A child of no more than five carried a baby to the cinder block CarePoint in eastern Swaziland. A stream of other children followed. Some half dressed. Most barefooted. All covered in muck. None of the children wanted to miss the visitors. They are rare in these parts.
I’d joined the Bethany Christian School mission team from Louisiana to interact with the children and pray for the community. Children’s Cup had built a CarePoint here in late 2011. Like all CarePoints, they are a safe place used for multiple purposes. During the weekdays, preschoolers attend class, while a team of volunteer “bomakes” [many mothers] cook clean food for children of all ages. There’s a playground, a meeting place for discipleship training and Bible camps, and it’s where child sponsorship comes to fruition. The facility also serves as a clinic for the mobile medical team who visits every six weeks. Skills training is planned for each location for older teens. This is the place of HOPE!
As we stepped out of the van, little hands reached all around for someone to hold them. High-pitched voices called out, “How are you?” in unison through the oppressive humid conditions. They wanted to matter enough for you to pick them up, or simply, “Take my picture!” Laughter and smiles followed while showing them their own colorful image. Something so simple. So taken for granted in my homeland, yet so powerful in another.
We left the CarePoint to walk amid the village. A lady wearing a single footie with a baby on her hip led us from hut to mat, letting her people know we meant only good. The residents are squatters on privately owned land. They are sent to live in this stick hut community when they are no longer able to work in the sugarcane fields. The adults are sick or injured. Some are too old for manual labor. Many are just babies born into the poverty that engulfs their life. This is Section 19.
A gogo/grandmother sat on a mat—her current home. She waited for someone to build a hut of her own. Chickens cackled and drank water from pots used to cook a meal. As the adults shared their prayer concerns, I heard a cracking sound behind me. While most of the children clamored around the Americans, one little boy sat on the ground. He lifted up a big rock and banged it against another, cracking open nuts to eat. He looked at me as I took his picture. He didn’t ask to see it. His focus soon returned to his task. I stood amazed that no one else thought to do the same, or fight him for his bounty.
We walked and prayed within the walls of sugarcane that held the hot stagnant air within the boundary of this small village. There was no breeze to blow the stench of poverty away. The reality was there to touch, see and smell. Not deny.
Coming fresh from America, it was hard for my eyes to see the improvements at Section 19. This was the first time I’d ever come face-to-face with true poverty. But since Children’s Cup built this CarePoint, the changes are measurable. Nurse Jessie Bohannon, the head of CC’s medical team, notes that the younger children have moved from the 25th percentile to the 68th percentile on height and growth charts. This is a credit to the clean food and water available at the CarePoint. And prior to CC’s involvement, the cane fields served not only as a source of income, but as their toilet. After rain or irrigation, the runoff from the fields fill the river with refuse and pesticides. This is the only water supply for Section 19. Hardly fresh. Never clean. Yet, after Children’s Cup dug a “long drop” for the community to use as a toilet, they saw a significant reduction in infections, diarrhea, sores, and intestinal worms. Training and educational tools have also created healthier hygiene amongst the community. The medical team notes that the number of sick children per visit dropped from 50 to about 18. This is HOPE!
After being on the ground and visiting countless CarePoints in nearly 3 months, I have great hope that through the prayerful efforts of Children’s Cup, the improvements at Section 19 will only continue. Please pray for these children, the parents, the community. Turning hearts toward Jesus is the only thing that will truly break the cycle of poverty, addiction, and the spread of HIV. And acquiring an education helps elevate the possibilities of rising above the poverty even more.
If you’d like to help a child attend school, please consider giving to the scholarship program through Children’s Cup. It will change the course of one of these valuable lives. And quite possibly, yours!