Swaziland Day 4
Let me apologize for any errors in people‚Äôs names in this note. I‚Äôm spelling the phonetically and I‚Äôm meeting so many people that I‚Äôm not able to keep up with writing them down as I hear them. I promise to go back over this with Ned and try to fix my mistakes.
It was sunny this morning. Apparently this is going to be the last time that I have a chance to see the sun. It is supposed to be rainy and cold for the rest of the week. (I had a chance to see Orion again last night, but did not see the Southern Cross. It was still cloudy to the south.) I‚Äôm hoping that I will eventually have a chance to see it this trip.
We started this morning having breakfast with Kbeile here at the Inn. She was originally trained as a nurse and has worked for years in community health here in the country. She was one of the original people behind Swazi Hospice at Home ‚Äì the group that we supported with the last container project. She left Swazi Hospice at Home and began working for the UN as part of the AIDS and Woman‚Äôs health programs. She is presently the Southern Africa Regional Director of a support network for woman living with HIV. (She is HIV positive but is still symptom free.)
She was able to meet with us only for an hour since she has other meetings this morning. She is the first person I have met here who knows both the King and the Queen Mother. She spoke of her conversations with them about the problems of AIDS in the Kingdom.
Ned asked her to tell me of the work that she has done in this region and of her own personal journey as a woman living with HIV in Southern Africa. It‚Äôs a pretty amazing story. If I want to get the specifics and further details I know that I can get them from Ned so I just listened rather than trying to take notes.
We spoke with Kbeile about what she sees as the priorities of the work that must happen in Swaziland. She was clear that caring for women who are HIV positive must be of the primary responses to the disease in this region. She did make a persuasive argument that responding to women‚Äôs health issues in the reason was in fact a three-fold attack on the disease. If we care for the woman and make sure that she receives adequate nutrition and is taught good hygiene and personal health management skills then she will most likely remain symptom free for a long time and not need to be a consumer of the limited medical care available in the country. If you care for her and teach her how to avoid passing on the infection to her baby and children than you stop and entire disease vector and stop the spread of the infection within a family. The longer she is able to remain asymptomatic the less need she will have of other members of the community and her family to care for her, which will keep them all in the workforce providing for their families and for the GDP of the nation. Finally if you can keep her alive longer then she will be able to care for her children ‚Äì which will keep them from becoming orphans and being a burden for the larger community to have to support. It is a pretty convincing argument.
Kbeile ended our meeting with a request that I find a way to furnish her with 1000 copies of ‚ÄúChicken Soup for the Christian Woman‚Äôs Soul.‚Äù She said that she awoke one morning to find that God had laid the vision on her heart. She hoped that she would be able to distribute these books to women in Swaziland so that they might be able to have the same experience she did when reading it. She said that this book helped her to remember that she was much more than a person with a disease. The book and its‚Äô stories reminded her that no matter what, she is a child of God and that as such she has great intrinsic value no matter what might be the accidents of her situation. She envisions using these books to create women‚Äôs reading groups around the nation to provide the hope that is sometimes so lacking in their lives. I wrote down the ISBN number of the book in hope that I will be able to find someone in back in the states, or a group of people who will be able to help us honor this request.
After having breakfast, we left the Inn and drove across town to the Diocesan Office. While we were there we dropped off checks for the Usuthu Mission Orphan Feeding program. Ned has a couple of checks from the Cathedral in Bethlehem as well as from other parishes. I had a check for $1,500 from our Outreach Committee. We gave them to Fr. Charles the Diocesan Council Secretary. It was lovely to see him again. We chatted about his visit to Trinity a few years ago. It was a delight to get caught up.
