On Wednesday we went to a garden that is being started up by Nomsa and her volunteers. The garden is probably 75 meters by 50 meters and we helped put a fence around it. They were waiting for a pipe to be put in so they could get water from the top of the mountain. The garden wasn’t nearly as cool as all the grandma’s (they call them GoGo’s here) and how they worked with us.
Nomsa went to a conference in South Africa (where we stayed when we were there) and felt like she needed to start taking care of people here in Swaziland where she is from. She couldn’t stomach that there was people who didn’t have any food to eat or maybe not any parents to take care of them. So she came back to Swaziland feeling like God was to have her start to take care of the weak and vulnerable in her area. She sent out a call for volunteers to help her and she now has thirty volunteers working with her to take care of people around these mountains. The crazy part is that most of these volunteers are at the age when we put them into nursing homes. They were all women. I am now convinced that the future of the world lies on black women’s shoulders.
These were a group of fiery women, all probably the age of my grandparents. The most fascinating moments were watching them work. The oldest lady there with a cane was the first one up to grab the heavy logs for the fence posts. She put it on her head and led us all in amazement. One of them brought a plastic bag full of water that they all shared. Some of them were swinging pix axes to soften the ground. It was an amazing beautiful site.
It is these same women that work along side of Nomsa all over these mountains . They all feel called by God to take care of the orphans and those that need care. So they split up taking care of over 800 orphans and tons of other people that are sick and dying. They go visit with them and remind them that they are loved. If they can bring medicine, they do. These women are the most inspiring people I have ever come in contact with. They are driven by their passion for the hurting and their passion to serve God. The amount of people that would die alone, and children that would head their households alone would be too much to handle without them here.
Thursday and today we went along with some of these volunteers to visit some of the people that they were responsible. We went to one house where the man being taken care of has not wanted people to look at him for the past 4 years. His mother has been taken care of him but his daughters have abandoned him. He has been lying in his bed for years with no hope of recovery, shaking and dying. Another family we visited was headed by children for the last four years, ever since the eldest who was 12. There are 5 children, and they take care of each other and try to manage.
There was a number of houses that we visited, and I’ve never felt so hopeless. We sit there always in a big circle crammed into a small hut. The floor is usually made out of dried manure and the walls out of sticks and stones and mud and the roof out of grass. We don’t understand much of what they are saying unless Nomsa or Lindiwe (one of Nomsa’s daughters) translates for us. I usually say a prayer for them, trying to form sentences using words that couldn’t even begin to explain my feelings. Then we sit. They are usually speechless that guests from another country are there with them and we are speechless because we can’t believe how much we cared what colour of shirt we were going to where that morning.
One family gave us a massive bag of bananas for saying a prayer. Another family filled up our water bottle. They all lay out mats so we can sit on the floor with them. Their hospitality reminds me of how much I have to offer, and how much I hold on to what I have. They give whatever they can, even when they don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. It’s hard to write about these experiences because there isn’t much to say. It feels sort of like I’m a tourist visiting poor homes, so it holds me back a bit and makes me feel uncomfortable, because the last thing I want to do is give off the impression that I’m just there to observe out of interest. Yet they are usually thrilled we are there and mention they want us to stay longer or come again. So I keep going, despite the awkward silence that ensues each visit, hopefully just to remind them again, one more day that we love them, they are valued and we honour their humanity with our presence. In these communities people that are sick can be seen as contagious and people try to keep their distance from them because there is such a strong stigma to the sick and dying.
Shane and I went to a soccer game down the road last night also. They are all very good. Sat with a few of the younger kids while we watched the game. It was great. Today we did more home based care and Shane and I are filling in a hole that some of the kids dug to catch rain water, but they hit a rock so it won’t work. Then I will sleep. Then it will be tomorrow and we will see what that brings.