The Kukhany'Okusha Zion Church (KZC) has been a partner church with Global Ministries since 1982. Actively involved in church building projects, preschool education, children’s programs, and extensive HIV/AIDS education programs within congregations, KZC has established an independent, registered NGO as a subsidiary of KZC to do specific outreach to orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), a core ministry of the church. This organization, Kukhany’Okusha Cares (KC), has taken a proactive approach to meeting the need for Neighborhood Care Points (NCPs), serving rural communities in eSwatini (Swaziland). Through its relationship with the Council of Swaziland Churches (the only Zionist Church that holds membership), KZC through Kukhany’Okusha Cares aspires to operate NCPs to the UNICEF standards, and is motivating other churches in eSwatini to do the same.
ESwatini is a monarchy and its traditional culture is very important. Currently the country is experiencing an economic crisis; both the unemployment rate and the rate of HIV infection are high in eSwatini -- some estimates put both between 40-50 percent. These rates also are reflected within the membership of the KZC. In establishing Kukhany’Okusha Cares in late 2010, KZC is continuing its long-standing tradition of serving the poor communities where its churches are located, in rural areas that are especially impoverished.
KZC, through KC, runs eight Neighborhood Care Points, serving over 650 children per month, the majority of who are hungry on a regular basis. At these eight NCPs, one nutrition-filled meal a day is served, five to six days each week. Monthly delivery rounds are made to each of the eight Neighborhood Care Points, using the project vehicle, by the Assistant Coordinator/Driver and the Program Coordinator. Food is purchased from the local bulk supplier who has the best price - ground maize (mealie meal), soup powder, beans, and cooking oil are the core foods purchased. Occasionally salt, sugar, and soap are also given, if the budget allows. Food is delivered for the month, then stored on each site in a locked space, managed by the volunteer caregivers, who are cooks and teachers, trained by UNICEF on care point management. Meals are cooked five-six days a week, once a day, serving 30 to 200 children (under 18) at each Care Point.
At four of the eight, NCPs, the church also operates a basic pre-school education program, with teachers/caregivers who have been trained by UNICEF.
At two of the Care Points, land has been donated for farming projects (five hectors at one site, four smaller plots at the other). Plans are being made to farm the food, to feed the children with the bulk of the crop, and sell the remaining food, to be able to pay the farm workers a basic wage and, hopefully, the volunteer caregivers. Ideally, each Care Point also will have a vegetable garden to supply additional nutrition for the children's meals and the remaining vegetables can be sold locally for additional income. A long term goal is also to secure a tractor for farming.
The biggest challenge for these efforts is that as the meal provided at each NCP has become stable and reliable, the number of children needing to be served by the NCPs increases. This proves to be a growing challenge to meet the expanding needs of each NCP.
Update: October 2013
Some of the NCP’s like Mgazini and Mjoli are still trying to finish their structures and are struggling to get the needed funds to complete these structures. At Mthombe, the cornfields have been harvested and, since no storage is available, the project directors are discussing food storage options with them. Moreover, the NCPcaregivers continue to request NCP uniforms (instead of them using their own clothes).
Since the NCPs are trying to build up new projects, brainstorming continues on which sort of efforts will be successful for each NCP. It is hoped that these new projects will bring development to each NCP and to the communities where each NCP is located. These projects will be income-generating and will require special attention and planning.
It was a joyful day at Bhiliya when surveyors of their borehole came in to measure and plot a place where the borehole will be located. One of the caregivers at Bhiliay (Makhanya) cried loudly in joy, shouting words praising God and dancing all over the yard. The people of Bhiliya have been longing for this borehole for some time. They thank God so much for hearing and answering their prayers at last. The painful thing, however, is that no water was found after so much drilling. Alternatives are being sought at this time.
To learn about the Indiana and Kentucky Disciples connection to this project, click here.
Update: May 2016
The Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church (KZC), through Kukhany’Okusha Cares (KC), continues to maintain food security for children as a priority in eight Neighborhood Care Points (NCP) across Swaziland. KC is working towards creating sustainable agricultural developments at each location in order to include nutritious foods into the diets of the children surrounding the NCPs, and to generate an income for those working in the NCPs. In the last two years, the NCP at Bhiliya installed a new water well, and the Mbekelweni NCP raised funds to add a roof to the church building at their center.
