Vusumnotfo

Vusumnotfo, whose SiSwati name means "to restart the economy," is located in the HhoHho region of Swaziland. The organization was founded in cooperation with traditional leaders in 1995. It envisions people empowered to improve their social and economic conditions on their own terms. It aims to build individual and organizational capacity so residents can identify and pursue their own development objectives then to assist progress by providing the technical land material support they ask for.
Apr 9, 2012

Progress Report 7 - March 26, 2012

The 2012 Students.
The 2012 Students.

Apologies -

I would like to start off with an apology on two accounts:

1) We changed the project amount - which I should have informed you of in a timely manner.  Read below about the wonderful results of the Christmas Miracle Offering by the First United Methodist Church of Saginaw, which resulted in $7,000 for the project - their funds were sent via a cheque which took a while to clear the GlobalGiving system, so on the quick this was the easiest way to keep the project open for donations until this cheque cleared (which it now has). The additional funds will be used towards project activities, and any remaining transferred to the next preschool project (which will be posted soonest). 

2) Across all our programming, the “bit of a pause” that I had anticipated didn’t really happen - good for activities on the ground but not for office work, such as reporting…. although, Vusumnotfo’s 2011 audit report is uploaded as an attachment to this project posting. 

Results at community level - 

  • Cement blocks for toilet  - the community has molded blocks from 11 of the 15 bags of cement that we left with them (about 300 blocks) - they apologized that it has taken longer than they had hoped “because of all the death cases”. •
  • Pit latrine construction - on February 22, 2012, Vusumnotfo arranged for the Public Health Inspector to visit Cetjwayo Preschool, to advice on the best location for the pit latrine and rubbish pit.  The community is now left with the homework of digging the pit  - 3 M deep x 1.2 M wide x 1.2 M long 
  • Enrolment in 2012 - 39 children (and counting) • Painting of the preschool - with help from some international students….

Given the realities of HIV in Swaziland, these achievements are no small feat.  According to the recently published Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey presented at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in the USA - “HIV prevalence is highest among women between 30 and 34 years old, where 54 per cent of this age group are infected, and men aged between 35 and 39, where 48 per cent of them are infected.”

I am often asked “what is it like to live in a country with these per cents?”-  the truth is that daily life goes on…. against this 24 / 7 background of chronic physical and emotional fatigue - it just takes a lot more energy to stand still….

At programming level - it means being supportive of staff as they deal with the realities within their extended families (in 2011, 1 staff member alone had 4 significant relatives die).  At funding level - it means trying to be the ever widing bridge between two different realities. At personal level - I try to just not think about it and rather concentrate on being an example of positive resolve.

I firmly believe that the most effective way to turn this situation around is through an early childhood care and development (ECDE) approach - the vision being that - all children achieve their physical, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, and social early childhood care and development milestones by an appropriate age - so that children will be:

  • More resilient to the impact of HIV in the family and community
  • Better able to negotiate through the challenges of puberty without engaging in risk behavior associated with HIV infection 
  • Better able to function beyond dependency, thus reaching adulthood able to meet their own needs, and nurture the needs of the next generation.

In this regard, I draw inspiration from every day community folk in Swaziland - and yourselves…..

Christmas Miracle Offering -  in Rev. Kathy Snedeker  words -

As for how the First United Methodist Church of Saginaw raised the $7,000...here's our story... Last year we began the Christmas Miracle Offering and indeed it was a miracle.  We were able to completely remodel the kitchen and bathroom at the home of our poverty-stricken Little Brother (Big Brothers/Big Sisters paired us with him 5 years ago).

 Again this year we challenged our congregation to do the following.  We asked them to refocus Christmas on honoring Jesus by becoming producers of God's blessings instead of consumers of more stuff.  We subtitle the project, "It's Not Your Birthday!"

Further, we tell the congregation the following...

