Archive for November, 2010

Peace Corps Partnership

November 13, 2010

HIV/AIDS is devastating Swaziland leaving many orphaned and otherwise vulnerable children (OVCs) and the aging and/or disabled to fend for themselves. This PCPP supports a community-initiated development project rooted in the rich soil of Christian charity, grassroots activism and brotherly love.

Neighborhood Care Points (NCPs) provide OVCs a daily meal, basic pre-school education and in the best cases, small garden plots. NCPs are essential pipelines for aid donated by NGOs like World Vision and UNICEF (no NCPs, no aid). The Swazi government will build permanent NCP structures but only where OVCs are already being fed. It’s a case of “build it (temporary structures) and they will come (and put up the real thing).”

Thirty caring members of the rural community of Mhlangeni are spearheading the construction of five NCPs and a home for a disabled man whose small stick-and-mud dwelling is rapidly collapsing. Although most don’t yet have a roof, the NCPs are already providing meals to hungry children. Construction of the house is providing training to at-risk youth and is half completed. Ultimately, the community will contribute $5,247.22 or 56% of the total project cost, much of it in existing buildings, labor and locally available materials.

This PCPP will provide building materials (cement and metal roofing) and fencing to complete these projects and send the message that support is available for worthwhile community-initiated projects aimed at addressing the needs of their most vulnerable members.

The following slideshow provides a glimpse of some of those who will benefit from your generous support of this project.

To offer your support to this project, Click Here to go to the Peace Corps Partnership website OR if this hyperlink fails, copy the link below and paste it into your browser:

Here’s a bit of historical background and overall rationale for this project:

The community of Mhlangeni consists of 397 homesteads that are home to about 2,400 people. It is a rural community of subsistence farmers, situated in the midveld and is blessed with water, available farmland and moderate temperatures. HIV/AIDS-related loss of many productive adults and chronic unemployment are two of the most serious problems facing this community.

As is common in Swaziland, the community or “chiefdom,” is broken into homesteads where small houses are clustered together around a common area with adjacent fields available for cultivation. Many of the homes are built of cement block and the families plant fields of maize, grow a garden and tend cattle, chickens and goats. Most are able to send their children to the nearby public schools. There are even several community members who own a small car, truck or tractor.

Other families are extremely poor. They live in stick and mud structures, tend small gardens and keep a few chickens. Their children often miss school due to lack of funds for fees, clothes and materials or because the child is needed to tend to livestock, either their own family’s or another family’s for a small income. Meeting the most basic of needs is a daily struggle and many are chronically malnourished. Many children have been permanently physically and/or intellectually stunted, their potential forever lost due to lack of the basic requirements of good health.

There are some 275 single or double orphans and other children considered vulnerable living in Mhlangeni. They are at risk of suffering from abuse, neglect, malnutrition and the host of health challenges that are common in such deprived environments. Many are missing school due to a variety of reasons such as lack of school fees, proper clothing or being needed to tend livestock. Many of these children experience abuse and neglect from family members and have injuries and illnesses that go untreated. Sexual abuse is an issue that is receiving more attention in recent years as more and more young children are left without caring adults to protect them from sexual predators. Several mothers in the community have remarked that it is critical to have a place to physically interact with these high-risk children in order to monitor their health and to detect signs of abuse and/or neglect as early as possible.

In addition to providing food and pre-school education as I discussed in the slideshow, NCPs also serve as a point of contact for these vulnerable children who often live without even the most basic medical services. Here, the caregivers p rovide training in abuse issues and teach the children about their right to live free from neglect as well as physical and sexual abuse. By providing a daily checkpoint, at-risk children will come to the attention of a caring adult who can then take action in support of the child’s welfare in a timely manner.

In the process of completing this project, several key community leaders will be empowered and lift their capacity to develop their community. This capacity building is at the heart of effective development efforts in third world countries as it strengthens the very foundation of the communities and allows for sustainability and expansion of benefits to vulnerable populations. It can be thought of as “oil for the machine of a struggling community.” Such projects don’t focus on how many buildings are built but rather how many builders are created and/or strengthened and supported.

Your generous support of this PCPP will send the message that support is available for worthwhile community-based initiatives and encourage community leaders to continue the process of “lifting themselves up by their bootstraps” by offering an example of how resources can become available when they do. Again, thank you for your generous support of our work here in Swaziland.

Stay well! John