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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Every 12.2 days we are receiving a baby ... help!

This week Baby George arrived at the El Roi baby home brining our children count to 89.  George’s addition means that we now receive an abandoned, or child in need, every 12.2 days, which also means that at this rate we will have 265 children living at Project Canaan by the year 2020. 

Baby George born February 22, 2015.

This week we also had a team of volunteers here who are helping us finish a building called Emseni East.  It will be the home for our toddlers to move up to (since the toddler home is now full past its designed capacity) and they will live there until they are finished high school. Thank you to each and every one of you who came so far to help make this home extraordinarily beautiful for our children.

As we review our plans for the future and the rate at which children are placed with us through the Social Welfare Department, we realize that this Emseni East building will be full by the end of 2015, and we will need to have the next building, Emseni North, completed in the early part of 2016.  YIKES!!

Before you take a peak at some of the beautiful photos from the hard work the team did this week, please consider giving to the Emseni North building campaign.  We need to raise $300,000 and have $120,000 raised to date and are starting to build in faith.  Even if you can’t give today, but could pledge money by the end of the year, that would be awesome.    

The link to give is: US:  and in Canada:
If you want to make a pledge for 2015, please email me directly at

Now, for some fun photos of today’s unveiling!

Six foot mosaic done at the floor of The Oasis Dininghall.

Joshua and Ben are first up on the new bunk beds.

Rose, Gabriel and birthday boys Malachi and Matthew.

Girls room.

Boys room.

Live from Swaziland ... I am thankful.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

If you don’t have any way to prove that you exist, do you exist?

One of the many challenges we face here in Swaziland is trying to manage payroll on a monthly basis for 240+ workers.  Everything is done manually including work attendance, sick days, days off, hirings and firings.  At the end of each month, each Supervisor provides Ian with a list of names and payment owed for that month’s work.  Total payroll is calculated and then Ian drives to town (about an hour away) and goes to the bank to take out the cash (with a specific number of each bill and coin needed) and then comes back to begin the laborious job of putting the exact amount of money in each envelop. 

The last Friday of each month is Pay Day and it’s a half day of work.  Each person lines up to receive their envelope and pay slip.  They take the money out, in front of their Supervisor and a witness (usually one of our volunteers), and then they count the money to insure it is correct, then sign a paper saying that they received that amount. 

Every person leaving the farm is known to have cash on them, thereby putting them at risk and when they get home they need to hide the money well from children and others who are in need.

This was driving Ian CRAZY and after hiring a new Book Keeper/Administrator he tasked her with finding a new payroll system and implementing it. One month later, we have a new system ready to roll!

Here is the interesting part … the new system requires everyone to have a bank account so that we can directly deposit the money in to their account (thereby eliminating all of work listed above).  Out of our 240+ workers, only eight (8) already had bank accounts.  We brought a representative from the FNB Bank out to Project Canaan to help get everyone signed up with an account. 

This was a very interesting exercise for two reasons. First, there were many people who were concerned that the money would go in to their account and then just disappear (where to, they did not know).  Education and reassurance was important.   The second was that in order to get a bank account you have to have a Swazi ID card, which is the most basic form of personal identification that someone can get in Swaziland.  More than 30% of our workers did not have a Swazi ID card, therefore they had no personal identification of any kind.  It took each of them several trips to town and full days waiting in line to get a Swazi ID card.  Many of them had to first apply for a birth certificate (requiring signatures from their local Chief to prove that they were actually born there) and then once they had that they could apply for the ID card.

Imagine being an adult with no Identification papers?  Many of our workers cannot read or write so their signatures are made with a thumb print with an ink pad.  

I have learned so much in the past 10 years of working in Swaziland, but many days I feel like I have just scratched the surface of my knowledge of how things work here.  The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.

We believe we made progress this week and next week’s payroll will be simpler and much more efficient.  But to me, the greatest thing that came out of all of this was that 65+ people now “exist” officially here in Swaziland.

Live from Swaziland … living and learning.


