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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!


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

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.



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:

Here is a link to the Event page where people can let us know if they are going to tune in:

It will also be live-streamed on our YouTube channel as well:

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

Live from Eswatini … from Africa, with love.


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 …