[NOTE: This series of blogs is a compilation of reflections from our NewLifeSundayNight trip toSwaziland in March, 2012. A separate absolute monarchy surrounded by South Africa,Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. 60% of its population lives on less than USD$1.25 a day. Our church is partnering with Children's Hope Chest to "sponsor" two communities where orphans and vulnerable children abound. My goal in writing this blog series is primarly to help our church understand the nature of this partnership, and to find ways of getting involved. Read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. Read Part 3 HERE.]
As promised, in this fourth and final installment of my reflections on our recent trip to Swaziland I will give a sketch of the model of partnership and development that Children's Hope Chest employs. Here are the key bits:
1. A local church in the US agrees to sponsor a community in Swaziland. (There are other countries where Hope Chest works, but I can't say how it works there, only how it works from my perspective in Swaziland.) At the heart of this relationship is child sponsorship: the people from the US church sponsor a child from the Swazi community. The funds from child sponsorship are pooled together to launch a "Care Point" that provides meals for all the children from that community who come, regardless if they are sponsored or not. Thus the greater the percentage of children from a commnuity who are sponsored, the more meals a week they can have. Because our New Life Care Points have just begun, only roughly 30% of the children have sponsors from New Life. As a result, our Care Points in Gege and Mankayane can only offer meals three times a week.
2. Each community in Swaziland has a local Swazi pastor who cares for the people in that community. Some are doing this in a full-time capacity, like Pastor Ronald in the Gege community, while others can only afford to preach on Sundays and make a few visits during the week, like Pastor Kumalo in the Mankayane commnuity.
3. While Children's Hope Chest makes the connections with US churches, Adventures in Missions (AIM) runs the in-country operations. An amazing, visionary, business-minded South African who goes by the name "Jumbo" oversees the 30+ Care Points in Swaziland. With the help of a few other American missionaries, the AIM team has started a Leadership Academy to train up local Swazis for ministry in the Care Point communities. At the moment, they have a "Discipleship Team" of local Swazis who visit the Care Points multiple times a week to teach the children and work with the local pastors to disciple them. (The saying in Swaziland is that most of the people are over-evangelized and under-discipled.)
4. Several businesses have been developed that both meet the needs of the Care Point communities and employ people from the communities. For example, "Jumbo" has started a large farm that grows corn, cabbages, and geraniums. The corn goes to help provide food for the Care Points; the cabbages go to each child-- since cabbage is a durable vegetable and the children don't get many vegetables; and the geraniums are turned into perfume and cologne, sold to benefit the work. The farm provides employment-- at better wages than other local farms!-- for local Swazis and food at a cheaper price than buying them elsewhere. The goal is to use enterprise to provide a long-term solution for the needs of these communities rather than to create dependency. The sponsorship from a US church is, in effect, like an influx of capital into these communities-- not to mention an effort to stave off starvation and help them survive right now.
5. Care Points reflect the efforts of their US church sponsors. We got to visit a few Care Points that were years ahead of ours. One had built a full school because the community had none.
Another was given a huge play area/jungle gym so the children could have good old fashioned fun.
When you compare the pictures of these Care Points with ours at Gege, which has a small kitchen and iron pots over campfires, you can see, New Life, we have our work cut out for us! The wells have been drilled at both our Care Points, but they need solar pumps installed. And Gege needs a church building. And the children at both places need to eat more than three meals a week.
Well, I hope these reflections have been helpful. For more information on developing a partnership with your church and a Hope Chest community in Swaziland or elsewhere, visit their website at www.hopechest.org