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Saturday, January 25, 2020

We just never know what we will see...

Ian and I love walking around the farm. It is a good way to really see what is happening, what needs to happen and what shouldn’t be happening.  Today we walked 5.3 miles, up and down mountain roads and paths and it was simply incredible all that we saw!

First, the worm pit tarp has been installed, and we are now composting into the worm pit! This is a really big deal (you can read about it in the Jan 4th blog  Our papayas have gone crazy and each tree is heavily laden with huge papaya fruit!  Thank you to everyone who bought trees last year – we will be harvesting soon and delivering to the children’s campus!

As we walked past the beef cattle and the hundreds of goats (and the cutest babies!) we came upon a cow giving birth!  There was our dairy guy pulling the legs of a calf out of the mother’s womb, and then there he was!  I’m sure the readers who are farmers are laughing at me, or rolling their eyes, but this was a big deal and it was really cool to witness.  The calf was pulled under the fence and the mother lead around to start cleaning him and trying to get him to stand up.  New life is always a good thing on a farm, and I was thankful that we got to witness it.

Then we went down to our dragon fruit field where there are hundreds of flowers on the cacti that will provide delicious and highly nutritious fruit in the months to come.  On to the fields we passed tens of thousands of beetroot seedlings that had been planted last week and are in a crop rotation every six weeks.

Everywhere we walk there are wild flowers growing, and each one is so unique we often stop and just stand in awe of God’s creativity.  As we walked through the Primary school property we saw another kind of creativity on the walls of the new 3rd and 4th grade classrooms!  The kids had drawn life size chalk drawings of themselves on the concrete block!  It was so unexpected and just so very sweet, we had to go in and take photos of it.  Our children are SO creative and encouraged to be that way by our teaching staff.

We are building a stadium style fire pit behind the boys E4 dorm, that will lead to many fun nights of games, storytelling and fireside chats. And the stairs from E5 down to E3 were started and finished this week!  All in all, things are hopping around Project Canaan!

Live from Eswatini … we had a GREAT Saturday morning.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

A new kind of January?

Typically, Ian and I travel to the US/ once a year, in October for fundraising events and Board meetings. But this year we were invited to a very special event at Sea Island in Georgia in early January so we headed west and started a busy year of travel. We were honored to be able to speak at the AWAKENING 2020 and to spend time with dear friends AND, a bonus visit with Spencer!

Jan & Ernest Taylor with Jean and Jerry Eickoff

Spencer in the Canadian seat at the G8 Summit table at Cloister.

Then we headed up to Boston to visit Nokuphiwa (Phiwa) and Nokwanda.  Phiwa is here in the US for her second round of reconstructive surgeries to repair the burns she sustained when she was only 2-days-old.  She is here with Nokwanda, her faithful friend, big sister and guardian. They are in the US for four months while Phiwa has the skin on her scalp expanded through weekly injections of fluid that will allow enough skin to stretch enough to eventually cover her scalp once they do the crainioplasty in early March. We enjoyed taking the girls to see “Star Wars” (don’t judge), out for a great seafood dinner, and of course, ended with a trip to Target for whatever they needed (including introducing Nokwanda to “Cherry Garcia” Ben & Jerry’s ice cream).    

From there we traveled to Nashville where we had a two day “off site” meeting with our Heart for Africa US staff.  It’s always fun to get together with this team of people whom we love dearly, and it was a chance for us to share our vision for 2020, discuss plans to help feed more children and have a good belly laugh or two.  This year we added Hannah Gaddis to the team and she will be leading our Hunger Initiative 2020 (stay tuned for more info next week).  We also hired a Marketing Coordinator, whose name will be familiar to many of you … Maggie (Taylor) Lian!  Maggie’s mom, Donna Taylor, worked at Heart for Africa for many years and we are thrilled to have the next generation on the team.

Yesterday we came back to Atlanta to meet with some amazing women from Easter Seals who will help us think through and design our home for disabled children. Then it was home to pack, enjoy a quiet evening (did you know that you can order pizza and it is delivered to your door? We need THAT in Eswatini!). 

While we were busy in the US, the Project Canaan Academy School year started with 187 children in attendance!  The kids were SO excited to go back to school, and we are so thankful for Amber VanWinkle and incredible group of teachers.

In addition to that excitement, we welcomed our 260th child last week. His name is Dillan and he was born on March 27th, 2018.  We are thankful for his life and thankful that we get to play a big part in his future.

Ian and I hop on a 16-hour flight back to Johannesburg tonight and then make the 5-hour drive home in the morning.  These trips don’t get any easier, but we enjoy the time we get to spend with friends and family and are thankful for the team that keeps everything running smoothly at Project Canaan while we are away!

Live from Pete & Julie Wilkerson’s couch … we are going home today!


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Total opposites

This week has been a VERY busy one in Eswatini, with six teams of Project Canaan staff, volunteers from the US and our older children going out to 25 of our 30 church partners and doing “well child checks” on the 3,500 children whom we feed every week. We are trying to get a baseline on the level of malnutrition at each location so that we can improve our feeding program in 2020.  

