After having started in January 2006 with one home-based caring group at Dwaleni, in the southern region of Swaziland, I had the privilege yesterday of attending the “handing out of the towels” ceremony at the eighth group which had been trained last week. I previously wrote about the background for this ceremony which you can read here.
Our latest group in an area known as Mantambe totalled 51 people! Before we start with the training, I always personally meet with the potential caregivers. When I met this group initially, there were 40 people which is actually not an ideal group to work with when you are training them in all the aspects of HIV/AIDS, caring, prevention and other related topics. As part of my “speech”, I stress the fact that we do not have the finances as yet to be able to support them financially for this work. They have to know beforehand that they are volunteers who will not be compensated for this work. I therefore invite anyone who had been attending with any other expectation to leave, ensuring them that there would be no hard feelings. I also emphasise the servant nature of this work, where they will often be doing thankless work for no other reason than because they believe it’s the right thing to do. As in the past, instead of my “speech” frightening people away, the group which eventually attended the training grew, this time from 40 to 51!
As we met yesterday, together with one of our previously trained groups working in a nearby area (Ezikhotheni) and also with leaders of the area, including representatives from the chief of the area, the local MP (Member of Parliament) and a number of others, my personal feeling of joy could hardly be contained. The church building which we had used for the week of training was too small to accommodate all the people present and we had to meet outside under some trees (which did not help much, because the sun really burnt me while we were busy.)
At one point the chief’s representative came to speak to me. I know him from the time that we trained the group at Ezikhotheni. He mentioned to me that the Swaziland government also have a home-based caring project. These people are known as “health motivators” and they receive a small stipend from the government for the work they do. However, as he mentioned, the system doesn’t really work. Having seen and experienced the effectiveness of the home-based caregivers which we had trained, he really felt that there was no comparison between the two projects. And he wanted to know from me why the one is effective while the other doesn’t really seem to function well.
I answered him that the one group is motivated by money. Not much – (I think they get less than $20 per month, which for many Swazis is still a substantial amount) – but at least something. Those belonging to our home-based caring project are getting virtually nothing. If and when we get donations of used clothing, we hand these out. At this stage we try and give each of these volunteers a small food parcel once every two months. But none of this can motivate anyone to do the work we expect of them. And my conclusion was that they are doing this work mostly because they are driven by God’s love to do it, in the words of Paul, they feel “compelled” to do it.
Jim Collins, in his magnificent book, From Good to Great, first opened my eyes for the truth that money can never motivate someone to do something. And after more than two years where I have been involved in establishing home-based caring groups in the southern and poorest region of Swaziland, working with hardly any money and where nobody (including myself) has any financial gain from this work, the truth of this has been confirmed over and over again.
But then the opposite is also true: When you are motivated by love to do something, you will probably continue with this work in spite of onslaughts which may come against you.
This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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