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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Oh Canada, je vous remercie pour votre hospitalité.



This past week Ian and I have been guests of the Egg Farmers of Canada in Ottawa, Canada.  While we are told that it is “spring” here, the -15C (33 F) weather, snow on the ground and grey skies seem to contradict that belief.

The purpose of this part of our trip was to be here for the official launch of the partnership between Heart for Africa and the Egg Farmers of Canada. This included media interviews and many meetings on Parliament Hill with Members of Parliament who may (or may not) be interested in what we are doing in Swaziland.

We were completely out of our “comfort zone” and on days where it was a 122F (50C) difference in temperature between Ottawa and Swaziland, our hearts were warmed by the friendly welcome that we received by every one we met. 

Thursday was a particularly interesting day as we were invited to speak at the Standing Committee on Foreign and International Development.  We were considered “witnesses” and were brought in before the committee as “experts” on what is happening on the ground in Swaziland. 

We met with the Chairman and a Member of this Committee on Wednesday and they were interested enough in what we were doing in Swaziland that they extended our time on Thursday from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.  

It was a fascinating experience and we started by reading a 7 minute written introduction that we had to submit the week before so that it could be translated in to French (all things in Canadian government are in both French and English).  From there, the committee members had a “first round” of questions, which gave each Member of Parliament 7-minutes to ask us questions and for us to answer them. Once the first round of questions was finished, then the second round was made up of 5-minute time slots of questions and answers. 

All dialogue was either in English and interpreted into French or in French and interpreted into English.  When questions were asked in French, we put an earpiece in our ears and listened to the interpreted question. When we answered in English the interpreter changed it back in to French for the MP.  It was an exhausting, but interesting experience, and we sincerely hope that the Canadian government will be able to come alongside Heart for Africa and assist us in the future.

For those Canadians reading this, we will be on Breakfast Television on Monday, March 30th at 6:20 AM.  CTV Ottawa is doing a feature on us that will air on the evening news on Thursday, April 2nd at 6:25 PM.  

We are enjoying this time at “home” where the Tim Horton’s coffee is hot, the air outside is cold, much of the conversation around us is not in English (or siSwati) and the people are friendly and supportive. 

Thank you again Tim Lambert, Peter Clarke and the Egg Farmers of Canada for your love and support.  We are proudly Canadian.



Live from our Nation’s Capitol … we are flying to Toronto.

Janine

Saturday, March 21, 2015

River Baby – Suicidal mom – Tuberculosis of the spine - Graphic photo warning.


This past week was full of emotional ups and downs. My faithful readers are likely tired of hearing that, but as I step off a plane in Atlanta, Georgia this morning, on my way through to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, I am so aware that the next four weeks in North America will be NOTHING like the last week(s) in Swaziland.  And for the moment, I give thanks.

On Tuesday I made the two-hour drive (again) to pick up the baby who I wrote about in by blog on March 7, 2015.  If you haven’t read it, please do (http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-newborn-baby-was-being-eaten-by.html).  This baby boy had been placed in a plastic bag by his mother and dumped in the river just after birth.  Miraculously he lived, but sadly his “back end” was eaten by river crabs before he was rescued by a “passer-by”.

When we picked up the baby at the hospital we were shown how to care for his “double barrel” colostomy (two output holes instead of one?!).  We were also shown his wound so that we would know how to care for it. The nurse removed the gauze that was attached to the open wound, sprayed it with saline, cleaned it with Betadine and then put new gauze on for us to bring him home.  


Double barrel Colostomy opening
They didn’t have the right size colostomy bag so they had to use a razor to cut another one to fit both holes.  I am not sure that we have even found newborn colostomy bags in Swaziland, so they were doing the very best with what they had.  The hospital also didn't have bottles (bottle feeding is always discouraged in hospitals largely to prevent people from mixing formula with dirty water) so this little guy was being fed with a cup for the past two weeks.




When I met with the Doctor about the wound care, he said that the wound is so deep, it looks as if a rat was burrowing a hole.  And if that wasn’t enough, the baby tested positive for HIV when a rapid test was done. 

