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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Buy a t-shirt, feed a child. #sharehope




We have been working on a Hunger Initiative, that will help us feed starving children seven days a week, rather than just on the weekend as we have been doing before.  This is more critical now than ever with schools closed, and schools being the place where most children get their only meal each day.  We hope to raise funds to build proper cooking structures, complete with a storage room that allows our churches to store food and supplies for two weeks between deliveries, but with churches in the US and Canada closed, and with all the uncertainty of COVID-19, we have not been able to get the project off the ground the way we had hoped. BUT we are moving the project forward, first by building a model cooking structure on Project Canaan.

 

The building has two sides, one where the two women will be hired to cook the food, and the other will provide locked storage for the food that we deliver every two weeks.  This includes MannaPack from Feed My Starving Children, hard boiled eggs from our layer barn, and a new dried food product (beans/ dried vegetable soup mix) that we recently received from Gleanings for the Hungry in California.

 


Ian has always wanted to feed our farm workers who make a minimal wage, but do back breaking work all day in the fields, through extreme heat and cold. With funds received from a friend in Hawaii, we were able to build the first cooking structure, right on Project Canaan, which allowed us to work out the bugs, so to speak, buy the right sized pots, and think about what message we can put on the side of the building to brighten it up and inspire our workers and the children who will be eating at the church feeding centers.  I am always thankful for Ian’s drone photos, and his ability to help a sister out with putting graphics on the side electronically to show what we hope this will look like.

 


We need a lot of help to feed a lot of starving children. You can feed a child for one month by ordering our new Share HOPE t-shirt today at  https://khutsala.com/search?q=Share+hope+shirt  If you want more information about building a cooking structure at one of our church partners, or having your church or community group partner with a church in Eswatini, please contact hannah@heartforafrica.org. 


I also wanted to let you know that the UNITY Collection bracelets and earrings have arrived at the warehouse in Michigan and are ready to ship, so please buy a beautiful piece of handcrafted jewelry from Eswatini that can help inspire a conversation while supporting African artisans.  You can find the collection athttps://khutsala.com/collections/unity-collection


Happy 4th of July to all of our US friends and family!

Live from Eswatini … we are going for a walk with the kids.

 

Janine

Saturday, June 27, 2020

What do you do with 200+ children when schools are closed?

The school year in most African schools starts at the end of January and ends at the end of November.  When COVID-19 struck the world, and schools were forced to close, the Project Canaan Academy also had to close, which meant that 200+ of our children didn’t finish their first term and there is no end in sight to the school closings.  

 

Even though our children all live on Project Canaan and the school is also on Project Canaan, it would be very dangerous, legally, to open our schools and run the risk of being reported to the police.  Our head teacher, Amber, our Program Director, Bryan, along with our staff and other volunteers have done a really great job of creating educational programing so that our kids don’t lose the learning that they gained. We will focus on tutoring in the weeks to come, but for the past couple of weeks we decided to have life lessons as a part of their education.  I thought you might enjoy hearing and seeing about some of their adventures.



Our older kids took turns with their first sleep-overs at the Swazi homestead.  While some of the kids were really excited about it, others complained that there was no electricity, no heaters, no bed and no TV!  Our Swazi staff was very quick to explain that none of them grew up with electricity, heaters, beds or TV’s!   The kids are learning how to cook over an open water, heat up water to bathe, sweep the yard and sleep on a grass mat.  They even discovered a couple of graves that are right near the cooking structure (one baby and one adult), which is all part of learning about the culture.  All in all, each evening has been a huge success.  Early this morning I learned that the boys had hiked up to the cross and were praying for protection from COVID-19 for Project Canaan, Eswatini and the world.



When our children turn 6-years-old their birthday gift is a trip to Hlane Game Reserve to see the animals on a game drive. We typically wait until we have visitors for those trips so that both our visitors and children get an extra special day.  With borders closed and no visitors in sight we decided to take a group of kids and staff for their special birthday gift. They learned about the lions and elephants, saw interesting plant life and, as always, enjoyed the long ride on our school bus.




