Thursday, 7 June 2012

Making New Friends

I recently finished volunteering at New Hope Centre, the children’s home I had been helping out at for the past few months. I really enjoyed my time there; I was glad I could help them while they were short staffed, was blessed that I could learn more about Swaziland and the culture here and delighted that I got to work alongside some fabulous Swazi women. Now that the preschool at New Hope Centre is fully staffed I’m excited to begin working with children in our local community. Some members of the community told us about a local feeding programme that could benefit from some extra assistance.

We all went to a meeting with local officials and the ladies at the feeding centre to learn more about their needs and how we can help. The Neighbourhood Care Point (NCP) was set up a couple of years ago when people in the community saw a great need for orphans and vulnerable children living in their community and wanted to do something about it. After receiving food support from World Vision local women began to volunteer to cook food for children in the community 6 days a week. I had expected to find the care point in a kitchen, small dining room or some form of sheltered space but these women have been providing hope for many children from under the shade of a tree. 

One of the women preparing the food in two large pots over an open fire

Swaziland has a very high orphan population, many children having lost their parents to AIDS, and now many of these children live in child headed households or with extended family members. The NCP provides food for these children who are not yet in school or don’t have the resources to attend school. 

Some of the children coming to eat, each child brings their own dish 

There are 43 children at the care point near us and although they don’t seem too used to our white skin yet many of them did seem excited to play with us while others watched from a distance! As we get to know these children better we hope to be able to support the work being done by the local women.

Playing with some of the children while they wait to eat
Lunch time

I would love to start doing some basic preschool activities with the children who should be starting official schooling next year. Tammie and Arlyn have been using their artistic abilities to draw charts for me (I’m not so artistic so I’ve been colouring in their efforts!).  Hopefully in the next few weeks, as the children get to know me better, I can begin to attempt to teach them. Being in a rural area all of the children speak siSwati but will start using English at school. I’m hopeful that they’ll pick up some English from me, that will help them when they begin school, and I’m also hopeful that I can learn some siSwati from them! 

Arlyn's been busy working on Brian's house and starting to set up an aquaponics system, when I can get him to explain to me what that means and how it will work,  I'll share it with you! 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Thoughts from a walk

I was going on a little walk around the farm that we are staying on last week when I started thinking. Surrounded by the beautiful view of mountains, sugar cane fields and the valley and river bellow the farm I started thinking of how grateful I am to enjoy this view. A few years ago I used to have a plan, not an exact plan, but some form of a short term life plan, it involved graduating from university, moving to Haiti for 2 years and then heading on back to Ireland to do a post grad study, get a job and live happily ever after. My plan would not have involved me enjoying the view that I currently do; my plan didn’t involve moving to Swaziland and I am very grateful that I am not the one who constructed the current life plan that I am enjoying living.

I did manage to graduate, spent about 2.5 years longer than I had originally anticipated in Haiti, have yet to complete a post grad study (but the desire to do one has left me, for now) and currently am without a paying job. Life doesn’t always go as planned but my plans certainly weren’t as good as God’s and I’m thankful that although life hasn’t always been easy it certainly has been rewarding.

In the middle of my thoughts I glanced down and looked at the clothes I was wearing and was once again reminded of how blessed I am. I had purchased my under garments but everything else had been given to me; t-shirt given to me in Haiti, comfy shorts a gift from Julia and my favourite running shoes a generous gift from Jenn. Other people have generously given to us; other people have literally supplied us with all that we need, even the clothes on our backs. Here we live in Swaziland, living on the generosity of other people’s wedding gifts.  We have the freedom to travel where we want to, when we want to because Dan generously supplied us with his bike while he’s away. We have a roof over our head, instead of a tent, because Brian and Tammie have generously allowed us to stay in their rented accommodation.  We have so much and not by our own hands or efforts but because of the generosity of others.

I have no idea where the next five years will lead, where Arlyn and I will be walking then but I know who does and I just hope that we will get to enjoy a view that’s even half as beautiful as our current one. Thinking while walking was yet another great reminder of how blessed we are, another reminder that it is God who provides for us, He meets all our needs “according to his glorious riches” (Phil 4:19).  We are so thankful for all of you who have helped us be here; for those who pray for us and those who have financially supported us…..thank you or as they say in Siswati “ngiyabonga”. 


After being sick for almost two weeks Arlyn’s better, yippee, and therefore life is better. I’m not the best nurse and while Arlyn was sick I especially missed having one of our good nursing friends as a roommate, like I used to enjoy in Haiti.  Thankfully Arlyn has finished taking his antibiotics, his fevers and headaches are gone and his foot, where the infection started is beginning to heal; when he asked for seconds at dinner one evening I knew he was healed!! 

I start back at the children’s home again tomorrow as the children are back to school again and my driver is ready to give me bike rides again. Brian has gotten permission to finish work on his house so Brian and Arlyn plan on being busy with that this week. Hopefully where ever you are, you’re week is off to a great start too!

Monday, 30 April 2012

With the colder weather, and our bodies adjusting to the Swazi climate, we ventured into town at the beginning of last week to purchase a new blanket so we could attempt to stay warm at night. We found a blanket that is thick and cozy and covered in a beautiful animal print (it was that or flowers and we're not into floral decor), anyways it turns out the blanket came just in time. Arlyn spent most of last week feeling sick and our new blanket is Arlyn's new best friend! Unfortunately Arlyn's been having fevers and spends much of his day covered in the blanket shivering or else he's sweating. He's started taking antibiotics for tick bite fever and was able to rule out malaria today so we're hoping and praying he'll be restored to full health soon. The children at the children's home are on school holidays so Arlyn hasn't had to take me there, so in an effort of looking at the positive I'm thinking that this was a good time for him to be sick but I'm definitely looking forward to having him back to normal which will hopefully be very soon.

Brian and I were able to meet with someone from the education board last week and talk about the possibility of starting to do some preschool activities with the children in the community Brian is building in. There are many steps to be completed to start working with children here and we are eager to follow the traditional laws and not offend. Wanting to help and not offend the traditional systems here means we have to be patient.

We are continuing to wait on news about Brian's land and continuing to trust that God will use this whole situation for His glory.

Unfortunately for us we had to say goodbye to Dan recently. His time with us went too quickly and he is missed. Before Dan left he and Arlyn went on one more fishing trip. Like true hunter gathers/cavemen (with lots of facial hair), they went out fishing and came home with some interesting looking supper. Unlike cavemen (not that I’m a caveman expert but I don’t imagine them cooking) Dan and Arlyn prepared a feast of deep fried catfish in batter and grilled catfish, I never imagined that a fish that looked so ugly would taste so good!

Although Dan left us for a while, and the good folks of Smithers will benefit from our loss, we’re glad that Dan will be returning later this year. While he’s gone he has generously allowed us to use his motorbike. We are so grateful for Dan’s kindness and so are the children at the children’s home; Dan came to give many of the children bike rides before he left and they were excited to see Arlyn coming to get me on Dan’s big, orange motorbike and even more excited when Arlyn continued to give bike rides too.

The first term of school ended recently and now the children have two weeks holidays, with fun filled days of sports, cooking and other activities planned. Before the term ended I was able to attend the primary schools end of term concert and was astonished at how talented the children are. All of the primary school children learn to play musical instruments including the recorder, piano, drums, flute, trumpet and guitar; many of them play several instruments. It was so wonderful to watch as they sang and played what they had learnt this past term.

The great news from last week is that we have a new niece; we are so excited to meet her and wish we weren’t so far away so we cuddle the newest arrival, welcome to the world Emma.