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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!


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