In addition to these major developments, KC is prioritizing improvements of the NCP at Mgungundlovu to serve as a model to replicate for the other NCPs. Currently at Mgungundlovu, the NCP has a water well, a vegetable garden, and an orchard for fruit. The vegetable garden produces corn, sweet potatoes, lettuce, and green peppers. In the orchard at Mgungundlovu, the NCP is growing papayas, bananas, oranges, and lemons. The orchard is in its third growing season, therefore is yielding a small amount of fruit, but as the trees grow, more fruit will be available. One of the most critical features of the center is the fence, which protects the gardens and orchard. There are many roaming animals surrounding the center, and the fence prevents animal entry and a loss of fruits and vegetables.
The vision of KC moving forward is to ensure each center has a water source on the center’s property, to acquire a plot of land to begin growing sustainable, nutritious food items for use at the NCP and to generate an income. Several of the NCPs do not have a water source available on their land, and staff at these centers travel up to five kilometers for water. Once each center has a water source, land, and a fence for their fields, the Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church would like to see again move forward toward each child that comes to an NCP receive an education.
Update: January 2017
The Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church (KZC), through Kukhany’Okusha Cares (KC), continues to maintain food security for children as a priority in seven Neighborhood Care Points (NCP) across Swaziland. This priority is addressed through first providing meals for children from the surrounding areas of the NCPs. In addition to the feeding program, KC is continuing to work towards creating agricultural developments at each location in order to add more nutritious foods into the diets of children visiting the NCPs and to generate an income to support the Neighborhood Care Points.
The feeding program provides daily meals for approximately 300 children between the seven Neighborhood Care Centers, ranging from 15 children to 90 children at each center. Meals provided through the center include rice, beans, mealie meal and soup, in addition to rotating vegetables and fruits that become available through the agricultural projects of the Neighborhood Care Points. At this point, the produce provided from the agricultural projects is supplementing the food purchased monthly. All meals are prepared daily by caretakers.
Swaziland, as in most areas of southern Africa, has been experiencing harsh drought conditions, which has continued to affect the amount of water available at each center and causing a reduction in the amount of vegetables and fruits harvested on the farms. Unfortunately, several of the crops have not survived this year. However despite the drought conditions, the papaya, lemon, and orange trees have been continuing to provide fruits this past year.
Recently, KC has been working to improve infrastructure at the NCPs, including water tanks, fencing, and the repair of several latrines. The KC has received a generous gift, and they plan to begin implementing many of these projects very soon. These infrastructure improvements will improve the health and safety of the NCPs. Also, once these infrastructure projects are completed, the NCPs can add to the number of agricultural and income-generating projects. One new income-generating project that is beginning at the NCP in Mgungundlovu is growing cotton, as cotton does not require a large amount of water. The Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church and Kukhany’Okusha Cares look forward to beginning this project and other agricultural and income-generating projects at each Neighborhood Care Point.
Update: August 2017
The Mgungundlovu NCP is situated 30 miles from Manzini, the second largest city in Swaziland. Along with providing meals for children and cultivating new agricultural crops, the Mgungundlovu NCP runs a pre-school which conducts lessons during the week. Currently, around 30 children receive a meal at this NCP every day. During school holidays, the number of children receiving meals increases to over 50, with ages varying from 1 to 18 years old.
The Mgungundlovu NCP has five caregivers who cook and serve meals to the children daily in addition to taking care of the crops in the fields. Covering an area of approximately five acres, the farmland is fully fenced and is capable of earning significant income for the NCP through the harvest of vegetables and maize that can be sold to local vendors. However, the major challenge faced at this NCP is that there is not enough water. Despite the drought conditions, the caregivers managed to harvest 12 bags of maize last year, each weighing 110 lbs. Vegetables such as spinach, carrots, beetroot, onions, and cabbages are grown at this care point as well. NCP organizers and caretakers have stated their determination to develop the farm further in order to provide much-needed income to finance a working well, salary for a certified pre-school teacher and other improvements.
The Mthombe NCP is located approximately 75 miles from Manzini. Unlike most other NCPs, Mthombe Neighborhood Care Point has a certified teacher to run the care point’s pre-school. Around 25 children receive a meal at this NCP, most of whom are attendees of the pre-school, and the rest are children younger than pre-school age.
This care point also has five caregivers who cook and serve meals for children daily as well as tend to the crops cultivated in the one-acre farming field. Half of the farmland perimeter has been fenced in from support provided through Global Ministries. The farmland holds much potential for producing a variety of crops, but the yield has been sparse due to the incomplete fence to keep out animals and lack of water source during the dry season. A variety of vegetables, including maize, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, onions and cabbages are grown at this NCP. The church is hoping to improve the farming conditions for the field, because fruit and vegetable vendors are interested in purchasing the NCP’s crops, which would provide income for the care point. Organizers of the Mthombe Neighborhood Care Point have plans to finish the construction of thence around the farming land, drill a borehole for an improved water source, and to increase the pay to a more suitable salary for the certified pre-school teacher at the NCP.
