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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Project Canaan Green Bean Picker delivers baby on the side of the road

Yesterday was a typical day in Swaziland.   It’s incredible how so many human emotions can be felt in one day, always leaving you emotionally exhausted.  Yesterday was just another one of those days.

It started scary.  Ian and I were having breakfast when I suddenly choked on a piece of toast.  There was no air going in to my lungs and we looked at each other in a panic. He asked me if I was okay and I shook my head “no”. He asked if I needed help and I nodded, unable to get an ounce of air in to my lungs.  Ian quickly starting doing the Heimlich maneuver and after 6 or 7 tries finally dislodged the bread.  It took me at least 10 minutes of terrible coughing to get to a place of normal breathing, and I was left with a splitting headache (even as I type this a day later).  I am thankful to be alive and thankful that Ian was there and knew what to do.

Shortly after that I got a call from Brooke saying that a woman from the farm had just given birth and the newborn was tiny, alive and at the El Rofi Medical Clinic. What??  I jumped on an ATV, flew down to the baby home to pick up clothes, diapers, blankets etc, and then proceeded (at the speed of light) to the clinic.

Sure enough, there was a brand spankin’ new baby boy weighing 2.46 KG (5.4 lbs – which is a good sized baby here).  The mother was working picking green beans on the farm on a very hot sunny day.  She was dizzy and thirsty so went to her Supervisor for some water.  The Supervisor sent her to the medical clinic located about one mile from where she was picking.  As she walked along the new Living Water Dam when she had to stop because a baby was coming out.  She delivered the baby on to the dirt (alone), wrapped the baby in the skirt that she had wrapped around her pants/trousers then delivered the placenta.  She found a hole in the ground and dumped the placenta in the hole, then proceeded to walk to the clinic.

As she passed the Kufundza Carpentry center one of the workers (named Fortunate) saw the woman and came out to help her. She carried the baby while the two made their way to the clinic.  When she arrived Brooke and Sister Grace were there. Grace pointed at the wet child wrapped in a skirt and said, “What is that?? Is that a baby?!”  The answer was yes.  The mother thought she was only 3-months pregnant.  Nope, she was wrong.

Beth Blaisdell also just happened to be giving a tour of the clinic to Ali and MacKensie from Cox-Curry who are visiting from Georgia.  It’s always fun to have outside “witnesses” to the crazy things that happen here. 

Brooke carefully wiped the dirt off the baby and clamped the umbilical cord, weighed him and then called me.  The calmness and professionalism that Brooke ALWAYS exudes, never ceases to amaze me.  She is a rock star.

The mother went and washed while we all looked at the baby.  I congratulated her, called Ken to drive her to home and then realized I was almost late for my next appointment.

I hopped back on my ATV and flew up to the Project Canaan Academy Primary School where the foundation was being poured.   Our wonderful friends at WLA (Women Leaders in Action) provided the funds to get the Primary School underway and we were honored to have the founder of WLA, Pam Joseph, here for the laying of the foundation.  WLA also funded the Preschool and Kindergarten buildings.

We had Head teacher, Amber VanWinkle, along with the children who are currently in the Kindergarten class, all present for the big event.  They all got to put their hands in the wet cement and then write their names on the first classroom floor.  Next we moved them to a separate piece of wet concrete where the first 3 students who will attend Primary School placed their right hand in the concrete.  Amber, Pam and Ian followed and that piece will be designed in to the wall or walkway of the Primary School.

From there Ian and I made a quick drive in to town to buy 5 buckets of KFC and 66 chicken strips for the Emseni kids and all the Children’s Campus staff, a treat for all thanks to Pam.  The chicken was delivered, the big kids settled in with our guests for movie night  at The Oasis and Ian and I came home, closed the gates, turned on the electric fencing, let out the dogs and crashed on the couch.

Live from Swaziland … every day is a gift from God.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why we had to say “no” to a baby this week (caution - graphic photos)

I always hoped we would not have to say “no” to a child in need, but this week it happened.