Table manners have always been an important part of the Maxwell household (just ask Spencer and Chloe!) and it is equally important to us that our Project Canaan children have good table manners. Even if they are eating with their fingers, as Swazi’s often do, they need to learn how to do it properly.  They have been practicing good table manners at home and this week were rewarded by being able to go to the Nkonyeni restaurant to practice eating outside the home. Everyone passed with flying colors and the Nkonyeni staff commented on how well behaved our children were. Well done team!


We have been hosting different houses up to our fire pit to talk about choices; what is a good choice and what is a bad choice? What happens when you make a good choice and what happens when you make a bad choice? The conversation ends with having to choose which type of chocolate bar they want to eat.  Each Emseni house comes up on their own and the conversations have been as enlightening as they are hilarious.  As reported to us after the first visit, River was keeping all the boys up in E2 after their lights were out and they were supposed to be sleeping. But he was just too excited from the visit to our house and the chocolate. When Auntie Sakhile went in to scold the boys for the second time for making too much noise, she asked River why he was talking so much when he was supposed to be sleeping.  His answer was, “Sorry Auntie, I made a bad choice.”   Well, someone was listening!

In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, I hope you are encouraged and that these photos and stories brought a smile to your face.  Below is a photo of what is bringing a smile to my face today, and what has made this blog late being posted.


Live from Eswatini … we are getting our hair cut in our own home!

Janine

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What's really going on at Project Canaan?


It seems that the world is so weighed down at this time, that I thought I would write a blog with some fun updates from “Project Canaan during lockdown”. 

 

First, I am writing a third book.  For years people have asked me when I was going to write another book, and my answer has always been that this blog, that you are reading, is the third book. It’s current and free!  But I realized recently that there is no real documentation of the history of Project Canaan, the trials, tribulations, joy, miracles and wonders that we have experienced. I don’t have a title yet, but I have been able to get seven of the twelve chapters written during the lockdown.   The book will also share what we see for the future of Project Canaan and our children and I hope to provide some “key learnings” to people who want to start a project of this nature. Hoping for a book launch in the fall (even though it might be virtual with our borders likely still closed ). 


Our construction and maintenance departments have never been busier (and perhaps never less busy, as they are always working at full steam).  We have dug and poured the foundation for both Emseni #7 and the new Oasis building (O2).  They are focused on finishing the next Project Canaan Academy building, which will be home to 3rd and 4th Grades, Fine Arts and Life Skills classes in the new school year in January 2021.


Project Canaan Academy  Primary School

Emseni #7
A newly redesigned Emseni #7

Emseni #7 (bottom left), Oasis #2 (center)

Goat is a very popular source of meat protein here, and goats breed like rabbits, but they are also popular to wild jackals, and hungry Swazi’s, so Ian decided to build a separate goat management program, protecting them from wild and human danger.  We have fenced off 4.5 hectares/11 acres with three separate fenced areas for controlled grazing.  There is a handling center, complete with maternity ward (really) and treatment center (complete with foot bath – I’m not making this up, Ian is dictating) as goats are susceptible to hoof rot. 




Last week I wrote about the idea of a UNITY Collection at Khutsala Artisans, and we received very positive response to the bracelets being used as conversation starters in this time of conflict. We even received an order for 80 bracelets from a friend who wants to give them to the staff in their medical office.  We continued with design this week and have created this beautiful UNITY necklace, circular bracelet and keychain.  Last week’s bracelets are on their way to our US warehouse and will be available next week. You can preorder those here.



Two more buildings of note are the Dairy Manager’s home (Arlyn and  Maria are pretty excited about that!  And we are building a cooking structure where we will not only be cooking a daily meal for our farm workers, who do back-breaking work through extreme heat, cold and rain.  This structure will be the model for what we want to build at our 30 church partners, once we launch our Hunger Initiative 2020, which will allow our churches to expand their cooking from 2-days per week to 7-days per week.  If you are interested in more details on that now, please contact hannah@heartforafrica.org.


Dairy Manager House


This is how we cook for our farm workers.

Cooking structure with locked food storage

You likely know that we have an abattoir on the farm so don’t buy beef or goat meat anymore because we can slaughter and carve up our own.  Today the guys were making mince for the children’s campus.  Ian and I love seeing so many pieces and parts coming together, and we often catch these small details when we walk around the farm.


