Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Feeding the orphans in Swaziland

Wendi Hammond asked me to write something about a building project that we’re busy with in Swaziland. Actually, her request was more comprehensive: “We want to learn about how you selected the location, assessed the need, just about everything about the project. Will you blog about it?”
Just to give some background: Wendi is also involved in Swaziland and visits the country from time to time on short-term outreaches. We’ve had some e-mail contact and hope to meet up later this year when she returns to Swaziland.
Regular readers will know that we started with a home-based caring ministry in the southern region of Swaziland in 2005 and received the Courageous Leadership Award for this ministry in 2008. Together with the award we also received a cash amount and we decided to use the larger part of this money to fund the building of a kitchen at Dwaleni, the area where we started with this ministry. Wendi wants to know how we decided on the location. This is a bit of a sensitive issue. Almost twenty years ago a building which was situated on a privately owned farm was donated to us to be used as a church. Throughout the years we have tried, unsuccessfully, to have official documents drawn up in which it is stipulated that the church and the area immediately surrounding the church belongs to us. However, when the community leaders approached us in 2006 to ask whether we would be willing to start with a feeding project for orphaned children, the logical place to do this was right at the church. But we soon realised that the situation is far from satisfactory, as the food had to be cooked on open fires and the children had to sit on the ground to eat. When we received the award, we immediately decided that the money would be used to build a proper kitchen and diningroom (which could possibly also be used as a study hall for orphans who have no place to do their homework in the afternoons.) Eventually we decided to build the kitchen next to the church, even though the area does not officially belong to us. We believe that, with our present standing within the community, that we will not be chased off the farm without serious repercussions for the farm owner. I may add that we have a very good relationship with the present farm owner and trust that we will receive documents to prove our ownership of the area in due course.
Out of a population of less than 1 million, Swaziland has more than 100,000 orphans! At present we have a pre-school running from our church, attended primarily by orphans (who do not pay) and then we have about 70 older children who collect a hot meal from the church daily after school – also free of charge. Hopefully, once the kitchen has been built, we will be able to have more children receiving food.
We work closely with the community leaders (the local chiefs and the members of parliament) who are supposed to know what is going on with their people. We rely on their guidance to assess the situation on the ground. I remember once speaking to the member of parliament of this area who had invited all the orphans of the area to gather in one place where he wanted to address them. Afterwards he told me that there were so many children, that he would have been able to start a school solely for them!
Our immediate need is to complete the building as soon as possible and to get it fully functional. I have a few other plans as well which I’m praying about. One is that I would like to get someone with an educational background who would be able to spend time with the children after school, helping them with their studies and homework. Without a proper education, these children are going to fall back into the cycle of hopelessness and poverty, which will inevitably lead to more HIV infections. So, those of you reading this and who may be feeling that God is tugging at your heart to spend a year or so in Swaziland as a volunteer: Please contact me!
There’s still a lot of work to be done. We’ve just started digging the foundations. But I’m really excited about this. And the real exciting part is to wonder what the next project will be!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009 - Posted by | Theology

2 Comments »

  1. So I’m wondering about the orphans. In the community where we work, we found that nearly all of the children who were identified as orphans appear to have been absorbed by families. We could identify no child-headed households. The community appears to be caring for their children. The kitchen we built is feeding primarily school children who get a meal at school. They show up after school, and any children who are not in school do not (I’m not opposed to giving school children a second meal, we just want to do our best to be sure the ladies are first feeding the children who are the hungriest). We’re told that orphans are discriminated against and so don’t participate when non-orphans show up.

    We also have worked closely with community leaders, tribal chiefs. We have not been able to involve pastors or churches.

    Is there some method you use to insure that you are feeding the children who are not getting another meal? Does your area serve orphans from child-headed households, orphans who are not getting meals in schools?

    I have more questions and will post again later?

    Wendi

    Comment by Wendi Hammond | Friday, March 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. Wendi, I’ve been feeling a bit guilty when I tell people that we have not found child-headed households. It seems that other groups are finding them all over the place. In the DVD “Dear Francis” a prominent pastor says that every tenth household is run by children. I am convinced that this is not the truth and that this is being said to soften people’s hearts (and, dare I say it, to open up their wallets.) So I’m really glad that you have come to the same conclusion.

    We’ve come to exactly the opposite conclusion about discrimination against orphans. We are also supposed only to feed the orphans, but have decided to feed anyone who turns up. We have found that the orphans are reluctant to come if they exclusively are to receive food. Frankly, I don’t care if they get more food at home. Most of the people are not eating enough in any case. When we started we did have a bit of a problem with huge numbers of people turning up to get food, but when they realised that the meals are fairly simple, those who could get the same at home (without the effort of walking to the church) seemed to stop coming. Our coordinator, Ms Shorty Khumalo, told me that this would happen, and she was right.
    Most schools in Swaziland are probably giving food to the children. Whether it is enough, I don’t know. But in any case, that’s one meal per day – not three as they are supposed to be getting!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, March 13, 2009 | Reply


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