March 11, 2011 – Piggs Peak, Swaziland
Today was an exciting day. There really is no other way to describe it. We actually had very few details ABOUT the day before it all began, but the night before we spent a bit of time going through the large collection of boxes and luggage that we all brought over with us to give to locals in the area. We knew that today we would be distributing them. We just didn’t really know how powerful of an experience it was going to be. (It was agreed by the group leaders that I would not try to teach any of the locals at the center how to crochet, but that I should save the yarn and supplies for the students at the Immanuel Mission School we will be spending time at in Lesotho (pronounced Lay-soot-two), for a few different reasons. One, the students will be older and therefore are more likely to catch on. Two, the weather in Lesotho is much colder in winter and so they would benefit better from having the skill. And lastly, the program at IMS will be much more structured as it is a school; whereas the people we interacted with today were locals and not in any way organized. I didn’t know what this meant until the day began to unfold!)
On the way to the center, which was over an hour drive through Swaziland from Manzini to Piggs Peak (so named because a man by the name of William Pigg discovered gold in 1844), we enjoyed the beautiful views from the bus. The mountains are breathtaking and the rolling landscape can hold your attention for hours as it passes by! The region we were driving through is one of the most highly scenic and forested sections of the country, although it’s main town is very much a ‘frontier town’ that is a small center for Swaziland’s logging industry. We saw many pine plantations which was interesting. At first it was tragic, to see all fields and fields of cut down trees. But it was also exciting, because in almost every case, if you looked closely, you could see new baby pines growing up next to the cut down rows. It was neat to see such a large operation that was practicing sustainability.
But back to the activities of the day!
Our destination was the Mhlosheni Welcome Center. In Swaziland, the word orphanage is not culturally acceptable; so that is why this name came about. In fact, the center is a day orphanage. Kids come from all over the region to participate in morning programs, much like school programs. However, these programs are not actual school, but they do provide children who have nothing and cannot afford to go to school with some basic education and a place for them to stay out of trouble. And to eat! Each of the kids brings their own bowl and the center staff cook them up a very basic but nutritious lunch. Every so often, when a group like ours is able to come, the center becomes a host for many other offerings as well. The most popular, for obvious reasons, is a clinic that they hold in one of the classrooms. Apparently word had gotten around that we would be coming with clothing and other items for the local people, because there was quiet a crowd when we drove in around 9 a.m.
We started out by playing with the kids and taking the boxes that we had brought in. It was somewhat overwhelming to see how many boxes we had; between our group and the leaders of SOHO (Seeds of Hope Outreach) we had the bottom of a bus, the back of a van, and a pull behind trailer full! It was really fun to see it all laid out on tables too, and to see how fast we went through it all once people started in on the line.
I certainly discovered that it would have been impossible to teach crocheting to this throng of locals. They were much too focused on getting articles of clothing, toothbrushes, and being treated at the clinic. And my hands were needed in the distribution lines! The clinic that I mentioned earlier went all day, and they ended up treating 180 people! I guess they were only expecting 60 people, but the Lord provided that the group had enough to serve all those who came – what a blessing! One of the most common problems among the children was ringworm. It was hard to see it on their faces and arms, but I’m so glad that most if not all of them were given treatments for it!
As we ran out of clothing to give out and the locals began their treks home (many come unfathomable distances, and in the heat, of course), we started to focus more on the kids that remained. We played some more games and then we had the final event – a piñata! Some o the girls on the trip had made it the night before and it turned out great. Once I have a chance to download it I got some great video of the kids. At first they didn’t understand what it was, but once we told them there were ‘sweeties’ in it, you would not believe how hard they hit!!!! :D We left the center around 4pm, exhausted, but so happy from what the day had brought. We spent the evening, after dinner, in worship and discussions of the day.