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Last, but most certainly not least, we received a sweet little baby girl this week whom we are calling Mary Lou. She comes in a malnourished body and a broken heart, but we will love her back to life, and she will be whole again.

 


There is hope here in Eswatini, and His work is continuing despite the confusion, disruption and chaos in the world.  Thank you for helping make this possible.

 

Live from Eswatini … sharing hope with the world.

 

Janine

PS  There will be a Facebook LIVE event to  see specifically  what   is going on at the  Project Canaan Academy on June 25th at 9PM EST on our main Heart for Africa page: https://www.facebook.com/heartforafrica/


Here is a link to the Event page where people can let us know if they are going to tune in: https://www.facebook.com/events/266331508052851/

It will also be live-streamed on our YouTube channel as well:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCydq7AD9XwARFECHlM0wtsg



Saturday, June 13, 2020

From Africa, with love.


Project Canaan staff and children praying for the US

Please know that the leadership, staff, older children and volunteers at Project Canaan are praying for UNITY in the United States. 

 

It appears to me that the States are very un-United at this time and the behavior and rhetoric that I am seeing and hearing has left me speechless.  My father used to say that speaking less, and listening more was a good thing, so that is what I am trying to do.

 

The Khutsala Artisans of Eswatini, Africa want to step out in an attempt to support and encourage UNITY in the USA.  There is very little that this tiny Kingdom in sub-Saharan Africa can do to help, but we want to try. Our voices are small, but our hearts are big, and we want to send love from Africa.

 

We have designed a small, but beautiful collection of jewelry that we are calling our UNITY Collection.  It is not on line, and you cannot buy it, because we want to make sure we are doing the right thing first. 

 

Today I am only asking for your constructive opinion of the intention of the pieces and if they resonate with your heart.  Would wearing them encourage you to have conversations with others about unity rather than division? Would wearing them remind you to be kind to one another?  Would giving them as a gift show someone, who perhaps looks different than you, that you care about them?  I am not asking if they are your style, and I don’t want any trash talk in the comments section.  Seriously.

 

We want to be sensitive and caring.  We are not trying to take advantage of a ugly time in history.

 

We have designed simple bracelets and earrings, which say UNITY to us.  Our SwaziMUD beads are handmade and baked in our kilns here in Africa.  There are three designs.  One has five colored beads and is designed to display unity in diversity.  One has red beads that represents the same color of blood that we all have in our bodies (and for followers of Jesus, represents the blood of Christ that saves us). The third bracelet is simply the word UNITY stamped in to pewter.   All three are unisex and adjustable in size.  They would be $15 each.


 

We have designed our earrings in two shapes and three colors.  We have intentionally chosen the shape of a “tear” to represent the tears that continue to be shed all over the world for injustice and the second shape is a circle, representing love, energy and power.  Our earrings will be made in red, black or the mix of five colors.

 


I am thankful to have a solid group of readers whose opinions I want to hear.  If the response to this idea is positive, we can have the UNITY Collection at Khutsala Artisans in the USA within two weeks.  If it is not well received, we will remain quiet and continue our prayers.  If you are moved by this and want to place a large order for your family or church or group, you can email me directly at janine@Heartforafrica.org

Live from Eswatini … from Africa, with love.

Janine


Saturday, June 6, 2020

Can the puzzle change?

Twice last week I got Spencer and Chloe’s ages wrong, asking them both what they wanted for their upcoming 25th birthdays. Spencer reminded me that he was turning 26 and Chloe reminded me that she is turning 24.  Then I planned family ZOOM call for Spencer’s birthday on Saturday, but Chloe corrected me and told me his birthday is on Sunday.  I couldn’t remember the name of one of my Sr. Supervisors, but could describe which house he lived in.

It was then that I realized I am tired.  My brain is tired. My heart is tired. My body is tired. 

I decided to take three days off as mental health days, and decided that I wouldn’t write a blog today as part of my mental health rest, but then something happened yesterday.

I got up and went in to Chloe’s room where we have a small gym and puzzle table set up – for both for mental and physical health.  I got on the bike for a while then did some stretching, then went to the cupboard to see if there was a puzzle we hadn’t done yet.  I reached up and found a puzzle of The United States of America. I have no idea how it got here, or who bought it and it was still in its original plastic.  As Canadians, I am not sure why we would have bought a puzzle of our US neighbors, but there it was, and so I pulled it out.