PS Since I don’t have any good photos to go with this blog I will just shamelessly promote three new items in our gift shop that are hand made here at Project Canaan.  As always, 100% of the profit goes directly back to help the children who live at Project Canaan.  The link to shop is

Egg holders - the perfect Easter gift.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sometimes, love hurts.

Samuel and his new baby sister Samantha
This week I got a call from Social Welfare and I greeting him with, “How are you?”.  His response was, “Not good mom, I am not good”.  That is a fairly common answer when he calls me, because he is not calling with good news … ever.

He asked me if I remembered a baby who was placed with us by the police in 2013 and he gave me the surname.  Yes, I knew that baby, it was Samuel.  Samuel’s father was a refugee from the Congo and his mother was a Swazi woman who was a drunkard and kept leaving Samuel in the market, on the side of the road or wherever she placed him in a drunken stupor. 

I remember getting the call from the police asking if I could come and help at the police station because it was 5PM and they had a man who didn’t speak English or siSwati, but he was asking them to take his baby whom his girlfriend had left in the town market.  (Up until that time I didn’t travel with a diaper bag and formula at all times, but because of that day I do now).  The baby was screaming from hunger and the cloth that was wrapped around his waist was soaked.  The police said that they had to investigate this situation, but I could I just take the baby for the night and help them out?  I did, and took Samuel home to be bathed, fed and loved.

Samuel - November 2013.

The next morning I was called by the police to say that the mother had arrived at the police station frantically looking for her baby. She was sobbing and wanted him back so badly.  Lori Marschall was with me and we got in the car and “returned” the baby.  The mother was given a stern warning by the police, we prayed for the safety of the baby and handed him over, truly fearing for his life.

Returning Samuel to his mother.
One week later Samuel’s mother left him on the side of the road near Manzini and ran away (not to be seen again for many many months).  The baby was placed back in our care permanently and the refugee father signed the papers putting the child in to our care.

That was the baby that the Social Welfare officer was asking me about.  And the reason he asked was because Samuel’s mother had just been found again living on the street, this time with a 9-day old baby girl.  She was reported to the police and together they went to the homestead to investigate the situation and see if they could find a family member who could take the baby and help the mother.

Sadly, they learned that this 33- year old woman had lost both her parents when she was young, and had been raised by her paternal Grandfather, but also that had spent most of her life living on the street or going from man to man for food, and love.  She is HIV positive and this baby girl was her 7th child: two are dead, two are living with the Great Grandfather, one is living with his biological father’s family and Samuel is living at Project Canaan. 

I drove to town later that day and met with the mother and an Uncle, who was very unhappy about the woman’s behavior and begged for our help.  As we sat in a government office (that was at least 90F), the Uncle and the police told story after story of this woman’s life.  The whole time she sat quietly while tenderly caressing the baby’s tiny fingers and examining the baby’s face for small flecks of dirt.  She loves that baby.  I brought my iPad with me with a Christmas photo of Samuel on it.  I asked if it would be appropriate to show her the photo and I was told “yes”.  When the police officer showed the mother the current photo of Samuel, she immediately broke down and wept.  She loves her son. 

Today is Valentines’ Day, which is not a day that is celebrated around the world, but in North America there is a plethora of red and pink hearts, fresh flowers, chocolate and lovely meals.  It is a day that we are reminded to be intentional about our love for others.  It is a day that we celebrate love and the people whom we love.

The police, Social Welfare and the family of Samuel’s mother truly believe that the best way to protect and LOVE the baby girl was for her to be placed out of harms way and in to the loving care of the El Roi Baby Home.  We have named her Samantha.  The mother will be getting a tubal ligation (funded through my Compassion Purse) and we pray that she will stay in the homestead where her other two children live, and not run away again to a life of addiction, prostitution and hopelessness.  I wish I could say that I am hopeful, but there is nothing I can do for her.

