatini (and the world) who are suffering terribly with NO food, NO family, No access to healthcare, NO hope, except in Jesus himself.  But who wants to hear about Jesus when you are starving to death?

Even this Easter weekend so many children will be hungry.

If you would like to do something to help our children, and those who are still to come in 2021 I ask that you consider sponsoring a child today or make a one-time gift to help us provide the extra care that these hurting children so desperately need.

 

Child sponsorship in Canada:  http://bit.ly/hfahopestartsca

Child Sponsorship in the US:  https://www.heartforafrica.org/HOPESTARTS/

 

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”

Matthew 25:31-46

Live from Eswatini … Happy Easter everyone.

 

Janine

 

PS – our Easter service will be on the Heart for Africa Facebook page at 9AM Easter Sunday. Please join us!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Massive storms Part 2: Parasites and guns


If you haven’t read last week’s blog, you might want to start there as this is part two of that story. When I wrote my blog last Saturday Ian was feeling well again and we were going to take a day together to do some shopping, have a nice lunch, get a pedicure and then finally a date night. We spent the morning at the local craft market (one of my favorite places in any country), booked a pedicure and then headed for lunch. Suddenly my tummy wasn’t feeling well and I was starting to sweat. We all know that feeling, and Ian had just finished feeling that way for three days, so we quickly headed back to the hotel. I had a parasite, there was no doubting that with ALL the signs and symptoms included. I crawled into bed with a fever and Ian had to go out and get more medication as he had consumed most of what I had purchased.

 

Due to Covid restrictions in South Africa, pharmacies close at 3PM on Saturday and he was struggling to find a store that was open. He finally found one Dis-Chem pharmacy across the city and headed there to get my desperately needed imodium (now you know the real problem). On his return Google Maps brought him back to the hotel through downtown Joburg – not a good part of town, but he didn’t realize where he was until it was too late. He was stopped at a red light when a gang of 6+ men came up and banged on his window with a gun. His head swung to look at them just as the gun holder started to cock it. Ian says the man was high or drunk, or both, and it slowed him down a second so Ian hit the gas and squeezed in between two taxi/vans known as “combi’s”. As he wedged his way between them the light turned green and he took off out away from the men.

 

He arrived back in the hotel with medicine in hand, but quite shaken. Joburg is known for its car-jackings and violent crime, and if you recall in last week’s blog that was MY greatest concern as I was driving around the city trying to accomplish what we had gone to do. Needless to say, date night was off and we couldn’t wait to get back to our quiet mountaintop in Eswatini.  A day after we got home the border that we cross was closed again for several days and we were so thankful that we weren’t stuck in South Africa any longer than we needed to be.

 

So why did all that happen? We were looking forward to a much-needed break, had fun plans in place and then illness and fear took over. Meanwhile back at Project Canaan the hail storm raged causing damage that we are still trying to repair, destroying crops that are beyond repair. I’m not going to lie and say that we weren’t discouraged, or exhausted by all the craziness of the week, but I can say that we quickly right-sided our thinking and chose to look at the good side and the protection that was provided.

 

Ian wasn’t shot in the head and robbed of his car, wallet and life. We were able to get Imodium and the parasites that I am convinced came from the hotel food have left us. We did have a nice 14-hour drive in the car together seeing the beauty of the South African countryside along with the wild animals at the gas station (ostrich, rhinos, zebra, kudu, bushbuck and impala to name a few). 

 

 

We were able to support many local stone and wood carvers so that they can feed their families again and feel hopeful for the days and weeks ahead. We weren’t “needed” at Project Canaan during or after the storm, and while it is always nice to have mom and dad around during a crisis, our team is incredible and handled it all with professionalism and intentionality. No person or animal was hurt during the storm – everyone was protected. 

 

These beautiful Rosewood utensils will be for sale with our charcuterie boards soon!

Yesterday was payday in Eswatini (everyone only gets paid once a month) and that means it was a half-day of work. People leave work at 1PM so that they can all rush to the store to buy food for the next month. Many of them have little to nothing for the last 7-10 days of the month as their pay just isn’t enough to get them through, especially with so many mouths to feed in each homestead. We see it as a long weekend because we get a half day, plus weekend, with a relatively quiet farm. This weekend we will go for long walks with the dogs, sit at the amphitheater and watch for our neighborhood crocodile, take a nap, go to the soccer pitch with the kids and then enjoy some wonderful home cooked food and call it a date night. How much more could we ask for, really?

 

James 1:2-4 in The Message bible says,

 

Consider it a sheer gift, friends,

 when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.

 You know that under pressure,

 your faith-life is forced into the open

 and shows its true colors.

So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.

Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed,

not deficient in any way.”

 

May all of the tests and challenges that you are facing this week be allowed to accomplish the work that they are designed for.

 

Live from Eswatini … resting.

 

Janine