There are certain criteria that we have when accepting children, but it is more age related than anything else.  We welcome children who are HIV positive and even those with serious medical conditions that require hospitalization or surgery (see last week’s story about Phephile or River’s story at

Our focus is accepting children under the age of 12-months.  We have made a few exceptions to that rule including Gabriel, Rose, Grace, Jared, Thando, Junior and Phephile, but for the most part we accept small babies.  In fact 50% of our children arrive under 30-days old. All of the children will stay with us until they finish high school and find their way in to University, vocational training or find employment.

Another guideline that we have is that we do not knowingly accept severely disabled children.  We do not have the staff or expertise to manage children with disabilities and the Social Welfare officers know what our guidelines are.  That being said, we do have two children who are blind (Grace and Michelle) and we have another 10% of our children who have some kind of long term disability, typically Cerebral Palsy related, that was not identified until the child was old enough to be assessed.

But this week was different. 

I was called about an urgent case of a 9-month old child who needed help. I asked about the child’s health status and was told that the child was fine, just couldn't sit by himself, but that was likely due to his malnourished state.  I was asked to come immediately while a court order was being sought.   I took Welile (our baby home Sr. Supervisor) and Chris Cheek so that we could assess the child in person. Things are not always as they are told to us on the phone. 

We drove for 2 hours and found the child sitting on a piece of cardboard outside the Social Welfare office.   Immediately we knew that things weren’t as we had been told.  The child was actually 1-year old and we instantly knew that he was totally blind.  We asked the mother if he was born that way and she said, no.  He had large bumps down one side of his body and ended up in the government hospital for 3-months. He became blind during that time.  He had no muscle tone at all in his body and his head flopped from side to side as his mouth moved in a very strange way as his head fell backwards.

His diaper was simply a plastic grocery bag and he needed to be changed so Welile offered a diaper and wipes.   When the mom wiped his bottom we saw huge scars where much of his right buttocks had been removed.  We were shocked at the site/sight and when we asked her about it she said that the hospital had cut some of the lumps out and that is how the scaring happened.  

Then I asked to see the child’s health card.  That is when we saw the worst of it – he had Tuberculosis (TB) and he was not on treatment (which is free here). He had a terrible cough and was a sick little boy.  Sadly, none of the mother’s stories seem to add up.   Each sentence would contradict something that she had just said so we really weren’t able to get an accurate history. 

As Welile, Chris and I discussed the situation and it was clear that this child needed help, but it was not help that we could give.  Bringing a sick, coughing child with TB into a home with 101 others, many who are immune compromised, would be a disaster. 

I have learned A LOT about pediatric medical conditions since moving here.  Here is what we are “guessing” happened to the child.  We think that the large
“bumps” were a result of having TB - severely swollen/abscess glands are common.  We are assuming that the child had meningitis (brain infection) while in hospital which caused the blindness and the Cerebral Palsy-like symptoms.  We really don’t know what is going on at home and don’t have any confidence that the story told to us by the mother is in any way true or accurate.  Social Welfare has more investigating to do in this case.  We gave the mother some money from my Compassion Purse and drove back to town where Phephile was getting a hard plaster cast on her broken leg.  

Wednesday was a tough day, but I do know that we can’t save everyone.  We are called to be prayerful about who comes to the home and protect those who have been placed in our care.

I will continue to pray for this child, his mother and others who are in desperate need. And I will continue to give thanks to the God who sees and ask that HE provide His comfort to us all.

Live from Swaziland … the good news is Phephile is doing well and now living at the toddler home.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

This is easy.

My last few blogs have been pretty heavy so today I am going to be short and sweet with hopes that every single person who read this will share this blog with friends and family.  Here are a few key facts:
  1. Raising 101 children is expensive. 
  2. I hate putting my hand out and asking for money/donations.
  3. Most of you will buy Christmas gifts for friends and family this year. 
I am asking you to buy Christmas gifts from Heart for Africa where 100% of the profit goes back to buying diapers, formula, food, and paying for caregivers, nurses, doctors and education. It’s not a donation, it’s Christmas shopping made easy.