  1. Spend one-half of what you normally would spend at Christmas and give the other half to the Christmas Miracle Offering.
  2. Ask family members and friends who normally give you a gift to instead give the gift to the Christmas Miracle Offering in your honor.

Rev. Kathy Snedeker - queenrev1@aol.com
First United Methodist Church of Saginaw
4790 Gratiot, Saginaw, MI  48638

989-799-0131 (office) 989-239-9267 (cell)
www.firstchurch-saginawmi.com
Facebook - under First United Methodist Church of Saginaw

On top of this inspiring effort, Rev Kathy Snedeker also sent a personal donation of $150 in honour of her staff - Dr. Robert Pratt, Lynn Vermeersch, Judy Gerken, Dina Draper, Rod Bieber, Bryan Latimer, Catherine McMichael, Dr. Mary Wagner and Jim Tomkinson.

Alex Dziuban and family visited on December 27, 2011 - in Alex’s words -

I am Alex Dziuban, a student from Michigan, USA.  I am 16 and a junior at Valley Lutheran High School.  I started to get interested in helping to build a preschool when my brother, Eric, and his wife, Keri, moved to Swaziland.  I began Project 23.3 (23.3% is the percent of children that are orphaned) and contacted all of my friends and family through the internet with our blog www.project23-3.blogspot.com .  My brother got some local Swazi teens to help by putting a car wash on and we both talked to different groups of people to spread the word.  We had many supporters throughout out time in doing this project, and I thank all of them sincerely.  But after a few months of slow moving progress my brother met Kathy, and we decided to partner with her and Vusumotfo.

I visited Africa on December 27th until January 8th.  During my time there I was able to meet Kathy and visit Cetjwayo to see the school.   I met Nellie Mhlabane (the preschool teacher) and she seemed very excited for the school and to begin with teaching the children.  The school was almost completely done!  All that was needed was the toilet, the playground, and painting the building.  I was very excited to see the school and meet Nellie and Kathy.   This was one of my favourite moments of my life, just to see the school that I helped to be built and to see how it affected the people who use it. 

I am so happy that I had the opportunity to help this project, and that hopefully many generations to come can enjoy the preschool and to be taught in it.  This was truly and eye opener and a moment that I will never forget. 

United World College “Together for Development” January 4-7, 2012 - 

Vusumnotfo hosted 9 students (average age of 18) from 6 countries who were attending the “Together for Development” workshop in Swaziland organized under the United World College umbrella at Waterfords Kamhlaba. Aside from discussions around the theme of “what is development” the students had great fun painting Cetjwayo Preschool.  

For additional information and photos, check out the following -

  • togetherfordevelopment.blogspot.com
  • www.uwc-shortcourse-swaziland.org

Calendars -

it has become a bit of a tradition for Lois Gau (my mother) to collect and send calendars to me in Swaziland.

Recently, others in my hometown of Mapleton Minnesota (1,400 people) have helped in this effort, with many thanks to my niece Jessica Anderson and her husband Ben, who brought the calendars in their luggage during their January visit.  This year Jim Swanson (a Mapleton High School teacher) organized Serteen to help with the collection.  Serteen is associated with SERTOMA (Service to Mankind)  - for many years, and now through Global Giving, SERTOMA has annually donated $300 in support of Vusumnotfo’s work. 

These calendars are distributed across Vusumnotfo programming (including the community preschool teachers).  The calendars have many lives  - first as a calendar, taking pride of place in many a mud and stick school, and the following year, as decorative photos and education sheets in community schools (for example, “put the matching number of stones on each square”, or “cut out the dated squares and lay them in the correct sequence”….).
For me, I enjoy watching as people look with care at each calendar, in what becomes a rather drawn out selection process… I think it is less about the selection and more about just enjoying all the great photos!

Changing Futures -

has since agreed to provide both Sakhile and Thembinkosi (the “car wash boys” referred to in previous reports) with scholarships so that they can continue their studies (see uploaded scholarship letter). 