We prayed long and hard about what to call him, and it was decided by our Senior Supervisors that “River” was a good name.  In Swazi tradition, it is common to give a child a name based on something that happened that day like a big wind or lots of rain.  He will be called River, for that is where his young life was saved (and we already have a Moses).


The next day I was picking up the mother of Baby George to have her help us get a birth certificate for him. She was a rape victim and didn’t want the baby who was the result of that rape.  As we drove together she started to tell me how desperate she was when she learned of the pregnancy.  She cried out to God and begged for His help in that situation.   She was ashamed and knew her mother would be so angry at her and not believe her story so she tried to commit suicide … many times.  And then she laughed and said, “And I couldn’t even do that!”  She went on to explain that she had eaten rat poison (a common suicide method here in Swaziland) on several occasions in order to end her life, but she said she didn’t even get a stomachache or diarrhea!  Nothing. She laughed again and said, “I prayed to God to help me and He did. He wouldn’t let me die or my unborn baby.  He must have a big plan for this baby.”  He is the God who sees.

Just before I left to go to town I was called by a Social Welfare officer to tell me that one of our other baby’s mothers was in the hospital, and was very very sick (which is why the child was placed with us in the first place).  She has Tuberculosis in her bones and it is specifically targeting her lower spine. UGH.  She was having nightmares about dying and just wanted to see a photo of her children.  Two of her older children are placed at a different home in Swaziland, and the youngest one, Bella, is with us.  So on my way off the farm I stopped and took a short video of her on my handy-dandy iPad that showed beautiful Bella walking with the assistance of an Auntie holding both her hands.




When we arrived at the hospital (and spent an hour trying to get permission from a security guard, three nurses and a doctor to visit her before visiting hours opened) and when we showed her the video of her baby and she wept.  She was so overwhelmed by the moment I just didn’t know what to do other than take a photo of her and tell her that I will put this photo in her baby’s file. 

It’s been a long week, but I am rewarded by seeing Spencer’s happy face for the next 24 hours, enjoying Target, Macy’s and PF Chang’s and then I get to see my mom in her nursing home next weekend.  God is good, all the time.

Live from Georgia … it is Saturday morning.

Janine 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A baby dies every single hour in Swaziland. Can eggs help?




On Monday, March 9th the front page headline of a National newspaper claimed that “Over 8,860 babies die in 11-months”, and for anyone reading that with a smart phone or calculator nearby you can do the math to see that more than 26 babies die every day in Swaziland. That is shocking.

The article went on to explain, “At least 8,860 infants have died in the past 11-months.  This figure is based on the Infant Morality Rate (IMR) of 54.82 as per American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 2014 Country Health Ratings.  IMR refers to the number of children under a year old who die in a given population per thousand.  It is an indicator used to measure the health and well being of a nation.”

Swaziland has the 5th highest IMR in the world, only topped by Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

99% of all Childhood Mortality is found in developing nations and it is estimated that 60%-80% of all of those deaths are directly related to low birth weight.*

You can go to the link below and research this yourself, but let me explain this in layman’s terms (or Janine’s terms) how I interpret this based only on my personal observations and experience in Swaziland over the past 10 years.

First, those numbers, based on the CIA, are calculated on a ratio to live births in the country. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that they don’t include babies who die on the side of the river, in pit latrines, who are burned to death by their parents or die of malnutrition at home because their mother was too poor to take them to a hospital.  The number is much higher, I promise you, but undocumented. I am glad to get that off my chest.

Next, while there are other factors that lead to low birth weight, a malnourished mother is at the top of the causes.  I have seen hundreds of women who are in the labor ward at the hospital who hardly look 6-months pregnant, let alone ready to deliver a full term baby.  Women living in the rural communities are living on pap (a porridge made strictly from ground maize/corn, similar to grits, but without the butter or salt).  These young mothers are starving, their babies are starving (and dying) and the other children who are living in the homestead are suffering in the same way, but somehow they dodged becoming a Childhood Mortality statistic.

