A lot when you have help!
This blog post is a bit different from the others I have posted to date. Last week I spent the week in Swaziland, Africa at Project Canaan, with Heart for Africa. And to say it has rocked my world and changed my life is an understatement. It has been challenging processing it all, and more challenging to figure out what to do about it.
Heart for Africa is an AMAZING organization that is focused on sustainable H.O.P.E, which stands for Hunger, Orphans, Poverty, and Education. In 2009 they purchased 2,500 acres in Swaziland, that now houses 104 orphans under the age of 5 (most of whom, as infants, were discarded in pit latrines, or out houses in our vernacular), a working farm, an artisans workshop, and a woodworking workshop. They have cows that provide milk, and they will soon have 2,500 chickens (quickly growing to 5,000, then 30,000) that will provide eggs to everyone on the Project, and also many in the surrounding community. They provide jobs to 280 Swazis.
They are working in a very smart way to make the entire Project self-sustainable. This is the very definition of a social enterprise or heart-centered business (although they call it mission work…different words for the same kind of meaningful organization, making a difference while using sound business practices). And it is the very definition of trusting and stepping out in faith to make a difference and live your purpose in the biggest way possible.
Janine and Ian are business people who were called into ministry to help orphans and widows in this HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis ravaged country. 69% of the population has HIV/AIDS, largely because they don’t believe in using condoms, and have a culture of both polygamy and the routine abuse and violation of women – women they are related to, women who are their “wives”, women whom they don’t even know, old women, extremely young “women” (or babies and girls), and everything in between. They have a belief that if you have sex with a virgin (aka child, the younger, the better) you will be cured of AIDS. The average life expectancy is 29 years of age, and their population is largely made up of the elderly and children, with the middle generation (“our” generation) dying out.
One of the many things I have learned is you have to be TOUGH to be a woman who survives in Swaziland. You have to WANT to LIVE, because it would be so much easier to want to die and to give up. Another thing I learned is that the Swazi people have such amazing faith in their God, and really believe that God is good and loves them despite the conditions they live in and have to survive every day – from the barren land, the terrible drought they find themselves in right now, the 70% unemployment rate and the lack of ability to buy or grow food, the lack of clean drinking water, the diseases that ravage their population, and the cultural beliefs that cause them to be routinely abused.
And in the midst of all of this, there is Project Canaan, that is an oasis full of love and hope and safety and possibility for the kids (and employees) that are lucky enough to call it home. These kids have won the lottery – they are safe, they are loved, they eat nutritious food, they have access to the medical treatments they need, they will be given access to education, they will be taught they are valuable and can do anything they set their minds to, they will become the future leaders of this country, leaders who can help this country start over on a better, more productive path. And to think that all of these children were given a death sentence when they were born, that they weren’t wanted and were discarded in the worst ways imaginable, and yet somehow they not only survived, but found their way to Project Canaan!
It is difficult to experience all of this in one short week and then come back to Christmas here in the US – from the excessive lawn ornaments, the commercialism, the money we waste on stupid things we really don’t need. It is difficult to come back to all of the stupid political stuff that wastes so much of our energy as a nation and is such BS. None of it truly matters. So very little of it is productive.
We take so much for granted here, which we mostly know on some level, but until you go somewhere like Swaziland, and see the permanent, consistent, smart work that people like Janine and Ian (and the other long-term volunteers) are doing to really make a difference on so many levels in a place where one pig or cow or goat can change someone’s life, and people don’t have access to the basics, like clean water or electricity or indoor plumbing, it is difficult to really appreciate just how much we take it all for granted.
I have been reading Janine’s books about their journey from successful Canadian business people living a Four Seasons lifestyle to following their calling to do missionary work in Africa. The first book is called It’s Not Okay With Me, and the second book is called Is It Okay With You? They are both excellent reads. In the second book, Janine asks the question repeatedly, “is it okay with you?” and then quickly follows it up with “if not, what are you going to DO about it?”
So here is what I am going to do about it…for now…
1. I am writing about it to help me process it all and to share the experience and the organization with everyone I know.
2. I am taking on a challenge to sell 500 of the beautiful beaded ornaments that the Khutsala artisans have made between now and Christmas. And I ask you to help me in this. They are $10 each. It costs $250 per month per child to provide food, water, shelter, clothing, enrichment, medication/doctors visits, etc. So, this $5,000 would be tremendously helpful. Send me an email if you are interested in either buying some of these exquisite ornaments or in taking on 10, 25, or 50 to share with others in your network. They fit in regular envelopes and make great teacher’s gifts!
3. I have agreed to take on a challenge to sell 2,000 ornaments in the 2016 holiday season (between September and November 2016) and need quite a few volunteers who will agree to take on 10, 25, 50, or 100 ornaments to help reach this goal. Many hands will make light work. This will raise $24,000 for Heart for Africa, which will help them support even more children. If you are interested in helping with this, please send me an email.
4. I am inviting you to read Janine’s books (links above) if you feel called to learn more about her story. They are quick reads, and Janine is an amazing story teller. And if you are really up for an adventure that will change your life, they have several service trips over to Project Canaan in 2016 where you can experience it all first hand. If you decide to do this, I am certain it will change your life too!
I ask you to help by doing what you can. Help me to make a difference in the lives of these kids. Help me to support Janine and Ian in their mission – after all, how many of us will listen to the call to uproot our comfortable lives and move to sub-Saharan Africa to DO something about it ourselves? Janine and Ian are just like you and I and they are creating something truly worthwhile, with the help of a lot of other people just like you and I.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for taking action in a way that you are able if this speaks to you.
Have a great week!