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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Young woman Sex Trafficked in Swaziland = another unwanted baby

Last week I got a very disturbing call from the police.  They had a young woman sitting in front of them who needed help and they weren’t sure how to help her.  They asked if I would go to town to meet her.  I did.

This is a part of her story. 

I will call the young woman Betty.  Betty comes from a poor rural Swazi homestead.  She always struggled to get work and a “friend” came to her a few months ago and told her there was a job for her in South Africa.  Betty was very excited and left her 4-year old baby girl with her very old parents to go off to the job and promised to send money home for the baby.  When she arrived at their destination in South Africa she was locked in a tiny room and was told that she was a sex worker. She screamed and tried to escape, but the door was locked from the outside and was only opened when a man was to enter.  The same man entered four days in a row. He would gag her mouth with cloth and tie her up so that she couldn’t fight.  On the fifth day she managed to get past the man in the door and escaped from the area. Slowly she made her way back to Swaziland and back to her old life, shaken, afraid and ashamed.

In yesterday's newspaper.
Several months later she realized that she was pregnant.  She had found a job as a “house girl” in Manzini, again, with the hopes of sending money home to her parents to help provide for her daughter.  The people she works for have her up at 4:30AM and she cleans the house until 6:30AM.  After that she goes and opens up their shop where she works all day and through the evening (I know this because she was working at the shop when I called her on the phone).  She is 7-months pregnant and is exhausted.  She has only worked for this family since the beginning of the year, but so far, they have not paid her the R500 ($50 US) monthly salary that they promised. They keep telling her they have no money and will pay her next month.  What is she to do?

In a desperate attempt for help she went to the police to ask for counseling and help.  She was directed to the Sex Trafficking/Child Protection department where she shared her story and begged for help.  That is when I got a call. Could we help this young woman?  She does not want the baby and has no means to provide even for herself.

A few days later it was arranged that I meet the young woman at the police station. We were escorted through the station to the back exit and then taken in to a private room called the “Child Abuse and Domestic Violence room” complete with “Paediatric Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit” on the desk. I sat and listened to the young woman’s story, which was spoken so softly that at times her voice just disappeared to silence.  I asked many questions, questioned many answers, and in the end, directed her to the Social Welfare Department to report the situation and ask that the El Roi Baby Home be allowed to take the child when she he/she is born. I am thankful to be able to work with the Police and Social Welfare as they are able to help sort through the stories and try to determine some semblance of truth, which can be a challenge here.  While we don't want to just agree to take the newborn, we don't want to wait until the baby has been dumped in a pit latrine or abandoned to die in a plastic bag.   I counseled her to get prenatal care, including vitamins and an ultrasound so we know when the baby is coming.  We went our separate ways.

Since that day we have communicated almost every day by texting. She has still not been paid, but did go to the clinic and has started on prenatal vitamins (provided by the local clinic).   She has no money to go and get an ultrasound so I will meet her at the hospital early next week and happily pay for that out of my Compassion Purse. 

Human trafficking is a popular topic around the world these days. I admire and salute those people like Gary Haugen and the team the International Justice Mission and so many others who are taking it seriously and moving mountains to bring it to an end, maybe even in our life time.  I always thought the problem was somewhere else though, far away from where I live, but now I know it is right here in our front yard, and a result of it, a newborn baby will soon be living here on Project Canaan. 

I will end this blog with a few quotes that I ask you to ponder today and in the days ahead:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing”.   
Edmund Burke

“Learn to do right, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”  Isaiah 1:17

The reason that injustice is difficult to confront is that those who perpetrate it almost always lie about it.  Most of us are not very comfortable entering into a world where we have to deal with people do not tell the truth, but if we are going to enter the struggle for justice in the world, we must get used to the idea that we are entering a world where people lie – a lot.”   
Gary Haugen, Good News About Injustice

Live from Swaziland … where it is 95F ... Go Team Canada! (Yes, I had to say that.)


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Accident update and a week through the eyes of Ian’s parents (Jim & Diane Maxwell)

Thank you all for your prayers and words or encouragement sent to Jimmy and his family. We are thankful for the large Heart for Africa family around the world. John was able to fly home on Tuesday and learned just before his departure that the radiologist does not see a break in his wrist. He is home in Tennessee how and we are waiting for an update from him. Jimmy was discharged on Thursday and is now resting at the Klee’s house.  He has a cracked pelvis, two broken ribs, two sprained ankles, water on the knee and elbow and is pretty bruised.  We continue to give thanks that the injuries were not worse and will wish him well as he travels home on Tuesday to fully recover with his family.  Please pray for a safe and pain-free journey.