I started by flipping all the pieces right-side-up and then separated the edge pieces and used the box to show me where the longitude and latitude numbers came together.  The frame was complete and it was time to start the puzzle. The first piece I randomly picked up was Minneapolis.  I burst in to tears, and can hardly see my computer through tears as I write this.  I paused, prayed and laid the piece where it would soon be surrounded by the rest of the state. 

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to continue, but saw that my homeland was up at the top so decided to start with Canada.  It was warm, familiar and while Eswatini, Africa is home for me now, I identify proudly as a Canadian.  The pieces quickly went together as I know Canadian geography well, and could place each piece where it belonged.  Then I picked up a piece and saw the word “Matheson” on it. Again, I burst in to tears.  That was my childhood home town of 3,000 people, located 400 miles north of Toronto.  Why was I crying?  What was wrong with me. I paused, prayed for Matheson and continued with the puzzle.

These bursts of tears continued as I found Chicago (where Spencer lives), southern Ontario (where Chloe lives), Georgia (where many friends and co-workers live), New York, Indianapolis and even Chattanooga brought me to tears.  I paused and prayed over each piece.

Why was I crying over a puzzle?  Why am I crying now?  Then I stopped and took the photo that you see below.  The United States of America is in pieces, and I don’t know who is going to put it back together.  Then I had this really weird feeling that if I could just finish the puzzle quickly, it would all be better. I looked for pieces that I knew where would fit, places that I have friends living or that I had visited in my business days or family vacations.  With each piece I paused and prayed and wept.  But as each piece found its place I knew that nothing was going to change by me finishing a puzzle of the United States.  I finished the puzzle, went back to the living room and the news on the television was the same.  Hatred, division, anger and tears. 

From where I stand, it looks to me that the United States are no longer united, and that is both terrifying and devastating to me.  I am a white Canadian woman living on an isolated mountain in the Kingdom of Eswatini where King Mswati III has absolute power, where a Sexual Offense and Domestic Violence law was only (finally) passed in 2019 and up until 2012 there was no Child Protection Act, so child rape wasn't illegal, just frowned upon.  Women still can’t own property here. And in case you feel that the Coronavirus news has become old, exhausting and you want to move on with life, we are still dealing with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, and an estimated 70% of the population with (active or inactive) the highly infectious and deadly Tuberculosis, which is not talked about in western countries because it mostly eradicated.

I’m tired.  And I know you are too.  But let us not grow weary and give up hope. 

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 40:28

Let us join together in prayer, knowing that the creator of Universe is securely on the throne. Let us listen to one another with patience, intentionality and peace that passes all understanding.  Let us pray for justice and unity to prevail through the darkness, and bring us back in to a new light.

Thank you Spencer and Jane for marching peacefully in the Chicago protests. Thank you Chloe and Asad for making Coronavirus test kits in Canada.  I am so very proud and thankful for you all.

Live from Eswatini …

Janine

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The world needs heroes now, more than ever.

 


What do you think of when you think of a hero? Superman? Spiderman?  A fire fighter? Your dad?


It’s a question that comes up each year as we approach the month of June, which is the month that we celebrate Father’s Day. I never really thought of my dad as a hero, but he really was one. He was a caring pharmacist who would stop everything he was doing to listen to a person with a problem, whether it be a physical ailment or a financial problem.  I saw him reach in to his wallet many times to help someone out in need, and he became a hero to them.

 

When I think of my dad, I think of him being a good provider for us. Not everyone has had their dad provide for them, in fact, too many people have been let down by their dad in this area, and therefore struggle with God being a good “father” and a provider.

 

One of our 8-year-old boys, Emmanuel, is a very pensive boy who asks a lot of very deep questions.  Last week he came up to me and asked me where Babe Ian (pronounced Bah-bay, meaning “dad”) was. It was the middle of the day and so I told him that Ian was working.  He rolled his shoulders, and his eyes, and then let out a big sigh and said, “he’s always working”.  And looked at me with a pout.

 

I laughed, and told him that as a father he needed to work to provide for his children.  Working allows a father to put food on the table, buy clothes and provide an education for his children.  I mentioned it to Ian who made a point of going down and spending some time with Emmanuel.  It may have seemed like a little thing, but it was a big thing to Emmanuel. 