In the weeks ahead we will be accepting applications from churches or organizations (ie Rotary International or a school) in the US and Canada to partner with one of our 30 church partners to help eradicate malnutrition in that church in 2020.  More on this initiative to come.

I am thankful for Anthony Mutua and Ncobile Dlamini who are leading the charge with these assessments and for Janice Johnson, Lori Marschall, Beth Blaisdell and Kim Kennedy who flew to Africa to help with the this project all week as Ian and I are in the US.  It was a monumental task.

Anna and Joshua at the end of a LONG day.

Each day I get photos from Eswatini and I long to be there. Seeing our children out in the rural communities learning about how Swazi’s live without running water or electricity makes me want to be with them as they learn

Today I received photos from Margie about the four toddlers (Dinah, Shalom, Simeon and Phiwa who moved from the toddler home up to the Emseni Campus.  They just look so very sweet and excited to move up with “the big kids” (our 3-year-olds).  

Dinah, Shalom, Simeon and Phiwa moving to E1.
 In complete contrast, Ian, Spencer and I are at a beautiful 5-star hotel at Sea Island, speaking at a conference and enjoying an incredibly comfortable bed, delicious food, lots of hot running water and great friends.  I had the privilege of speaking at this “Think Tank” yesterday and now get to enjoy learning from some brilliant minds for the rest of the weekend. Ironically, the internet this morning was as bad as it is in Eswatini and I couldn’t get on line to post this blog so Spencer had to set up a hotspot from his phone  😂!

Ian and I typically only visit North America once a year, in October, but we will be here four times in the next six months. We are blessed to be invited to share the situation in Eswatini and the plight of the children, while inviting people to join us in fighting hunger, caring for orphans, decreasing poverty and providing education in Eswatini. Would you like to join us in 2020 too?

Live from Sea Island … it’s Saturday morning.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

What's Up?

I don’t think I have ever wanted a year to end more than 2019.  Last year was a tough year, but also a great year with much being accomplished, but 2020 should be fun, so this blog is about what’s up for 2020.

Both beetroot and butternut squash are staples here in Eswatini and while we are still growing hundreds of thousands of beetroot plants for consumption and sale, we also just harvested enough butternut squash to last our kitchens a WHOLE YEAR (6,000kg/13,228lbs) and we are selling it too!  We have a large cold storage facility to store it in, and we are thrilled to be able to provide these products from our farm.

Ian is very excited about our new “worm pit”. Yes, you read that correctly.  We just built a concrete composter that is 12 yards wide x 6 yards long x 2 yards high.  It has four sections which will be filled with worms and compostable material from the kitchen and fields.  There are four sections so that our worms can move from one section to the next as we harvest the compost to use on our fields.  We will have a LOT of compost going on.  When we were telling our kids about this new project, Esther asked Ian, “How will you protect the worms from birds who want to eat them?” 

Excellent question Esther!  We are waiting for a cover to be made to put over the top and keep the worms safe from birds and sunlight and keep them focused on the job at hand. This important project helps get us one step closer to sustainability and eco-friendly.  A worm can procreate every week, producing up to six baby worms so we expect to have more than one hundred thousands worms by the end of 2020.  Did you know that worms are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female sex organs?  Oh the things we know now, that we NEVER thought we would need to know!

This year our construction department will be building a 3rd and 4th grade (two-storey/double class for both grades), and it will be constructed only during school breaks so that the kids aren’t going to school in a work site(!).  The plan is to have the foundation and floor pad poured and the work site cleaned up before the school year starts on January 18th.

Our construction team will also be building “Oasis 2”, which will eventually be a dining hall for our teenagers, but for the next few years will serve as a recreation center for our kids, and a place to receive oxygen for their minds, bodies and souls, which is why we affectionately call it “O2”.   Beside O2 we will build a home for disabled children. This will be a home for our most severely disabled children who will not likely be able to attend any kind of schooling due to the extreme and complicated nature of their disabilities.  And as soon as we raise the funds needed for the next Emseni dorm (E6 will be home to 40 children) we will start building it immediately as we have children who will need to move in to it by the end of 2020.

We received 42 babies last year for a total of 258 children (we average between 35-40 babies every year), so we would expect that trend to continue.  We are raising these children as our own, and so they have always done age-appropriate chores (including the 2-year-olds who clean up their toys before going in to eat and even take their own dirty diaper to the garbage can. While we have an exceptional team of cleaners who keep all of the buildings clean and healthy, we decided to have our older children (living in E4 and E5) learn how to clean and take care of their own house back in December.  As Ian and I do our morning walks around the farm we were encouraged by seeing both boys and girls learning how to mop the floor properly, hang out laundry and take pride in their home.  I cannot say enough about how INCREDIBLE our Caregiver team is.

The video below was taken this morning at an impromptu dance party at the Oasis. These kids just crack me up! I hope it makes you smile too.

I have no doubt that 2020 will have challenges of its own, for all of us. The world seems to becoming a crazier place with more instability every day. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we must remember to keep our eyes Him, and Him alone.  Be prayerful in where you are to be and what you are to be doing, and have peace in the knowledge that Jesus is securely on the throne.

Live from Eswatini … Happy New Year!