It has been so great to have Ian’s parents with us this week.  It is their first visit to see what we are doing here in Swaziland, and while they read this blog each week, it is different living the week than reading about it.  As we were sitting together enjoying the Winter Olympics I asked them what I should write this week’s blog about.  In their honor (honour as we spell it in Canada) I am sharing some of their observations from the past six days.

Two new babies in one week – we got baby Abraham on Monday and baby Gabriella (Gaby) on Friday. Both days when I got the call to pick up a baby, Diane was with me, so she got to participate in the conversations, paperwork and joy of bringing a little one home.  Abraham came to us as a malnourished baby whose mother died of Tuberculosis and he was left with little care from a drunkard Grandmother.  Gabriella was put in a plastic trash bag right after birth and left under a tree, only to be found by some children playing soccer.  She seems to be healthy and a full-term baby. She is being treated for HIV exposure.  We have now 52 babies at Project Canaan.


Gabriella (Gaby)
Sick baby in hospital – we stopped in to visit Futhi who has been in the hospital for the past two weeks with her sick baby.  I think Jim and Diane were most surprised by the fact that Futhi herself must stay at the hospital with the baby 24/7, sleep on the hard floor beside the baby’s crib and care for the baby herself. When I asked Futhi what I could bring her she said “soap” so she could wash her clothes and her baby’s clothes in the small sink in the ward.  The baby still has pneumonia and seems to be in decline.  We continue to pray for His perfect will to be done.

Prince Guduza and the police drop in to visit – we are thankful for our neighbors and for the Sidvokodvo police who we work with hand in hand against crime (and criminals) in the community.  Prince Guduza dropped in with his wife and girls to see us and the babies.  It is always nice to see them and great that Jim and Diane got a chance to meet this important man.

Prince Guduza stopped by to visit.
Gaining Swazi identity after 23 years – one of the challenges we face is not having birth certificates for most of our babies.  We are supposed to get them from the Social Welfare Department, but so far that has not been the case. I believe all of the Alternative Care Facilities in the country have the same trouble.  In two cases we have the mother of two of the babies at the El Roi Baby Home living and working on Project Canaan.  It should be easier to get birth certificates, because they are the biological parent and can go and apply for the birth certificates.  Through this process we learned that many of the Swazi’s that work at Project Canaan don’t have birth certificates either or even a Swazi ID number.  They don’t exist, as far as the government is concerned, and it is not a simple process to get a Swazi ID.  So this week one of the young women who lives at the Kibbutz was taken to Manzini twice and Mbabane once and after three trips, missing three days of work and having me sign a document as her “Foster parent” (to acknowledge that she exists) she finally got the ID application processed. Next Tuesday she will pick up her first official Swazi ID card and be counted in the national statistics.  On Tuesday, she will officially exist, but if not for the hard work and determination of one of our team members at Project Canaan, it would not have happened.  Next week she can start the process of getting birth certificates for the two children who are living with her, and the one who is living with us.

Phase 2 of Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz
The massive scale of Project Canaan – it is always fun to give people a tour of Project Canaan.  Inevitably during each tour, eyes start to glaze over and people lose focus as they begin to get a glimpse of the enormity of the project.  Fortunately the Maxwell’s tour took place over several days since we didn’t have to rush to get them around the farm.  In the end they marveled at the number and magnitude of the activities being undertaken all designed to provide for the children’s long-term development.  They were particularly encouraged by the employment (217 in January) that has been created here and the impact that it has on the surrounding community.

We have had big rain storms, daily power outages, extreme humidity and baby chicks born so they have had an authentic taste of our life in Swaziland.

February 13th was the anniversary of my own father’s death. It’s a day that I never forget and while I miss my dad every day, I miss him most on that day.  I found myself teary that my mom and dad will never be able to see all that God has done here in Swaziland, but I give thanks that Ian’s parents (at the age of 77+) have come all the way from Canada to be a part of our lives for this week.

Live from Swaziland … Go team Canada!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Serious accident on Project Canaan

It’s Sunday morning and it is time to reflect on a day yesterday that could have ended in great tragedy and heartbreak, but it didn’t.  So I start this blog by giving thanks to God for His mighty hand of protection.

Now the story.

Jimmy Wilferth (Heart for Africa US, President) and John McCarthy (Heart for Africa US, Financial Controller) have been here for the past week and on Saturday morning decided to go for an ATV (4-wheeler) ride up to the top of Hope Mountain.  There is no road up, but there are paths that can be followed on an ATV.  It’s a five mile journey “as the crow flies”, but closer to eight miles by path. The grass is tall at this time of year and danger is hidden.

