Saturday, March 28, 2015
This past week Ian and I have been guests of the Egg Farmers of Canada in Ottawa, Canada. While we are told that it is “spring” here, the -15C (33 F) weather, snow on the ground and grey skies seem to contradict that belief.
The purpose of this part of our trip was to be here for the official launch of the partnership between Heart for Africa and the Egg Farmers of Canada. This included media interviews and many meetings on Parliament Hill with Members of Parliament who may (or may not) be interested in what we are doing in Swaziland.
We were completely out of our “comfort zone” and on days where it was a 122F (50C) difference in temperature between Ottawa and Swaziland, our hearts were warmed by the friendly welcome that we received by every one we met.
Thursday was a particularly interesting day as we were invited to speak at the Standing Committee on Foreign and International Development. We were considered “witnesses” and were brought in before the committee as “experts” on what is happening on the ground in Swaziland.
We met with the Chairman and a Member of this Committee on Wednesday and they were interested enough in what we were doing in Swaziland that they extended our time on Thursday from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.
It was a fascinating experience and we started by reading a 7 minute written introduction that we had to submit the week before so that it could be translated in to French (all things in Canadian government are in both French and English). From there, the committee members had a “first round” of questions, which gave each Member of Parliament 7-minutes to ask us questions and for us to answer them. Once the first round of questions was finished, then the second round was made up of 5-minute time slots of questions and answers.
All dialogue was either in English and interpreted into French or in French and interpreted into English. When questions were asked in French, we put an earpiece in our ears and listened to the interpreted question. When we answered in English the interpreter changed it back in to French for the MP. It was an exhausting, but interesting experience, and we sincerely hope that the Canadian government will be able to come alongside Heart for Africa and assist us in the future.
For those Canadians reading this, we will be on Breakfast Television on Monday, March 30th at 6:20 AM. CTV Ottawa is doing a feature on us that will air on the evening news on Thursday, April 2nd at 6:25 PM.
We are enjoying this time at “home” where the Tim Horton’s coffee is hot, the air outside is cold, much of the conversation around us is not in English (or siSwati) and the people are friendly and supportive.
Thank you again Tim Lambert, Peter Clarke and the Egg Farmers of Canada for your love and support. We are proudly Canadian.
Live from our Nation’s Capitol … we are flying to Toronto.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
This past week was full of emotional ups and downs. My faithful readers are likely tired of hearing that, but as I step off a plane in Atlanta, Georgia this morning, on my way through to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, I am so aware that the next four weeks in North America will be NOTHING like the last week(s) in Swaziland. And for the moment, I give thanks.
On Tuesday I made the two-hour drive (again) to pick up the baby who I wrote about in by blog on March 7, 2015. If you haven’t read it, please do (http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-newborn-baby-was-being-eaten-by.html). This baby boy had been placed in a plastic bag by his mother and dumped in the river just after birth. Miraculously he lived, but sadly his “back end” was eaten by river crabs before he was rescued by a “passer-by”.
When we picked up the baby at the hospital we were shown how to care for his “double barrel” colostomy (two output holes instead of one?!). We were also shown his wound so that we would know how to care for it. The nurse removed the gauze that was attached to the open wound, sprayed it with saline, cleaned it with Betadine and then put new gauze on for us to bring him home.
|Double barrel Colostomy opening|
They didn’t have the right size colostomy bag so they had to use a razor to cut another one to fit both holes. I am not sure that we have even found newborn colostomy bags in Swaziland, so they were doing the very best with what they had. The hospital also didn't have bottles (bottle feeding is always discouraged in hospitals largely to prevent people from mixing formula with dirty water) so this little guy was being fed with a cup for the past two weeks.
When I met with the Doctor about the wound care, he said that the wound is so deep, it looks as if a rat was burrowing a hole. And if that wasn’t enough, the baby tested positive for HIV when a rapid test was done.
We prayed long and hard about what to call him, and it was decided by our Senior Supervisors that “River” was a good name. In Swazi tradition, it is common to give a child a name based on something that happened that day like a big wind or lots of rain. He will be called River, for that is where his young life was saved (and we already have a Moses).
The next day I was picking up the mother of Baby George to have her help us get a birth certificate for him. She was a rape victim and didn’t want the baby who was the result of that rape. As we drove together she started to tell me how desperate she was when she learned of the pregnancy. She cried out to God and begged for His help in that situation. She was ashamed and knew her mother would be so angry at her and not believe her story so she tried to commit suicide … many times. And then she laughed and said, “And I couldn’t even do that!” She went on to explain that she had eaten rat poison (a common suicide method here in Swaziland) on several occasions in order to end her life, but she said she didn’t even get a stomachache or diarrhea! Nothing. She laughed again and said, “I prayed to God to help me and He did. He wouldn’t let me die or my unborn baby. He must have a big plan for this baby.” He is the God who sees.
Just before I left to go to town I was called by a Social Welfare officer to tell me that one of our other baby’s mothers was in the hospital, and was very very sick (which is why the child was placed with us in the first place). She has Tuberculosis in her bones and it is specifically targeting her lower spine. UGH. She was having nightmares about dying and just wanted to see a photo of her children. Two of her older children are placed at a different home in Swaziland, and the youngest one, Bella, is with us. So on my way off the farm I stopped and took a short video of her on my handy-dandy iPad that showed beautiful Bella walking with the assistance of an Auntie holding both her hands.
