Swaziland Day 6
I slept in a bit this morning, trying to catch my breath after the long day we had yesterday. I bought a paper and read it this morning over breakfast. Yesterday as we drove home from Manzini we had seen a totally demolished mini bus being taken up the roadway toward Mbabane. The news papers reported that it had been wrecked yesterday afternoon in the rains that we had been driving in all day. The bus had been filled with over 35 people. The driver had attempted to drive a across a flooded bridge against the pleas of the passengers locked inside. While attempting to cross the bridge, the engine had stalled. A flash flood occurred at just that moment and carried the entire bus downstream rolling it on the rocks as it went. At this point 12 people are thought to be dead, though not all the bodies have been recovered.
The newspaper was full of pictures of bystanders who had rushed into the river to try to save people caught on the bus. The fact that only a third of the people on the bus had died is a testimony to the heroism of the Swazi people. I am convinced that these are some of the most compassionate people I have ever met. I hear story after story of how they will risk everything to help someone who is in need. It‚Äôs so frustrating to hear though how their attempts to respond to the present AIDS crisis are being thwarted because of a lack of material support.
Ned and I had a meeting with the new US Ambassador this morning in Mbabane. Lewis Lucke has been in station now for about 4 months. He is a career government official and this is his tenth overseas posting. His background is in USAID and working in the developing world. He‚Äôs very impressive. It‚Äôs one of those instances of our government doing the right thing at the right moment.
Ned and I introduced ourselves and explained the purpose of our visit to Swaziland. We talked about our impressions so far, and the Ambassador shared his. He was able to show us the present level of the response that is coming from US Government agencies such as the CDC, the Dept. of Labor, the DOD, Global Fund contributions, etc. It‚Äôs an impressive and gratifying list ‚Äì but it is not enough to fully respond to the present AIDS situation, much less the intensification that is expected as the death rate continues to rise as well as the numbers of orphans.
The Ambassador was very helpful in pointing us in the direction of various agencies that the Swazi and US NGO‚Äôs working in the area can apply to for funds. We talked at length about the practical matters that are ahead for the Kingdom.
I left the Ambassador‚Äôs office and I was reminded of a visit I made as part of our Diocesan World Mission Committee to Washington DC a few years ago. We visited with senators and representatives to speak out for the persecuted Christians of the Sudan. I recall that when we met with Senator Spector and Brownbeck as well representatives of the Foreign Service we found that they were well aware of situation and spoke to us of what they thought they might be able to do, and what they were pretty sure they would not be able to do. I came away from that visit feeling hopeful about the way our Government manages to work despite the daily friction that it experiences. I feel the same way today leaving the Ambassador‚Äôs office.
After meeting with the Ambassador we had a lunch meeting with the new director of a Swazi NGO that has strong Anglican roots. The NGO was founded by Deacon Pat Wright a few years ago while she was living in the Kingdom and is now headed by an Anglican priest, though its work is presently ecumenical in nature. This organization works to train and empower community groups around the Kingdom to develop local solutions to the needs of the dying and the responsibility of caring for OVC‚Äôs. They train local care givers to look after Hospice patients in their own community ‚Äì eliminating the need for transportation that we are hearing repeated again and again. They also teach local groups to create community gardens using traditional methods of Swazi farming. They teach the old way of creating compost trenches and using the compost to keep the soil from being exhausted by over cultivation. It‚Äôs a much more effective and long term solution than using manure for fertilization as is presently employed here.
The program is quite successful and has plans to expand if they are able to find the funding. At present they are hampered by the need for additional vehicles before they can form new teams to go out into the countryside. They have recently received a grant of around $2000 from the Diocese of Iowa and will use that to purchase needed supplies. We were told of the need for Adult diapers for those in the terminal stages of AIDS. I‚Äôm hoping that we might a source for such things and will be able to include them in the next container of medical supplies being sent over later this year by Rotary, Church and Community organizations in Bethlehem.
I need to bring this to a close now. I‚Äôm hoping to get this posted before dinner. I‚Äôm having a chance to visit with Bishop Meshack and Lucy tonight and get caught up on what has been happening in our lives since last we met.