As we work with the Neighborhood Care Points (NCPs) here in Swaziland, we are reminded of Jesus’ love for children. Many AIDS orphans are left behind due to the scourge of a terrible disease and of course they are innocent victims. Most of the NCPs are in rural areas that are sometimes hard to reach by car during the rainy season. Each NCP with which we are familiar has 2 “Grannies” who fix one hot meal per day for school age children and preschoolers, as well as trying to provide preschool training for the young ones. In addition, on Sundays the building houses church services. When these Grannies (or Go Gos as they are called here) show up each morning, rain or shine, they represent all Christians who take seriously the call to be “our brother’s keeper.”
They could just as easily stay in their own homes on those very hot or very rainy days, but they faithfully show up to help community members. Storms with heavy wind have sometimes damaged the small kitchen buildings, but the Go Gos find another location to cook the ever-important hot meal. Using minimal teaching supplies, they teach children about words and numbers as well as Bible stories. As orphans reach school age, these Go Gos try to help them get the required school uniform so the children can walk to the closest primary school and secondary school. They walk from 30 minutes to 2 hours to reach the closest schools. Students and Go Gos appear to understand the value of an education. In our view, these Go Gos are willing to “take up the cross” and do what God has shown that their community needs.
Similar to the U.S., here in Swaziland Go Gos also provide a much needed presence, even for families not touched by AIDS. In most families, both parents must work to provide for their children and often their jobs are quite a distance from home. Therefore, Go Gos care for babies and provide after school care for children each day. They are an integral part of the social structure.
The church with which we work has future plans for providing an “inner city” preschool, as well as training for those who teach the preschoolers, so children will be assured of acquiring skills needed to be successful in primary school. They also plan to build a 3 story building to house the preschool on the lower level while renting out apartments on the other 2 levels as a way to become self-sustaining. Long range plans include building primary schools in the most rural areas so children will not be exhausted from walking long distance to Grades 1 - 3. As children are older, it should take less time for them to walk, but in early primary grades children are still small so a long walk is exhausting. Although the government of Swaziland is continuing to develop its infrastructure, the many people who live in very rural areas are often last on the list. Through local churches and many cell phone towers, people in the rural areas stay connected to the greater society. The Royal family holds several traditional events each year in various locations to further solidify the social structure. A public holiday is observed for such events, like the Umhlanga (Reed Dance), the Incwala, and the King’s birthday, so people can participate in the events.
Although we still have a lot to learn about the Kingdom of Swaziland, we have found it both different yet a bit similar to Western societies. God continues to bless us, and help us to grow in many ways and for that we are grateful.
Terry and Diana serve as Long-term Volunteers with the Khukhan’Okusha Zion Church in Swaziland. They serve as coordinators of the development programs. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.