 

Both heroes and fathers often do things behind the scenes that no one ever knows about or sees.  It’s often those little things that make all the difference to the outcome. For example, Ian was on the phone for hours trying to find a way to purchase and transport 4,000 seedling trays to plant 800,000 vegetable seedlings from South Africa, WHILE the borders were closed due to Coronavirus. Eswatini is in desperate need of food right now and there are farmers who are desperate to buy seedlings, so getting the seedling trays would mean that we could grow more food, sell more food, sell seedlings to others so that they can grow food, and generate income to provide for our children. 

 

I have seen Ian get in his car and make the 12-hour round trip drive to Johannesburg, through two international borders, to buy fish food for the aquaponics project, all because the person responsible forgot to tell him in advance that they were out of food. The fish would have died had Ian not done what needed to be done, and he did it with joy.

 

Ian is a good father, a good example to his many children and is providing discipleship to other men on how to provide for his family.  But Ian now has 266 children that he is responsible for, and he while he works his butt off to lead a team of smart people who are working on solutions to provide sustainable solutions for these children and those who will follow, he needs help and support.  Heroes and fathers need help and support, but rarely ask for it.

 

Today I am asking for your help.  Did you know that we spend $30/month on cleaning supplies at the El Rofi medical clinic to create a safe and healthy clinic environment?  Did you know that it costs $80/month to transport one of our 340+ employees to and from work every day to save them a FOUR HOUR WALK?  Did you know that it cost $150/month to provide electricity to our staff housing, which is home to 60+ people?  Did you know that it costs $500/month just to buy seeds for planting in our greenhouse and in our fields?  It also costs $500/month to provide electricity for the dairy operation.

 

All of this adds up, and these are things that Ian thinks about all the time.  Each of those things may seem like a “little thing”, but they are BIG things to us.  This morning before I wrote this blog, Ian and I went for our regular walk around the farm, and there it was again... Ian stopped to help this baby goat.

 

For the month of June we are focusing on getting more people to become a Heart for Africa HERO, which means making a monthly financial commitment to help us run the operations of Project Canaan.  God is our father, and He is our provider, and so we are asking Him to bless us this month with 25 new Heroes.  Perhaps you would like to honor your hero by giving a monthly gift of $30?  $80?  $150? $500? If you can, please do so by clicking on one of these links. Join Ian and become a HERO today and help us help people in great need.


In the US: https://www.heartforafrica.org/Become-A-Hero/

 

In Canada: https://www.heartforafrica.ca/be-a-hero/

 

Live from Eswatini … Ian really is my Super Hero!

 

Janine

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Finding joy during lock down



Our borders have been closed since March, which means we can’t leave Eswatini.  We hear that they won’t open up again until South Africa reaches Level 1 of lock down.  South Africa is at level 4 now, and we also hear that South Africa won’t hit the peak of Coronavirus cases until September.  We can’t leave, we are stuck for a long, long time.

BUT, we are “stuck” with 263 really cute and funny children, and so I spend a lot more time with the kids than I usually do.  They just crack me up, and I am quickly able to find joy during lock down when I am with them.

Take Treasure for example.  She just turned 2-years-old and has more personality than perhaps any of our children.  Her face tells the whole story of what is happening in her mind, and she can go from a very grouchy scowl (usually when Ian is around as she doesn’t like him) to a face with total joy, in a split second.  She sheds crocodile tears to get her own way, and feels that she is the only baby who should be held.  I picked her up the other day and took her to the clinic as I had a few things to discuss with the nurse. She sat on my lap and started counting to five.  None of her words were right, but the tone, intonation and self-congratulations were perfect.  Rebekah caught it on video for you to see below.


Then there is a conversation I had with Ruth when I was painting the big girls finger nails, that went like this: 

Ruth:  “Make (mom) Janine, are you going to paint the fingers of the little girls from
Emseni 1?”
Me: “ No, I am only painting the big girls nails.”
Ruth (big sigh): “Well, they probably don’t know if they are a boy or a girl anyway.”