We are told that 65% of all Swazi’s depend on International Food Aid for one meal a day.  In much of the country the only meal a child will receive in a day is their school lunch, which is provided by the government from Monday to Thursday.  Friday to Monday are very long, hungry days.

Heart for Africa is trying to do our part in helping feed Orphaned and Vulnerable children through our rural church partners.  We currently feed 3,500 children every week and provide 74,000+ hot meals every month.  We distribute Feed My Starving Children “Manna Pack’s” along with ground maize from Project Canaan to the churches every two weeks.  But the churches are being stretched by more and more hungry children, and so are we.

Here is where this story gets hopeful.  Ian and I will be flying to Canada on March 22nd at the invitation of the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC - www.eggfarmers.ca).  We will be speaking at their Annual General Meeting and sharing with the Canadian egg farmers, and the Canadian population through media about the plight of the children of Swaziland (both born and unborn).  The EFC has signed a partnership agreement with Heart for Africa to fund, build, support and provide training for an Egg Farm on Project Canaan that will provide thousands of hardboiled eggs each and every day that we will then distribute to the children in our rural feeding projects.

“Once complete, the Egg Farm will provide fresh eggs for all the children living on the Project Canaan Farm, and also help thousands of people in the community by providing a high quality, locally produced protein, that’s essential for human growth and development.”  Tim Lambert, CEO Egg Farmers of Canada.

Providing eggs isn’t going to solve the Infant Mortality Rate of Swaziland overnight, but over time, eggs can play a significant role in increasing the County Health Rating and I do believe that they will save many lives and increase the health of thousands of children. In the meantime, we will do our part by saving the babies that we can, and providing for them with the support of our friends.

Live from Swaziland … I want to Get Crackin’ (and make breakfast).

Janine

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The newborn baby was being eaten by river crabs.



Yesterday morning I got a call from a Social Welfare Officer who asked if we had room for a newborn baby boy?  She said that after the mother had given birth she wrapped him in a plastic bag and then dumped him in a stream. He was found several hours later by people passing by. Fortunately, he had not drowned or been eaten by a crocodile, but unfortunately he was covered in fresh water river crabs that had been eating his flesh and that they did a lot of damage to the back side of his body.

The injured baby was rushed to hospital on Tuesday and by Thursday he was taken in to the surgical ward to try to clean and repair the damage.  The mother is still missing and police are actively looking for her.  To receive a call like this is not only shocking and heartbreaking, but made me physically sick to my stomach for much of the day.  I was sent photos of the damaged baby that I have chosen not to post publically at this time.  I wish I could “un-see” them.

We pray for this baby and while we don’t know what the future holds, we know that Jesus has him securely in the palm of His hands.

EVERY time that we purchase a Swazi National newspaper and are shocked, sickened and saddened by the headlines. 

Today’s blog is simple. Ian and I purchased the two National newspapers for this past Thursday then went through and clipped a few headlines in order to give you a taste of what is happening here in our news world.

During our search we found a tiny article that mentioned the baby who was found on the side of the river.  To tell you the truth, I totally missed it the first time I went through the paper.  Too common, buried several pages in, not really news I guess?


Come Lord Jesus, come.  I am not sure how much more of this I can take.

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful for the God who sees.

Janine

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Every 12.2 days we are receiving a baby ... help!


This week Baby George arrived at the El Roi baby home brining our children count to 89.  George’s addition means that we now receive an abandoned, or child in need, every 12.2 days, which also means that at this rate we will have 265 children living at Project Canaan by the year 2020. 

Baby George born February 22, 2015.

This week we also had a team of volunteers here who are helping us finish a building called Emseni East.  It will be the home for our toddlers to move up to (since the toddler home is now full past its designed capacity) and they will live there until they are finished high school. Thank you to each and every one of you who came so far to help make this home extraordinarily beautiful for our children.


As we review our plans for the future and the rate at which children are placed with us through the Social Welfare Department, we realize that this Emseni East building will be full by the end of 2015, and we will need to have the next building, Emseni North, completed in the early part of 2016.  YIKES!!