  •  http://www.changingfutures.org.uk

So what is next?  -  now that children are settled into schools and maize fields have been weeded, in late April harvesting should start - after which the community calendar opens up a bit into what I call “hot time for community work” i.e.) mid May to mid August…. so my tasks are to have the preparation work done in time to capitalize on this window period, as indicated:

  • Construction of Pit Toilet - I am in the process of getting the necessary quotes for the material list and builder, in preparation for the community finishing the digging of the pit. 
  • Playground - we want to bring some community participants to Vusweni Preschool, to see the playground that we previously constructed, as an example, prior to purchasing the supplies for swings and other play equipment, which will be constructed on site.
  • Rainwater catchment tank - we constructed the roof so as to capture the maximum rain in the most effective manner, so we will be purchasing a tank and guttering, and constructing a tank stand.   Hopefully this activity will be linked up with the same builder for the toilet.
  • Fencing and landscaping - we will draw upon our experiences with Vusumnotfo’s permaculture training, opting for a minimum barrier fence that will provide protection to a live fence of indigenous plants while it is being established. I should mention that the trees planted during the graduation are still alive, protected from goats by piles of cut thorny branches. 

With many thanks for your donations - which makes possible all the positive results in this report…. in addition to providing much needed moral support. 

I am also preparing another project posting - Building Preschools in Swaziland (sorry about that, not very creative!) - this posting will be an annual posting, in support of finishing off / rehabilitation / new preschool buildings, linked to Vusumnotfo’s in-service training for community preschool teachers. 

As an annual posting, it will provide a framework of support for preschools  - with progress being determined by completion of “community readiness indicators” set by Vusumnotfo.  This format reduces the variables of “maybe” support, thereby allowing communities to concentrate their efforts on achieving the necessary indicators - i.e. the “don’t give up / don’t give in” dynamics that are conducive to sustainable development.

Visit of Alex Dziuban and family.
Visit of Alex Dziuban and family.
Alex
Alex's favorite photo from Krugar.
UWC students painting Cetjwayo Preschool.
UWC students painting Cetjwayo Preschool.
Calendar Distribution.
Calendar Distribution.
Students with building blocks for the new toilet.
Students with building blocks for the new toilet.

Links:


Attachments:
Dec 27, 2011

Progress Report 6 - December 23, 2011

Chief
Chief's vote of thanks

Graduation Day - November 14, 2011 - Several very special visitors joined the community on the gradation day (which was organized completely by the community).   These included:

  • Keri Dziuban - together with Sakhile and Thembinkosi, who helped with the car wash in Mbabane - http://project23-3.blogspot.com
  • Rotary Club of Mbabane Swaziland - who have previously supported community projects through Vusumnotfo

Enjoy the photos - they say it best!

So what is next?  - now that only finishing work on the construction of the preschool remains in phase 1, we take a bit of a pause for community members to plough and plant, to respect the Encwala ceremony (a key traditional ceremony in Swaziland) and to give space for all the up and down that marks the start of the new school year (January 24) - thereafter we will pick up on the tasks for phase 2, as indicated:

  • Toilet - we left 15 bags of cement with the community for making of blocks that will be used in the construction of a pit latrine.  Due to the type of soil, the pit will need to be lined with off set blocks.
  • Playground - the original foundation dug by the community has been used as the trench to hold the tyres.  To explain, some years back, after the Umphakatsi had allocated the land for the preschool, the community dug a foundation.  Although this was before we had a building plan, or even a funding lead, it is a common practice that I suspect has two objectives - 1) a visual representation of community hopes and dreams, and 2) perhaps a way of putting a bit of pressure on Vusumnotfo to put Cetjwayo “next in line”.  So, we decided to use this trench for the tyres  - for jumping on, climbing underneath, sitting on… and all the many things young children will think of.   We also need to purchase the supplies for swings and other play equipment, which will be constructed on site.
  • Rainwater catchment tank - we constructed the roof as indicated so as to capture the maximum rain in the most effective manner, so we will be purchasing a tank and guttering, and constructing a tank stand.
  • Fencing and landscaping - in this regard, we will draw upon our experiences with Vusumnotfo’s permaculture training, opting for a minimum barrier fence that will provide protection to a live fence of indigenous plants while it is being established.