They got to the top, enjoyed the magnificent view and then headed back down via a different route.  As the story goes, Jimmy headed down a grassy hill first and then realized that it was too steep.  He hand motioned John to turn around, but John interpreted the motion as “follow me” so he followed.  Jimmy’s machine suddenly disappeared in front of him as it tipped over a hidden ledge.  There was nothing he could do to stop it and was catapulted over the front of the machine and then it came crashing down on him.  The machine delivered a crushing blow to Jimmy and then broke into pieces as it rolled down the hill.  John’s machine followed behind with the same fate.

There was no cellular service where they landed so while in pain and shock they slowly walked down the hill until cellular service was found.  Two random Swazi’s were up at the top and witnessed this accident so they came and helped them walk to a shaded area. 

Jimmy send Ian a text at 12:24 PM that read, “Ian, we’ve had a problem.  We are both OK, but neither of the 4-wheelers have survived.  We are on the hillside just off the tower facing the farm.  We will need help to get down. Banged and bruised, but mobile.”

The black dot in the middle of the hill is half of the green machine.
 We have an amazing team of people here at Project Canaan and yesterday they shone as bright as the sun.  Within minutes Ian was on his way to pick up Kenny VanWinkle (our resident EMT).  Ian drives an old Land Cruiser and that would be the best vehicle to drive up to see if they could even reach the guys and then transport them back down (let’s just say there is no helicopter Air Evacuation here).  Next, Arlyn Koopmans and Mike Skiles jumped in and followed Ian up the mountain with splints, a transport board and duct tape.  It took a bit more than an hour for them to arrive with Ian driving like a madman up the mountain.  Kenny was hanging on for dear life, while texting me (at the hairdressers) to contact the hospital of the incoming trauma patients.

As I mentioned, there is no road going to the top so Ian and Arlyn’s cars took quite a beating.  When they arrived at the scene they found Jimmy and John sitting under a tree.  There were pieces of ATV scattered over a 70-yard radius.  There was a 30-50 yard difference in elevation from where they started to roll to where the lowest machine landed.  Both machines were completely destroyed.  Kenny quickly assessed their injuries and knew they needed to get to a hospital quickly.  At first glance John had a broken wrist or arm and Jimmy likely had broken ribs and maybe a broken hip?  Kenny says that his body just didn’t line up properly so something was wrong.  Jimmy was having a hard time breathing  so time was of the essence, but they were at the top of a mountain (!).

John's machine
Thankfully Arlyn and Mike brought up a board to strap Jimmy to.  For those of you who don’t know Jimmy is he 6’ 4” and weighs 220lbs.  He is a big boy.  They guys rolled him on to the board and then duct taped his head and legs to the board.  They were fairly certain he had broken ribs and he was having a hard time breathing so they couldn’t strap his chest.  They managed to get him up in to the back of the Land Cruiser, but the board didn’t fit so they had to leave the back door open (split hatch with a swinging spare tire).  John sat in the front holding his arm to his chest in the front seat.

Jimmy's machine

It was just before 2PM when they were ready to leave.  Ian decided to go up and over the top of the mountain rather than going back down the treacherous path they had come up.  Arlyn and Mike went ahead to clear the path of trees, branches or rocks.  They came to a place that was impassable, so Ian had to go “off roading” he says, to get around it. (Pause for editorial comment from Ian’s wife and author of this blog – IT IS ALL OFF ROADING UP THERE!  IT IS CRAZY DANGEROUS!!!).  So up and over the mountain they went and headed to the Mbabane Clinic (hospital).

Meanwhile, my haircut and highlights were going well J and I was able to contact some great friends who are medical practitioners in the country to get their council.  As expected it was recommended that they go to the Mbabane Clinic (hospital) because they can handle trauma, have x-ray on sight, good doctors and an orthopedic surgeon.  (I am so grateful to have gotten to know so many medical people in Swaziland who have freely given me their cell numbers.  THANK YOU ALL!).

Back to the race over the mountain.  There were times when the board would start to slide out the back of the car because the back was open. Kenny would literally have to hold the board down to keep Jimmy from sliding out the back.  Once they got off the dirt path/road (50 minutes of the drive) Ian was going 87 MPH on the main road.  As they climbed the mountain into Mbabane Ian saw that his temperature gauge was in the red.  The car was about to stop from overheating.  John saved the day by suggesting that he turn off the AC and turn the heat on high to suck the heat in to the car rather than in to the engine (it was 87F yesterday).  It worked!  The gauge moved to below the red line and they made it to the hospital.

