Swaziland / New Life Homes
28 April – 3 May
Today is my first day of Internet since my previous email.
I arrived safely in Swaziland (SD). I went from the huge Tambo Airport (named after Oliver Tambo former General Secretary of the ANC during “The Struggle” aka Apartheid) to SD airport. Peter and Mary Jean Kopp greeted me and took me to lunch with Tommy and Mandi Bottoms, an American couple working at New Life Homes. They arrived in SD roughly 3 months ago. Tommy just finished his Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences at UC Davis and Mandi is a trained teacher who wrote agricultural curriculum in the States. Obviously Tommy is helping out with the farm and Mandi teaches Grades 3 and 4. Machelle and I are on the board for African Leadership Partners, the parent organization overseeing New Life Homes and New Life Schools. I enjoyed meeting our two new mission workers. They contribute immensely to the school and farm. I arrived at the farm after dark with the children tucked away in their homes.
Swazi schools are on holiday until late May preventing me to hang out in classrooms with the children. Some of the children were away visiting their family homestead where aunties or “Go-Goes” (grandmothers) live. I spent the day hanging out with the children and talking with some. I brought soccer balls for boys and some special balls for girls. The girls complain the boys never let them play. I am hoping a pink and green soccer ball will limit the boys’ interest in the girls’ ball but after seeing Simanga’s swimsuit, perhaps not.
What? Am I choking you?
We’re so excited to see you Dr. Bob!
My Swazi roommate.
Girls can play too!
Hanging around with a friend at the Taylor’s house
I spent Monday evening with the Taylor family, a family from our home church who are nearly half way through a 2-year commitment on the farm. Rob is a Piece County Firefighter/paramedic who is the proverbial Jack-of-all-trades and can fix anything. Jennifer is a teacher and teaches Grades 1 and 2 in the school. They also have 4 children: Matthew who is in high school in Johannesburg (he is home visiting over the holiday), Luke in Grade 8, Will in Grade 6/7, and Rachel (formerly of Zambia) who is in grade 3. I enjoyed listening to the children describe what they liked about Africa (relaxed lifestyle, friendly people, and they can brag when they get home, “I live in Africa”) as well as what they miss from the States (friends and conveniences).
Rachel, Luke, Will, Matthew, Rob and Jennifer in Jennifer’s classroom.
Tuesday brought more visits with children and preparing for my presentations later in the week. Seeing the children at 1 to 2 year intervals allows me to see growth that could go unnoticed on a daily basis. Some of the children engage in income generating activities and have enjoyed earning money from their produce and chickens. A young man who isolated himself and played with mud cows 4 years ago has blossomed into a highly social and responsible young man who is quite “clever” at school. One of the most “clever” children one the farm is struggling academically. It is difficult to identify his struggles though depression and progression of his HIV (despite antiretroviral therapy) are considerations.
From mud cows to entrepreneur
Wednesday is a state holiday in SD and South Africa (World Workers’ Day). This meant the children had to help out and perform some of the tasks the farm workers typically complete. It has been warm in SD but cooler than Zambia. A swim in the river delighted some of the children. I found it quite refreshing and enjoyable watching the children in the brown water from the shore.
Off to the swim hole we go.
KK says, “Burrr, that’s cold.”
What’s more fun than rolling in the dirt and washing off in the “clean” water?
The rocks work as nice water slides into the river.
Really Simanga, you’re wearing those trunks?
When you’re cool, the sun always shines
Thursday was the first day of the conference in Mbabane, the largest city in SD. We hold the conference and stay at Emafini, a gorgeous conference venue tucked alongside the mountains. I spoke most of the day on the negative impact of trauma, attachment, resilience, and emotion regulation. Today I shared the morning with two other speakers. I spoke on anger management and self-care. I believe the caregivers appreciate the sessions. The discussions have been productive and most of those asking questions and discussing topics are the Swazis and not merely the Westerners working with Swazi children. Truth be told, I do not call upon the Westerners too much and gently push the Swazis to share.
Our Conference Center.
Looking on during group work.
This afternoon Mary Jean and I will meet with the mother of one of the children on the farm. Her son is asking about his father and the mother has avoided telling him she murdered his father and went to prison (the reason why he initially went to the farm). This is topic we will address today; how to be honest and salvage a tenuous relationship with her son.
I leave Swaziland tomorrow, see the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, visit some friends (the Derr family), and leave Africa on an overnight flight to Dubai. I will stay in Dubai two days and return to the States Tuesday, May 7th.