Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Process Recording #2 - so what did I actually do in Bulembu?

In the community center
In the school
In front of the clinic

I may have lost a few of you after that last novel of a blog post, but I promise they'll be MUCH shorter from now on. Here's a quick sketch of what I was doing during my month in Swaziland:
- My first two weeks were medically focused. I worked in the clinic in Bulembu for about a week. Also during that week, I was able to go up into the more rural villages surrounding Bulembu with one of the nurses who does home-based care and work with her in that capacity. I also was able to spend a few days traveling south to a city called Siteki with another nurse from Bulembu, where we volunteered in a private hospital in their version of an emergency room. On our way to Siteki, we also spent some time in two different government hospitals. I was able to be exposed to numerous healthcare contexts within Swaziland, providing a great canvas for comparison.

(The month I spent in Swaziland was broken up by 2 weeks spent in Mamelodi, South Africa, which I'll talk about in my next post)

- I spent a chunk of time in Swaziland helping in Bulembu's Christian school. The curriculum they use in the school is a self-paced English curriculum. The self-pacing is necessary because orphans come into the school at all different ages, education levels, and times of the year. I was able to spend one-on-one time reading and conversing with 10 of the newer students every morning for 2 weeks. These were students struggling with their English speaking and reading skills. I absolutely loved getting individual time with these kids because not only was I able to get to know them but I was also able to notice some learning challenges and developmental drawbacks specific to each child that their permanent teachers will be able to intentionally work with them on. I also got to spend my afternoons helping in the community center, which is a care center established to provide a safe place for the village kids (who are not orphans) to go during the day while their parent(s) are at work. Before the community center was established, these kids would likely be either locked in their house or out of their house to fend for themselves during the work day.

Process Recording #1 - about Bulembu

I'm less than hopeful that there are many people still sitting tight to see if I'll be true to my word and actually post anything about my African adventures. But those of you who are reading this, thanks for being willing to follow along with my ramblings! I am by no means a "blogger" but I hope to at least be able to communicate some of my overseas experiences.
Before I embark on an extrapolation of thoughts and stories, I want to give an overview of the towns I was in, the organizations I was working with, and what I actually did day-to-day. I'll start in Swaziland.
So as you know from reading below, most of my time was spent in Bulembu, Swaziland. Now Bulembu is not just an ordinary town (if you had a chance to watch the video on Bulembu International's website, www.bulembu.org, you've had a little introduction). Set in the mountainous region of Northern Swaziland, Bulembu is a former mining town. A minining company built the town 60+ years ago to support the Chrysotile mine (a milder form of asbestos) but when the market for asbestos collapsed, the market for Chrysotile disappeared with it. In 2001, the company shut down the mine and walked away. This left the people of Bulembu (as well as many other Swazis) unemployed, the national economy dented, and a once booming town abandoned.
To thicken your understanding of the dilemma, it is necessary to have a fuller picture of the condition in Swaziland. This country tiny landlocked country (about the size of New Jersey) of about 950,000 people now holds the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world (almost 39% of the population is infected) and an average life expectancy of 32. Tuberculosis and HIV go hand in hand, and according to the World Health Organization, Swaziland now has the world's highest TB rate. Additionally, almost 78% of the population is living below the poverty line. And what is more, with parents dying so young, the country now has an orphan crisis on its hands (~120,000 orphaned and vulnerable Swazi children). Not to sound calloused, but often when people think of Africa, they think of poverty and AIDS. What struck me quickly upon arrival was to learn that the UN is estimating that, at the current death rate, the Swazi people will cease to exist by 2050.
It is this national crisis that the team of Christian entrepreneurs and social developers (now comprising Bulembu International - BI) sought to step into. They purchased the town in 2006 and have basically begun a large-scale community development project. Bulembu Ministries Swaziland (BMS) is the on-site operating branch of Bulembu International (BI). The vision is to develop a town where 10,000 residents live safely with access to employment and necessary social services...a town an "infrastructure and programs to provide ongoing care for 2,000 orphaned and vulnerable children," giving them "access to education, health services and family structures so they can develop into young adults and emerging leaders with hope for the future" (Bulembu vision statement). The idea is that this ministry of transformation will soon be self-supported by "innovative, sustainable, and profitable businesses in the community" (goal = a self-sustaining community by 2020). Ultimately, this organization is hopeful that, by the complete restoration of one town (and the lives that it represents) through the transforming hope offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the future of Swaziland will take a turn for the better.

The "community care" side of things:
In Bulembu, there are 4 different sub-ministries (for lack of a better word) that house the incoming orphans:
the welcome center (a house where the children stay first upon arrival in Bulembu before placement in a more permanent setting), BMS orphan homes (currently about 8 homes each accomodating 8-9 kids and 1 Swazi house mom), ABC (Abandoned Babies for Christ) ministry (taking in abandoned babies from all over the country), and Jacaranda ministry (for sexually abused young girls). Additionally, there is a medical clinic, a christian school (Bulembu Christian Academy), and a community center (for care children in the village whose parents work during the day).

The "community enterprise" side of things:
There are currently 4 established businesses - timber, water, honey, and country lodge (hospitality) - with several more in the works (i.e. a diary, bakery, and tree nursery). The "future hope" exists not only for the incoming orphans, but the employees who are hearing daily about Jesus and being encouraged in a Christ-centered workplace.