With many thanks for your donations - which makes possible all the positive results in this report Vusumnotfo was formed by the traditional leaders as a strategy to be more proactive about their developmental aspirations.  Given this, ownership is vested at community level (I report to a local Board), which means that since inception, Vusumnotfo has received no core funding, rather we fundraise for all costs, including salaries (mine included), transport, and administration.  Given this, receiving an E mail from Global Giving that someone has donated to Vusumnotfo’s project posting is just a great way to start a day - so many thanks to you all for that!

In closing, I would like to share with you this BBC / PRI radio interview with Chief Mnikwa, who selected the name "Vusumnotfo" which means to "restart the economy". http://www.theworld.org/2011/11/swaziland-chief-world-war-two

To have peace, we need sustainable development - to have sustainable development, we all need to realize how inter connected the world is - Ubuntu (I am because you are).  

Community men at graduation
Community men at graduation
Cooking at graduation
Cooking at graduation
Young graduates
Young graduates
Back view - showing roof for rain water tank
Back view - showing roof for rain water tank
Reciting rhymes at graduation
Reciting rhymes at graduation
Sakhile & Thembinkosi
Sakhile & Thembinkosi
Singing Songs
Singing Songs
Traditional leaders at graduation
Traditional leaders at graduation
Tree planting at graduation
Tree planting at graduation
Tyres for playground
Tyres for playground
Community women at graduation
Community women at graduation
Nov 15, 2011

Progress Report 5 - November 8, 2011

Plaster done
Plaster done

A visitor’s observations 

Who am I - I am Lea Hoefer, third year student at Iowa State University studying Global Resource Systems, Emerging Global Diseases, and Political Science. My last semester was spent studying at a university in South Africa. Given that I am interested in international development, I have recently come to Swaziland to learn about Vusumnotfo’s operation as a sustainable community-based development organization.

Today (November 8, 2011) - I visited Cetjwayo to see the preschool building currently under construction. The building is nearly finished, with smooth cement-plastered walls, many windows to let light into the building, and a roof sheltering the structure. All that seems to be left in the building phase is to install the doors and paint, and a few fittings….

Getting ready for phase 2 - After construction of the preschool building is finished, phase 2 (the playground!) will begin. So, today we also delivered a pick up truck full of old tires, which will be used to help build the playground - assuming the remaining $1,436 comes through.

Community meeting - during my visit the community was engaged in a meeting, discussing the upcoming preschool graduation. Everyone is pleased to know that it will take place next to the new building on this upcoming Monday (Nov 14).

I also met Nellie Mhlabane, the woman who will soon be transitioning from teaching 34 children under a tree on her homestead to teaching in this brand-new school building. Needless to say, she is incredibly excited to begin.

Why I’m excited - The day before I visited Cetjwayo, I had the opportunity to spend a day at another preschool. This school is located inside Ngonini Citrus Estate and therefore is able to use the company’s infrastructure.

Reflecting back on my day there, I have realized what an important role the preschool building and a ground plays in the children’s learning. The building provides a focus point for learning. Having a building to house the preschool also helps the teacher use teaching activities and display visual aids in order to develop critical reading and writing skills. They aren’t interrupted by weather, and they aren’t distracted by daily life going on around them. And although it may seem like just fun and games, I noticed that the playground provided a place for the children to develop social skills as they played together.

After seeing the nearly finished preschool, it’s wonderful to know that the children of the Cetjwayo community will have this same kind of space dedicated to their development

Nellie Mhlabane - Preschool teacher
Nellie Mhlabane - Preschool teacher
Tyres for playground
Tyres for playground
Community elders planning for the graduation
Community elders planning for the graduation