As you celebrate your loved ones today, please remember those who love, but are hurting.  They are all around us, not just in Swaziland, but all over the world.  Today I am reminded that Jesus is love, and He will never fail us even when people do.  I hold on to that knowledge as I head down to tell our babies and our Aunties how much I love them all.

Live from Swaziland … let us love one another.


PS – An important side note:  women in Swaziland, no matter what their age, do not have the right to choose a tubal ligation (having her tubes tied).  In order for that to happen a Senior male member of her family must go to the hospital and sign the papers stating that the family agrees that she will no longer be having babies for the family.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for writing this, but it's the truth.  Some hospitals require a letter from a Doctor at a Psychiatric Hospital saying that the mother is mentally insane, which is the only “acceptable” reason for them to tie her tubes.  We still have some work to do here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I spent a full day in a Taiwanese hospital

Today is Baby Deborah’s 2nd birthday.  If you haven’t read her story, please take a moment and do that now (

This week I had the most incredible experience in a medical facility that I have ever had in my life – well, “GOOD” experience that is. This is not a typical blog for me, but for you “die hard” readers, as well as people who are frustrated with healthcare in their respective countries, I think you will appreciate my day on Wednesday.

Now that we live in Swaziland we no longer qualify for free healthcare in Canada and we don’t pay for health insurance in the US.  Our options in Swaziland and South Africa are minimal at best and scary at worst.  Taiwan has an excellent reputation for excellent healthcare at VERY affordable prices (relatively speaking).  So, I knew I would have a day off during my week in Taiwan this week and decided to go and get some things checked out.  You know, those medical things that you would go and consult your family doctor about and she/he would likely send you to run some tests.

Depending on the country you are in it might take weeks or months to get all the testing done and the price would range from $0 to many thousands of US dollars. 

On Wednesday my friend Teresa Gibson and I went (at her recommendation), to the Jen-Ai Hospital in Taichung. It’s considered a small regional hospital, and I LOVED IT!  Can you believe I am saying that I loved a hospital experience?  Here is why:

·      We arrived at 10AM.
·      We were greeted by a man named Mark Chan, who was like our personal “Concierge” for the day.  He never left our sides and helped us quickly navigate a new hospital with most signs being in Chinese.
·      Between 10 AM and 12 noon I saw two specialists, had a chest X-ray, EKG, full blood work workup, weight/height/BP, a couple of “procedures” that included the words “just take off your clothes right there” (won’t go any to any details for fear of losing my male readership, but ladies … email me if you want the rest of that story – hilarious).  I passed all tests with the final word from the Doctor being “Go exercise”.   Bahahahahaha.  Good solid advice.
·      Between 12 – 2 PM everyone stops for lunch, and this two-hour break includes a 30-minute nap, that is culturally accepted and encouraged.
·      Teresa and I went out for the most delicious noodles and came back to the hospital in time to get a 20-minute back massage from the blind masseurs (apparently every hospital has an area for massage and it is typically employed by blind people).

·      Between 2PM and 5PM I saw an orthopedic surgeon (having some never-ending back problems), had another X-ray, MRI, more blood work, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment plan and some medication to make me more comfortable when necessary.  I left with a CD with my x-rays and MRI.
·      At 5PM my new BFF Mark hailed a taxi and we headed home for dinner.
Other options that I didn't take advantage of (!).
This whole day cost me no more than $600 US.  I never sat and waited more than 4 minutes (they have an outstanding number system) outside of an office, never once felt rushed, always felt that the Doctors were concerned about me and wanted to help AND I got a 20- minute back massage!

Taiwan spends 6% of the total GDP on healthcare.  As a comparative, Canada spends 11.6% of the total GDP and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States spent more on health care per capita ($8,608), and more on health care as percentage of its GDP (17.2%), than any other nation in 2011.

I am not making a political statement, nor am I trying to stir any pots. I am just saying that I had a GREAT day at the Jen-Ai Hospital in Taichung, Taiwan on Wednesday and would recommend them to any International patient who was looking for affordable and excellent care.

Live from Taiwan … heading home to Swaziland today!