Then there was the conversation with Titus about Spencer and Jane being engaged.  I was telling him that they might come to Project Canaan for a wedding ceremony. Here is how that went:

Titus: “ Why would they come here for a wedding?”
Me:  “Because they would like to have their younger brothers and sisters to be a part of special wedding.”
Titus: “Make (mom), will they kiss?”
Me: “Well, yes, I think they will.”
Titus (closing his eyes): “Oh Make, I can’t watch that. I will have to close my eyes.”

This week at the Project Canaan Academy teacher Amber introduced the concept of sharing hope with people in need, to our primary age children.  When they got their morning snack, they had the opportunity to take that snack and put it in a basket that had a “Share Hope” sign on it.  They were told that the fruit would be given to children who really needed food. Most of our children quickly took their snack and put it in the basket.  Amber did this every day last week, and each day there were only one or two children who ate their snack – everyone else gave it for a hungry child.  Below is a short video of Joshua explaining what they are doing, photos of the basket, and photos of Anthony distributing the fruit to children in need.  


I also want to let you know that we have started delivering food again to our 30 church partners.  We were forced to stop delivery due to travel restrictions, but now the government is encouraging food delivery to help the hundreds of thousands of Swazi’s in need.  Schools have been closed for two months and there is no sign of them reopening in the months to come, so that means that school-going children are not getting the meal that they have come to depend on at school. We MUST feed the children, and we have started doing so again, while encouraging social distancing etc.  We will have more news to share on this in the next week or two. Stay tuned on how you can help feed starving children.   

With many of our workers not able to come to work, with children around the country starving, with the future of our ability to leave the country looking bleak, and with coronavirus news on every channel, it would be easy for me to be depressed and fearful. But I choose joy, and I choose to look at the things that bring me joy and bring me hope.  I hope that you will do the same.  Look for joy.  Look for hope. Watch Treasure’s video over and over again if you need to.

Live from Eswatini … sharing hope with the world.

Janine

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Beautiful things out of the dust (or garbage)


Life has been very hard for our Khutsala Artisans as they are considered “non-essential” and have all been staying at home during the current lock down in Eswatini, which was extended to June 19th last night. 

Not only are they not working, but the product that they produce  helps generate significant income that helps support our 262 children, so without production and sales we are in trouble.  Last week we found a way to get a couple of dozen Khutsala Artisans back to work, while social distancing on the bus and at work, and they are now busy making beautiful tulips, daisies and now lilies in two colors!  


 
During our lock down, I had a couple ladies go in and start to do a big clean-up of the Khutsala building.  One of the things we found were two huge buckets of old beads that had been swept up off the floor at the end of each day.  There was probably 600 pounds of assorted colored beads that were dirty, dull, useless and really should have gone in the garbage, but no one had the courage to throw away all those beads.  Surely, they could be used for something?  They were once beautiful, shiny and ready to be wrapped on to a Christmas tree ornament or to make a beautiful daisy or an elephant, but now they sat in the corner.

I asked the ladies to have the beads washed with soapy water and dried them in the sun, and then we started to work on some new product. What could we make with these recycled beads that would otherwise be garbage?  It was as if they needed redemption, and through that redemption more product could be made and sold and more children could be cared for. Could beads that were meant for the garbage can help feed children who were found in a garbage can?  There was something there that really excited me and so we got to work. 


 
By the end of the day we had five new products made, albeit they are variations on things that we have made in the past.  But take a look at the photo below. We have an 8” wall cross with a SwaziMUD heart in the middle and a smaller version of that in a keychain.  I absolutely LOVE the new garden stake, and will be buying those myself.  It was the following week that we were able to hire a bus to bring a few more people back to work at Project Canaan and the Khutsala Artisans started to make these beautiful pieces from our newly cleaned beads. We are calling this our “Redemption Collection” and we were able to ship this product on Tuesday to our warehouse in the US.  The product should be on line by the  end of next week.



 
The tulips are already in the US and more are on the way. They are not garden stakes (although you could put them in your garden), but they have a green beaded stem and are perfect for display in your home, or even a wedding bouquet that will last for a lifetime.  Please shop  at  www.khutsala.com today and give a gift of HOPE to someone you love.  You will help employ people who really need  a job and also help us care for the 262 children who call Project Canaan home.


Live from Eswatini … I am thankful.

Janine