We have 54 full time employees at the Khutsala Artisans shop on Project Canaan in Swaziland, Africa.  They have been working since January to make Christmas tree ornaments to help with our goal of becoming self-sustainable.  We have 12,000 ornaments made, they are in the US now and ready to ship to you!

They are flat, they fit easily in a Christmas card, they can be used as a decoration on the top of a gift, they are the perfect teacher gift and they are only $10 each.

Will you go on line and buy one (or MANY) today?  Everyone can help us provide for our babies by simply shopping.  Just go to

Enoch our Christmas Elf.
Fun facts:

Each Star has 790 beads, and uses 12.5 feet of wire.
Each Tree has 460 beads and uses 12.8 feet of wire.
Each Angel has 560 beads and uses 23.3 feet of wire. 

Each ornament takes approximately 4 hours to make.

Thank you for reading, thank you for shopping and thank you for sharing.

Live from South Africa … celebrating Ian’s 50th birthday this weekend.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

2-year-old has five breaks in her right arm?

This week I got a call about a child who is 2-years old and had a broken leg.  I was told that the hospital would not operate on the child until they were assured that she would have a place of safety to live when she was discharged from the hospital.

That was Wednesday. 

Thursday I met the child. It wasn’t just a broken leg that this child had, it was a year-long history of living in hell with family members who were abusing her.

Her right arm had five separate breaks, but the Doctors told me that many of those breaks had been broken again after they had healed.  Then there was the leg.  Both the femur and the tibia were badly broken. The Doctor said it was a classic case of child abuse because the breaks were just on the top and bottom of the knee.

When we removed the bandage that wrapped the arm for protection from further breaks we discovered large burn scars and rotting flesh.  She is also missing the end of the finger next to her pinky.  She doesn't speak at all. No words. She understands direction and raises her eyebrows to acknowledge that she heard the question, but not a word has been spoken from her lips.

The mother of the child was with her in the hospital, but she has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old.  She just smiled every time we looked at her, while her child went in and out of consciousness due to the pain she was in.  The leg had been broken on Sunday, and it was now Thursday.  The aspirin equivalent that she was given just wasn’t enough.  The mother had no idea how the child’s bones had been broken, no idea how she had been burned, but said that some children had been hitting her finger with rocks and finally the end of it just fell off.

After a long day and the help of the Magistrate’s Court and Social Welfare Office I was heading to a private hospital with the mother and child in the back seat of my borrowed vehicle (our cars are broken down).  When we arrived we met with the Orthopedic surgeon right away and after looking at the x-rays he said that he would do surgery the following day to wire her bones back together.  After looking at her arm, he said he would need to work on a “strategy” for the arm because there were so many breaks that hadn’t healed together and there were two fairly new ones that had started to heal.

Yesterday the child was operated on and just an hour in to the surgery I received an urgent call from the local laboratory.  They asked if I was the legal guardian for the child and I said, yes.  They asked if I would be paying the bill for the child and I said, yes.  They told me that she needed a blood transfusion and would I come in and pay for the blood immediately so that they could send it to the hospital.

I was an hour’s drive from town and she was lying open on the operating table.  Thankfully we have an account with that lab (based on the number of sick/hurting kids we deal with) and I was able to assure her that I would pay the bill.  (30-minutes later the Accounting department called and asked for my email address so that they could send me the bill straight away).  Yes, we will pay the bill.

There is more to the story that I can’t share in a public blog because it wouldn't be right for the child.  But rest assured that a team of people from Social Welfare and the Child Protection division of the police (and me) will be on this case until someone is in prison.  

Pointing out the breaks in her arm.
I went to visit her this morning and took some children’s DVD’s (we have a portable DVD player that goes on all hospital stays) and snuggly toys. Today she will see the first movie of her whole life.  Today she is safe. Today her body will start to heal and we pray that her heart and her memories will begin to heal too. One day she will speak and sing and dance.

Phephile (Pa-pee-lay), you are loved.

Live from Swaziland … I just don’t understand child abuse.