Before you take a peak at some of the beautiful photos from the hard work the team did this week, please consider giving to the Emseni North building campaign.  We need to raise $300,000 and have $120,000 raised to date and are starting to build in faith.  Even if you can’t give today, but could pledge money by the end of the year, that would be awesome.    

The link to give is: US:  http://bit.ly/EmseniNorth  and in Canada:  http://bit.ly/EmseniNorthCA
If you want to make a pledge for 2015, please email me directly at janine@heartforafrica.org.

Now, for some fun photos of today’s unveiling!

Six foot mosaic done at the floor of The Oasis Dininghall.

Joshua and Ben are first up on the new bunk beds.

Rose, Gabriel and birthday boys Malachi and Matthew.



Girls room.

Boys room.

Live from Swaziland ... I am thankful.

Janine

Saturday, February 21, 2015

If you don’t have any way to prove that you exist, do you exist?


One of the many challenges we face here in Swaziland is trying to manage payroll on a monthly basis for 240+ workers.  Everything is done manually including work attendance, sick days, days off, hirings and firings.  At the end of each month, each Supervisor provides Ian with a list of names and payment owed for that month’s work.  Total payroll is calculated and then Ian drives to town (about an hour away) and goes to the bank to take out the cash (with a specific number of each bill and coin needed) and then comes back to begin the laborious job of putting the exact amount of money in each envelop. 


The last Friday of each month is Pay Day and it’s a half day of work.  Each person lines up to receive their envelope and pay slip.  They take the money out, in front of their Supervisor and a witness (usually one of our volunteers), and then they count the money to insure it is correct, then sign a paper saying that they received that amount. 

Every person leaving the farm is known to have cash on them, thereby putting them at risk and when they get home they need to hide the money well from children and others who are in need.

This was driving Ian CRAZY and after hiring a new Book Keeper/Administrator he tasked her with finding a new payroll system and implementing it. One month later, we have a new system ready to roll!

Here is the interesting part … the new system requires everyone to have a bank account so that we can directly deposit the money in to their account (thereby eliminating all of work listed above).  Out of our 240+ workers, only eight (8) already had bank accounts.  We brought a representative from the FNB Bank out to Project Canaan to help get everyone signed up with an account. 

This was a very interesting exercise for two reasons. First, there were many people who were concerned that the money would go in to their account and then just disappear (where to, they did not know).  Education and reassurance was important.   The second was that in order to get a bank account you have to have a Swazi ID card, which is the most basic form of personal identification that someone can get in Swaziland.  More than 30% of our workers did not have a Swazi ID card, therefore they had no personal identification of any kind.  It took each of them several trips to town and full days waiting in line to get a Swazi ID card.  Many of them had to first apply for a birth certificate (requiring signatures from their local Chief to prove that they were actually born there) and then once they had that they could apply for the ID card.

Imagine being an adult with no Identification papers?  Many of our workers cannot read or write so their signatures are made with a thumb print with an ink pad.  

I have learned so much in the past 10 years of working in Swaziland, but many days I feel like I have just scratched the surface of my knowledge of how things work here.  The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.

We believe we made progress this week and next week’s payroll will be simpler and much more efficient.  But to me, the greatest thing that came out of all of this was that 65+ people now “exist” officially here in Swaziland.

Live from Swaziland … living and learning.

Janine

PS Since I don’t have any good photos to go with this blog I will just shamelessly promote three new items in our gift shop that are hand made here at Project Canaan.  As always, 100% of the profit goes directly back to help the children who live at Project Canaan.  The link to shop is https://squareup.com/market/heart-for-africa

Egg holders - the perfect Easter gift.


 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sometimes, love hurts.


Samuel and his new baby sister Samantha
This week I got a call from Social Welfare and I greeting him with, “How are you?”.  His response was, “Not good mom, I am not good”.  That is a fairly common answer when he calls me, because he is not calling with good news … ever.

