The 2012 Students.
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...
- Spend one-half of what you normally would spend at Christmas and give the other half to the Christmas Miracle Offering.
- 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
First United Methodist Church of Saginaw
4790 Gratiot, Saginaw, MI 48638
989-799-0131 (office) 989-239-9267 (cell)
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 -
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).
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.
Alex's favorite photo from Krugar.
UWC students painting Cetjwayo Preschool.
Students with building blocks for the new toilet.