I arrive at the hospital before the guys did so I was able to get them registered, brief the doctor and he had the x-ray tech on sight when they arrived.  At 3:30PM the big red Land Cruiser pulled up to the Emergency Entrance with the radiator hissing and spluttering, the battery had snapped off of connector cables and they were missing a side bumper.  But they were there.

John's wrist
While this is a good hospital, there are no orderlies to move people so Ian and the guys (and Doctor) slid the board out of the back and transferred him to a gurney.

We later discovered that John does have a broken wrist and it has been put in a cast.  Jimmy has a cracked pelvis and broken third rib.  They are both pretty beaten up and in a lot of pain.  Jimmy has been hospitalized and Mark Klee stayed with him last night to keep him company, sleeping under his bed.  We were able to contact Jimmy’s parents who went and shared the update with Chrisy. John called his wife and spoke with her. 

I can’t emphasize enough the miracle of the day.  Really.  The outcome could have been horrific.  They could have had massive head injuries (YES they should have had helmets on!), they could have not had any cell service and we wouldn’t have known they were missing until dark, it is possible that we wouldn’t have found them at all.  So many “what if’s”, but God is God and He is securely on the throne. I don’t know why He allowed this accident at all, but I do know that he spared their lives and allowed them to be heard and found.

We ended the day with a report that said it took one tractor and trailer, a truck, nine men and five hours to pick up all the debris on the top of the mountain.  Denis and Anthony lead the clean up team with Arlyn and Mike and they are all rock stars in our books.  As the sun set, the tractor with all the pieces arrived back on the farm.

Thanks Mike for all the photos!
 We will be having (more) conversations about safety on the farm, but for today, we give thanks.

Live from Swaziland … it’s Sunday morning.


PS – today Ian’s parents arrive from Canada for the first time. We can’t wait to show them Project Canaan!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Baby Deborah - one year later.

It is hard to believe that it is February 1, 2014.  It was a year ago on February 7th that Deborah (or Baby Debs as she is affectionately called) was born.  This week we will have a cake for her and celebrate her life.  She is not walking or even crawling yet, but she is a miracle that we can see with our own eyes every day. 

If you have not read Baby Deborah’s story, I am reposting it in honor of her birthday. If you have ready it, please take a moment to read it again and then share it with friends and family.  If you don't believe in miracles, you might at the end of this story.

Live from Swaziland … and am eternally thankful.


On Monday night I arrived home from possibly the worst day of my life.

I had to sit and write to help me breathe.  I sent it to a few dear friends and family members who are supporters of the babies at El Roi, and me personally.   I struggled a lot as to whether I should publish this.  I am paranoid about it sounding sensational (because it is a story from hell) and I don't want to post photos, but believe that people should see what is really happening here.  Maybe then you will help (if you don't already).  After today, I believe that I am supposed to publish this.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for telling this story.  Please share it if you think you should.  Please DO SOMETHING to help if you get to the end.  Here is what I wrote last night…

I just got home after a very long hard day, showered and am now seeking comfort from Donnie McClurkin worship music and my yellow chair.  When my brain and heart are on the edge of exploding I must write.  It is like oxygen to my soul so that I can breathe again and nothing is forgotten. When I am finished writing the tears will have soaked my tshirt and emptied my soul.  Here is what happened today.

At 10AM I got a call from the Child Protection unit of the Police saying a newborn baby had just been found in the bush in our area (Sidvokodvo).  The police were taking the baby to hospital as she was in bad condition. They thought she had been born just yesterday and was found today alive.  I got in the car, picked up Jamie Klee and headed to the hospital.  Halfway there my car broke down (again). We waited 45 minutes before Ian could come to the rescue, switch vehicles and continued on to meet the police.  I am going to start praying harder for the Lord to provide a good vehicle for me to use.

I know you will look at this photo and not want to continue, but seriously, this is really a little baby. Please keep reading. 

Jesus help us.
When we got to the hospital we quite accidently bumped in to the doctor whom I often write about (but never name for privacy reasons).  He was so surprised to see me because he was just about to call me about an abandoned child.  He had just examined the baby and was waiting for her to come to be washed and cared for.   He allowed us to go in to the tiny room where they washed her and take photos to show what condition she was in.  She has many bug/insect bites all over her body, there is a bone misplaced in her leg (will check for fracture when she is stable), her face and backside are in very bad condition (maybe burned?) and raw and she had maggots crawling out of her eyes and ears.  Lots of them.  She is premature and weighs 1.8 KG (4.1 pounds), but she is a fighter.

