Thursday, November 02, 2006

swaziland - the culture and the children

Here's a picture of the Swazi dancers at the Cultural centre - you'll hear their amazing singing in a podcast tomorrow.

The culture here is so different to the west. You'll hear much more about this tomorrow, in the meantime - while the storms hold out from kicking the internet connection, I'll give you as many pictures as I can muster.

These are typical traditional 'homesteads' made from wattle daub / sticks and cowpat floors. These are lived in at the cultural centre and can be seen dotted around Swaziland, they're certainly still in use, particularly around the more rural areas.

There's a whole system of sleeping arrangements, the grandmoher is the matriachal leader whils the grandfather takes a leadership role. The girls sleep in one hut, the boys in another.

Men have no say and are considered children until they marry. The boys all sleep in one hut and this will include the unmarried men who are still considered children until they marry. These men have no say in the life of the homestead. Boys are considered to young to move to the boys hut until they are six - determined by whether they can touch their right ear with their right arm curled around the top of the head! Until they are six they sleep with mum and dad.

The fathers can take as many wives as he wishes, the cost is 17 cows.

The grandmother takes a huge role in decision making and acts as the one to resolve disputes. It seems unflattering to say, but the grandmother is known as 'The great elephant' essentially demonstrating her power in family life. There is a huge matriarchal society that still remains in Swaziland - the Queen mother is particularly important in governmental affairs and will guide the king, certainly until his 40th birthday, still retaining a key role in state affairs thereafter. It's easy to wonder how this society works if you don't understand it, but trust me, it does. Kids respect their elders, and their king.

The shanty that you see here is perhaps the more typical home you'll see in Swaziland, this will co-exist alongside the homesteads above and more modern buildings that are acually quite palacial. I can't undertsnad the way that abject poverty can live so closely with wealth, but it does.

I've seen so many kids without shoes, I'm already hardened to that, while others drive around in 4 x 4's. Transport here is very costly, people tend to walk everywhere as a result, and, as a result, there seems to be little obesity. A real lesson for our own kids.

Sue spent the day with 77 pre-school kids, many of these orphans or living with aging relatives from all over the place. The children speak little English, speaking the native Siswati tongue. Kids flock here because provision like this is so rare. This work desperately needs supporting, the resources are incredibly limited and Hawane Farm do this for no cost at all but simply act out of passion. It chokes me that these folks have so little yet offer so much. They desperately need support, not patronising.

We would have no idea how to work long term with the Swazi kids, we don't know or understand the culture, they do. They have limited room and even more limited resource. Look at this for resources:

This is the box of toys for the pre-schoolers. I'm sure more will come in, and possibly bought in. Please understand, I'm absolutely not patronising - Hawane is actually here, it's doing things, but provision is finite. Other projects are taking resources - such as the hospice, medication, education. No funding exists apart from the generosity of folks and the incredible self funding work the farm invests in. This place seems to be an amazing success, but they need help to run it.

When I think of what my kids have / have had I feel so priviliged and blessed. These beautiful kids deserve

the same.

Here are some of the children eating their porridge by the sandpit - you can see the gift shop logo just in the top right. Every part of the structure is used - the gift shop sells the most amazing curios, ceramics, paintings and suchlike - every rand raised to further the work. This is such an amazing cottage industry and is just an inspiration to see.

So why blog this? Why bother coming out here, what;s the point?

There's a huge point actually. The internet is an awesome source of citizen journalism. I'm literally teary eyed as I'm typing this. WE CAN make a difference. This isn't rhetoric. These kids aren't commodities, they're kids. They're just as precious as our kids back home, in fact, probably moreso, some of these poor mites have no mom, dad, or family - many of these tiny lives have been ravished by the blight of AIDS. They need feeding, stimulating, and most of all, love. The amazing thing is that they're getting it. Right here.

This picture is so precious to me - it represents the trip out last year and the £7,500 raised to build a kids home - 16 more kids can be moved in and cared for as soon as the home is finished. That's why this is so important. What an immediate, incredible and immotive difference the project is doing - hampered only by funds. I feel as though I need to shout this from every roof top as I feel so passionate about it, and, thank God, I can through the use of blogging and podcasting. You have to see this work to believe it, i's so humbling and lifechanging to see this. You really see things in perspective when you're here.

Yet another building - the hospice has just been finished and will sadly be in use - Emma, a nurse from Weston Super-Mare works here full time and is presently away on respite, due back within the next week.

I've so much to say, but I need to rest up - please pass this link to anyone and everyone you can think of. My homepage carries a paypal account with a donate button for Swaziland. Absolutely every single penny raised will go out to Kevin and the team here. Please revisit the site and watch out for more blogs / podcasts over the next week.

God Bless


1 comment:

John B said...

Finally plugged into this.

Brilliant podcast paul.. Nothing else to say really. Easily the best thing you've done, bar none.

When there is money in my account I'll donate. Well done, and a great recording. :)

I can't believe there are no other comments on this post.. mad.. :)