We left the Diocesan Office and drove back across town to the HIV/AIDS program office. There we met up again with Glenda and Gcebile (I think I have this name right ‚Äì Ned gave up trying to pronounce it and is calling her ‚ÄúG‚Äù.) Glenda is a dynamo of energy. Her late husband was the Minister of Health for the Kingdom of Swaziland. Gcebile is the director of the program having just recently come from working with the training of Peace Corp volunteers in the Kingdom. They had a arranged for us to have a visit at St. Margaret‚Äôs Parish in Lombomba ‚Äì near the King‚Äôs residence. We drove out the main road and then proceeded to get very lost. Well, not so much lost as confused. Glenda remembered that St. Margaret‚Äôs was at the end of a long and thin dirt road. The trouble was that there were many long and thin dirt roads coming off of the main road. We followed one all the way to a dead end and had to back up quite a distance before we were able to turn around in the parking lot of a local postal station. We never did find the actual road but ended up parking in the front of a row of government flats built for the local government workers. We walked around the back of the flats and found an opening in the fence that surrounded St. Margaret‚Äôs and were able to make our way into the church yard.
Inside the yard there were three woman who were cooking food for the orphan children of the neighborhood and for elderly who could not care for themselves. This is parish that Mo. Orma ‚Äì the first woman ordained priest in the Diocese of Swaziland presently serves. Sadly Mo. Orma was not present for our visit as she was working at another place to the south of us. I hope to eventually meet her. I took a number of pictures of the soup kitchen that the parish runs and plan to show them to Deacon Liz back at Trinity. It‚Äôs quite a different set up. The kitchen consists of two iron pots over an open fire. The food is cooked outside and then because of the rain today it is served inside within the old structure of the previous church. There are benches and tables inside for the children to sit on while they are eating, and it appears that the older building is used as a Sunday School as well. There were two dogs sleeping in the vestibule of the building.
I asked the little boys who were playing soccer in the front yard if I could take their picture. They immediately ran over and lined up just like a soccer team would. They were very proud of their orange soccer ball. They had managed to turn the church yard into a soccer field and were having a rousing game. I didn‚Äôt understand the boys as they spoke and argued with each other during the game as they were speaking Siswati. I asked Glecbile what they were talking about. She said that some of the boys were accusing the other boys of cheating and that the goal they claimed to have scored shouldn‚Äôt count. Children are children no matter where you find them.
I had a chance to go inside the newly built church of St. Margaret‚Äôs. It still had the Christmas decorations hanging near the altar. The pews were long enough that I was told the parish could regularly seat 100 people on a Sunday morning. I looked around in the vestry and in the sacristy as well and took lots of pictures. I‚Äôm hoping that I can find a way to post some of these later on today. Perhaps I can figure out a way to use the computers at the Inn to post them to my blog site.
After our brief visit to church we made our way home as the clouds had opened up and it was beginning to rain quite hard. I was glad to know that the children and the elderly of the parish we had just visited would be able to seek shelter inside the old church building.
On the way home we discussed the role of men and women in society today. I told them of my learning to cook last year when my wife Karen had broken her ankle and required to stay off her feet for a few months. We talked about our children and of what their school lessons were like and how they were growing up and becoming more and more independent. It was a lovely chance to hear about the every day life of the people of the beautiful country.
I‚Äôm writing this now here back at the Inn. Ned is coming to collect me in an hour or so to go back into town and have a meeting with his son-in-law Julian and a coworker of his. Julian owns and founded Computronics the original computer firm in Mbabane. We will be talking about what sort of requirements will need to be met if we hope to put up a computer training center at the Diocesan Conference Center.
I made arrangements this morning to purchase a pay-as-you go dialup internet account for my use during this stay. I‚Äôm hoping that I‚Äôll be able to swing by the ISP‚Äôs office later on today and pick up the account information.
Tonight I have a meeting with the local Rotary Club in Malkerns that was so instrumental in helping us make the previous Container project a success. Our Rotary Club in Bethlehem has been given money again by the good people of Just Born in Bethlehem for the shipping of another container. I‚Äôm hoping that we‚Äôll be able to make some plans tonight about this upcoming project. I also want to say thank you to the men of this club who worked so hard to make sure the previous container was delivered.
Hopefully I‚Äôll have more to add to this account later tonight.