He asked me if I remembered a baby who was placed with us by the police in 2013 and he gave me the surname.  Yes, I knew that baby, it was Samuel.  Samuel’s father was a refugee from the Congo and his mother was a Swazi woman who was a drunkard and kept leaving Samuel in the market, on the side of the road or wherever she placed him in a drunken stupor. 

I remember getting the call from the police asking if I could come and help at the police station because it was 5PM and they had a man who didn’t speak English or siSwati, but he was asking them to take his baby whom his girlfriend had left in the town market.  (Up until that time I didn’t travel with a diaper bag and formula at all times, but because of that day I do now).  The baby was screaming from hunger and the cloth that was wrapped around his waist was soaked.  The police said that they had to investigate this situation, but I could I just take the baby for the night and help them out?  I did, and took Samuel home to be bathed, fed and loved.

Samuel - November 2013.

The next morning I was called by the police to say that the mother had arrived at the police station frantically looking for her baby. She was sobbing and wanted him back so badly.  Lori Marschall was with me and we got in the car and “returned” the baby.  The mother was given a stern warning by the police, we prayed for the safety of the baby and handed him over, truly fearing for his life.

Returning Samuel to his mother.
One week later Samuel’s mother left him on the side of the road near Manzini and ran away (not to be seen again for many many months).  The baby was placed back in our care permanently and the refugee father signed the papers putting the child in to our care.

That was the baby that the Social Welfare officer was asking me about.  And the reason he asked was because Samuel’s mother had just been found again living on the street, this time with a 9-day old baby girl.  She was reported to the police and together they went to the homestead to investigate the situation and see if they could find a family member who could take the baby and help the mother.

Sadly, they learned that this 33- year old woman had lost both her parents when she was young, and had been raised by her paternal Grandfather, but also that had spent most of her life living on the street or going from man to man for food, and love.  She is HIV positive and this baby girl was her 7th child: two are dead, two are living with the Great Grandfather, one is living with his biological father’s family and Samuel is living at Project Canaan. 

I drove to town later that day and met with the mother and an Uncle, who was very unhappy about the woman’s behavior and begged for our help.  As we sat in a government office (that was at least 90F), the Uncle and the police told story after story of this woman’s life.  The whole time she sat quietly while tenderly caressing the baby’s tiny fingers and examining the baby’s face for small flecks of dirt.  She loves that baby.  I brought my iPad with me with a Christmas photo of Samuel on it.  I asked if it would be appropriate to show her the photo and I was told “yes”.  When the police officer showed the mother the current photo of Samuel, she immediately broke down and wept.  She loves her son. 


Today is Valentines’ Day, which is not a day that is celebrated around the world, but in North America there is a plethora of red and pink hearts, fresh flowers, chocolate and lovely meals.  It is a day that we are reminded to be intentional about our love for others.  It is a day that we celebrate love and the people whom we love.

The police, Social Welfare and the family of Samuel’s mother truly believe that the best way to protect and LOVE the baby girl was for her to be placed out of harms way and in to the loving care of the El Roi Baby Home.  We have named her Samantha.  The mother will be getting a tubal ligation (funded through my Compassion Purse) and we pray that she will stay in the homestead where her other two children live, and not run away again to a life of addiction, prostitution and hopelessness.  I wish I could say that I am hopeful, but there is nothing I can do for her.

As you celebrate your loved ones today, please remember those who love, but are hurting.  They are all around us, not just in Swaziland, but all over the world.  Today I am reminded that Jesus is love, and He will never fail us even when people do.  I hold on to that knowledge as I head down to tell our babies and our Aunties how much I love them all.

Live from Swaziland … let us love one another.

Janine

PS – An important side note:  women in Swaziland, no matter what their age, do not have the right to choose a tubal ligation (having her tubes tied).  In order for that to happen a Senior male member of her family must go to the hospital and sign the papers stating that the family agrees that she will no longer be having babies for the family.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for writing this, but it's the truth.  Some hospitals require a letter from a Doctor at a Psychiatric Hospital saying that the mother is mentally insane, which is the only “acceptable” reason for them to tie her tubes.  We still have some work to do here.