When we arrived at the hospital (and spent an hour trying to get permission from a security guard, three nurses and a doctor to visit her before visiting hours opened) and when we showed her the video of her baby and she wept. She was so overwhelmed by the moment I just didn’t know what to do other than take a photo of her and tell her that I will put this photo in her baby’s file.
It’s been a long week, but I am rewarded by seeing Spencer’s happy face for the next 24 hours, enjoying Target, Macy’s and PF Chang’s and then I get to see my mom in her nursing home next weekend. God is good, all the time.
Live from Georgia … it is Saturday morning.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
On Monday, March 9th the front page headline of a National newspaper claimed that “Over 8,860 babies die in 11-months”, and for anyone reading that with a smart phone or calculator nearby you can do the math to see that more than 26 babies die every day in Swaziland. That is shocking.
The article went on to explain, “At least 8,860 infants have died in the past 11-months. This figure is based on the Infant Morality Rate (IMR) of 54.82 as per American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 2014 Country Health Ratings. IMR refers to the number of children under a year old who die in a given population per thousand. It is an indicator used to measure the health and well being of a nation.”
Swaziland has the 5th highest IMR in the world, only topped by Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
99% of all Childhood Mortality is found in developing nations and it is estimated that 60%-80% of all of those deaths are directly related to low birth weight.*
You can go to the link below and research this yourself, but let me explain this in layman’s terms (or Janine’s terms) how I interpret this based only on my personal observations and experience in Swaziland over the past 10 years.
First, those numbers, based on the CIA, are calculated on a ratio to live births in the country. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that they don’t include babies who die on the side of the river, in pit latrines, who are burned to death by their parents or die of malnutrition at home because their mother was too poor to take them to a hospital. The number is much higher, I promise you, but undocumented. I am glad to get that off my chest.
Next, while there are other factors that lead to low birth weight, a malnourished mother is at the top of the causes. I have seen hundreds of women who are in the labor ward at the hospital who hardly look 6-months pregnant, let alone ready to deliver a full term baby. Women living in the rural communities are living on pap (a porridge made strictly from ground maize/corn, similar to grits, but without the butter or salt). These young mothers are starving, their babies are starving (and dying) and the other children who are living in the homestead are suffering in the same way, but somehow they dodged becoming a Childhood Mortality statistic.
We are told that 65% of all Swazi’s depend on International Food Aid for one meal a day. In much of the country the only meal a child will receive in a day is their school lunch, which is provided by the government from Monday to Thursday. Friday to Monday are very long, hungry days.
Heart for Africa is trying to do our part in helping feed Orphaned and Vulnerable children through our rural church partners. We currently feed 3,500 children every week and provide 74,000+ hot meals every month. We distribute Feed My Starving Children “Manna Pack’s” along with ground maize from Project Canaan to the churches every two weeks. But the churches are being stretched by more and more hungry children, and so are we.
Here is where this story gets hopeful. Ian and I will be flying to Canada on March 22nd at the invitation of the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC - www.eggfarmers.ca). We will be speaking at their Annual General Meeting and sharing with the Canadian egg farmers, and the Canadian population through media about the plight of the children of Swaziland (both born and unborn). The EFC has signed a partnership agreement with Heart for Africa to fund, build, support and provide training for an Egg Farm on Project Canaan that will provide thousands of hardboiled eggs each and every day that we will then distribute to the children in our rural feeding projects.
“Once complete, the Egg Farm will provide fresh eggs for all the children living on the Project Canaan Farm, and also help thousands of people in the community by providing a high quality, locally produced protein, that’s essential for human growth and development.” Tim Lambert, CEO Egg Farmers of Canada.
Providing eggs isn’t going to solve the Infant Mortality Rate of Swaziland overnight, but over time, eggs can play a significant role in increasing the County Health Rating and I do believe that they will save many lives and increase the health of thousands of children. In the meantime, we will do our part by saving the babies that we can, and providing for them with the support of our friends.
Live from Swaziland … I want to Get Crackin’ (and make breakfast).
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Yesterday morning I got a call from a Social Welfare Officer who asked if we had room for a newborn baby boy? She said that after the mother had given birth she wrapped him in a plastic bag and then dumped him in a stream. He was found several hours later by people passing by. Fortunately, he had not drowned or been eaten by a crocodile, but unfortunately he was covered in fresh water river crabs that had been eating his flesh and that they did a lot of damage to the back side of his body.
The injured baby was rushed to hospital on Tuesday and by Thursday he was taken in to the surgical ward to try to clean and repair the damage. The mother is still missing and police are actively looking for her. To receive a call like this is not only shocking and heartbreaking, but made me physically sick to my stomach for much of the day. I was sent photos of the damaged baby that I have chosen not to post publically at this time. I wish I could “un-see” them.
We pray for this baby and while we don’t know what the future holds, we know that Jesus has him securely in the palm of His hands.
EVERY time that we purchase a Swazi National newspaper and are shocked, sickened and saddened by the headlines.
Today’s blog is simple. Ian and I purchased the two National newspapers for this past Thursday then went through and clipped a few headlines in order to give you a taste of what is happening here in our news world.
During our search we found a tiny article that mentioned the baby who was found on the side of the river. To tell you the truth, I totally missed it the first time I went through the paper. Too common, buried several pages in, not really news I guess?
Come Lord Jesus, come. I am not sure how much more of this I can take.
Live from Swaziland … I am thankful for the God who sees.