Update: September 2018
The KCCP reports for 2018 detail the work being done at the eight neighborhood care points throughout eSwatini. KCCP reports that “The year 2018 has been a tremendous one for KCCP as we have been able to deliver food on a monthly basis, pay caregivers incentives and manage all office expenses for the organization.” They report that they have been able to make all food deliveries to all care points throughout September and August and that they saw a larger number of children than usual during holidays when they were out of school.
KCCP did experience some delays in their ability to deliver food because of a broken gearbox on their truck, however, they were able to find other ways to make sure the food was still delivered. KCCP was able to purchase a secondhand gearbox for their truck for $800 and had it installed in the truck, they do not anticipate any issues with the truck in the near future.
The 8 care points report that their programming is going well. The care point in Thesalonika has been holding Bible classes for children. The pre-school at the Shewula care point took their children on a field trip to the airport, Hlane game reserve, as well as Swaziland broadcasting services. The Mthombe care point was able to harvest a number of kilograms of their own maize. At the Bhiliya care point, they fed 48 children over the school holidays on a daily basis. The Mgungundlovu care point was able to harvest enough maize that the excess will be sold and the money will be used to support this care point. The Mnjoli care point fed over 60 children during the school holidays. At the Mliba care point, a new water tank has been in the process of being installed and set up.
Many of the neighborhood care points hope to start new projects and build new structures to increase capacity. Several care points are hoping to either drill a new borehole or re-drill a borehole to provide better accesses to water, the cost for this is approximately $7000. The Thesalonika care point hopes to start a pre-school at their site like several of the other care points have done. There are two children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy that KCCP hopes to assist in getting wheelchairs. Global Ministries welcomes gifts for the Neighborhood Care Point Centers Feeding Program
Update: December 2018
Throughout the end of the year, many care points held graduation ceremonies, took field trips, and continued providing pre-school lessons and meals for children in the area. In Thesalonika, the Neighborhood Care Point (NCP) cared for approximately 60 children each day. At the Shewula NCP, they have been welcoming around 50 children arriving daily for pre-school and a meal. The children at Shewula recently went on a field trip to the airport and nature reserve. At the end of the year, the Shewula NCP and the Mnjoli NCP both held a graduation where children at both locations recited poems, sang songs, and danced for those in attendance. The Mthombe NCP also held a graduation ceremony recently, and many community members came for the occasion including the newly elected members of parliament from the area. The Mthombe NCP is looking forward to beginning to plow their fields soon for sweet potatoes. The preschool graduates gave a performance and accepted their certificates during a festive ceremony with music, food, and dancing for all. Children attending the Bhiliya NCP received immunizations in addition to their meals. The Mgungundlovu NCP began their second phase of plowing for maize, which has been growing successfully.
The Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church is seeking funds for several projects and ongoing needs for the NCP program such as new or rebuilt bathrooms, building projects, fencing materials for crops, and class materials for pre-school classes.
- A gift of $10 can buy 10 notebooks
- A gift of $20 can buy 15 storybooks or 10 packets of crayons
- A gift of $100 can buy 4 buckets of paint
- A gift of $200 can buy 10 desks
- A gift of $1500 can build a new block of toilets
- A Gift of $3000 will buy fencing materials for growing crops
Update: March 2020
Over the past year, the Neighborhood Care Point Program (NCP) has continued to serve rural communities in Eswatini (Swaziland) by providing access to food and early education for children. The end of 2019 saw the graduation of many pre-school children from the program. For the graduations, many care points held festive gatherings where parents, community members, and church members could celebrate the achievements of the children. The graduates sang, danced, recited poetry, and showed off all that they have learned over the past academic year.
The Neighborhood Care Point Program provides many services aimed at taking care of children’s educational, physical, moral, and spiritual growth. The church offers pre-school across the country at NCP centers, as it may be the only opportunity for children in the area to begin their education. Additionally, the NCPs are able to provide meals to ensure their health and growth.
In November, a hailstorm blew the roof off one of the care points, which will need repaired this year. Furthermore, the NCP Program continues to seek support to provide meals, education, and maintenance of the facilities and equipment. Currently, the truck used to make food deliveries is in needs new tires in order to continue accessing the rural care points. Moving into the new year, the church continues to develop income generating projects and looks forward to seeing how the NCP centers can grow in new and exciting ways in the coming decade. Some of the goals of this year include building new classrooms, increasing the diversity of educational materials for children, and to improve or dig new water wells at each NCP.