They had to wash/scrub her twice then finally went and got disinfectant to bathe her in to try to kill the bugs.  She screamed as the liquid hit her open skin. We stood and prayed.

She was then put on a sheet under a “warmer” and the nurse left to get dressing for her wounds. 

Maggots filled her mouth, eyes and ears.  These were digging a hole behind her little ear.
As Jamie and I stood in this small washing room, we suddenly realized we were in the NICU room. There were three other babies there on oxygen and monitors.  I looked at the little boy beside our baby and it didn’t look like he was breathing.  I said that to Jamie and went and put my hand on his tiny chest.  I didn’t feel anthing, but I am not in any way a medical professional.  The nurse walked in just then and I mentioned that the baby didn’t seem to be breathing. She left and got the doctor who was right outside the door.  He came in and immediately started CPR, as we stood and watched and prayed.  After 10-15 minutes of CPR, listening, oxygen, and other emergency things I can’t think of the name of right now (which seemed like a flash and an eternity all at once) he shook his head.  The child had turned color.  He was dead.  Just like that.  Gone.

We believe and are hopeful that our baby, now named Deborah because she is a fighter, will live.  I will be there every day this week to help with her care while the mother of the baby boy will mourn the loss of her beautiful child.

After a time Jamie and I left the hospital in tears, and headed home.  I couldn’t just go home with the vision of that baby boy in my mind so suggested that we stop at the police station to find out if they knew anything more about Deborah’s situation.

This is where the plastic bag with baby Deborah was found.
The police were very kind and agreed to take us to the place she had been dumped.  Deborah was a newborn (umbilical cord still attached) and was put in a black plastic grocery bag.  The police said that the top was tied in a knot and she was left in the bushes under a tree in the middle of nowhere.  This morning a local man was walking by and heard what sounded like crying.  After listening closer he moved closer to the sound.  When he saw the bag moved he was terrified and thought it was a snake so ran to a local store for help. He and the store-keeper came back to investigate the strange bag and found the baby.  She was somehow half in and half out of the bag, face down in the dirt and crying to save her life – literally. 

We went and met the man who found her – the hero of the day.  He said her mouth and ears were full of maggots and it was terrible. He shook his head when he spoke of what he saw.  I gathered together all that I had left in me and shook his hand, thanking him for saving the life of a chosen child – a child who was seen by El Roi himself.

I am tired, confused and emotionally finished.  I don’t know why the Lord had us sit on the side of the road today for 45 minutes, only to be in the room to see a baby die.  I don’t know why he allowed baby Deborah to live for two days (they think) in a black plastic bag under a bush – not eaten by dogs or snakes, and then He allowed a baby boy to die in a hospital NICU care center. 

But my faith is in Him and always shall me.  He is El Roi, the God who Sees and I will cling to that today and in the days ahead. 


Sorry for the long blog, but this is a Tuesday update, which has prompted a mid-week blog.

Baby Deborah on Tuesday.  So much better.
Don't mind the guy replacing the entire light FIXTURE over the NICU babies.
Monday night around midnight I got a text from a young woman saying she was cutting her wrists to commit suicide.  A bad text.  I called her and tried to encourage her and change her plans. She hung up the phone and it was early morning before I could contact anyone to find her.  By 10 AM we drove and found the young woman. She was lying on the ground in a local homestead and had overdosed on a drug we couldn’t find.  We took her to the hospital (sadly there is no 911 to call, no ambulance and the social workers of the country don’t have transportation) and got her in to the emergency room.  From there I literally walked to the Neonatal unit of the hospital and spent an hour with baby Deborah who is doing MIRACULOUSLY well!  The nurses can’t believe the change in her!  She is off the oxygen.  She is breathing well on her own and the swelling has gone down so much.  The nurses say, “This one will live!”.  I spent an hour with her and fed her a bit, but she was tired and slept for most of the time while I told her about what a fighter the Prophetess Deborah was. 

From there I checked in the Emergency Room again, stomach pumping still in force, then on to the TB hospital to see the mother of our twins Leah and Rachel.

This is a mid-week blog to bring those of you who really care and want to read it.  I really pray that EVERYONE taking the time to read this mid-week post will take the time to give monthly so that we can feed and care for these babies. Even $10 a month can help.  If you can give $100, or $1,000 that would help too. As Nike says, JUST DO IT.



It's Tuesday night and this might be next Saturday's blog post.