I spent the first two weeks in the clinic and the community working alongside the nurses serving in Bulembu...
More to come (I promise my future posts will not be this long!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Home sweet home

Just a quick update to let those of you who have been following my blog (as infrequently as I post to it) that I am home safe in the States. I would have expected nothing less of my introduction back into the U.S. than for it to be marked by chaos! I dove straight into helping my parents finish up renovations on our house in Charlotte so we could get it on the market (my family moved from Charlotte, NC to Seattle, WA while I was in Africa). Also, shortly after I got home I got to be in the wedding of one of my best friends in Charlotte. I just arrived in Seattle, and will be here for the rest of the summer off and on. I'm still recovering from jet lag, bouncing from time zone to time zone, and have not had much time to wind down yet.
If you're still following, stick with me. As I get some time to rest and process through my time in Africa, I will be posting thoughts, observations, and stories!
Blessings to you all from Seattle

ps - This is the last photo I took in Africa...giant beaded Nelson Mandela

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back to Bulembu

Happy Saturday!
I wanted to post really quickly and just let you all know where I'll be and what I'll be up to for the next 2 weeks.
I'm in route back to Bulembu, Swaziland right now (leaving South Africa is hard!) and I am excited about what God has in store for the remainder of my time in Africa. It's so hard to believe I've been here a month already and only have 2 weeks left!
I'm going to be in Bulembu continuing to volunteer with their ministries there (in the clinic, with the church, in the orphan and abandoned baby homes, etc.)
Please be praying for me over the next two weeks that I would really keep my eyes fixed on the Lord and open to learning A LOT and being used however God chooses to use me. I have a feeling these last two weeks may be difficult.
Can't wait to share with all of you my experiences!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thus far...

Ok friends and family. I must say, I am very sorry that I have yet to be able to post anything substantial on here. My older brother's blogging skills have put me to shame. My access to internet has been much more infrequent than I thought it would be. The few minutes that I've had here and there I've been shooting emails to my parents and quickly replying to others. So if you want to get a hold of me, emailing kgdonahoe@unc.edu would be your best bet!
I am disappointed that I haven't been able to share any stories with you guys, but I'm beginning to think that I may use this blog as I get home and begin processing through things I've learned, people I've encountered, and experiences I've had - so be patient with me and stay tuned.
I do want to fill you guys in a little bit about how I've been doing and what you can be praying for.
I've been in Africa 3 weeks so far - 2 in Bulembu, Swaziland and 1 in Mamelodi, South Africa (with the team from my church in Chapel Hill). Honestly, I had a pretty difficult first two weeks. A combination of personal struggles in my relationship with the Lord and issues I wrestled with in Bulembu caused me to have a pretty dry and discouraging introduction to Africa. I know that God has A LOT in store for me to learn and see and do while I'm here, but I won't be fake with you and say things haven't been incredible thus far. However, being in Mamelodi and serving alongside the Powerhouse church has been good for my soul. I think God has slowly been preparing my heart and warming me up to the incredible things He wants to teach me.
If you think about it, please pray...
- that I would be intent on staying in the word and in prayer individually
- that the Holy Spirit would continue to soften my heart and keep me sensitive to what the Lord is saying to me and wanting to teach me
- that I would really KNOW the Lord intimately
-for spiritual and physical protection over me and my team
- for the town of Bulembu...that God would continue to bring physical and spiritual restoration to that place and light a fire in His church there
- for the township of mamelodi and the powerhouse church...that God would continue to bring His kingdom here through this church and that His people would be encouraged.
God is good.
I love you all.
Hopefully much more to come soon!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sorry I haven't posted!

Hey everyone - so I have 1 min left in an internet cafe. Just want you to know I'm here safe and have been for a week and a half. doing well and will post ASAP. much love

Addendum: I think I can safely say I looked quite a bit cheerier upon arrival in Africa than my previous Ecuadorian adventures.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The night before...

Welcome to my blog! I'll keep this post short and sweet to leave room for the exciting things that I'm sure lie ahead of my in the next month and a half! It's the night before I embark on my first trip to Africa (and my first airplane flight lasting longer than 8 hours)!! For those of you who are unaware, I will be spending the next 6.5 weeks in southern Africa. For the first 2 weeks, I will be working in a hospital in Bulembu, Swaziland (in addition to doing lots of other things, I'm sure). I'd tell you all about Bulembu, but I don't think I would do it justice. Visit their website and watch the video on the homepage! For the second two weeks, I'll be heading slightly westward to Mamelodi, South Africa to meet up with a team of 9 other people from my church in Chapel Hill to work in the township there with a church called the Powerhouse Church. Then, i'll be heading back to Bulembu for the last 2 1/2 weeks or so! I'm very excited (and a little nervous). Keep me in your prayers (esp. for safe travel and a flexible attitude in the next day or two)...the travels of the daughter of a pilot always leave room for lots of adventure ;) Stay tuned - I will try to post as much as I can but am not sure yet what my internet access will look like.
(ps - I included this photo for effect :) this is me post-42 hrs of travel to Ecuador. Hopefully I'll look a little cheerier upon arrival in Swaziland!)