When we think of community aid and development we often think of large local and international organisations doing the work. However, I would like to introduce you to some very special local people we met during our time here whose commitment to the poor is simply outstanding. They are the heroes making a difference on the ground – changing the lives of many individuals and communities.
Meet Matron Anna Zwane
Anna, a local Swazi nurse, retired about 10 years ago (at a time of increasingly high rates of AIDS and HIV throughout Swaziland). Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki asked her to come back and set up a Home Based Care team to reach the very sick poor who could not come into hospital. With no hesitation she agreed and has been a key member of the team working 5 days a week in the pouring rain and hot sun. While we were in Swaziland, Anna celebrated her 71st birthday and is still powering on. She was such a help to us in identifying immediate needs and learning about cultural practices.
She’s also a great dancer!
Meet Kathleen Hartmann
Kathleen was in Swaziland at the same time that the Home Based Care team began and became instrumental in its launch. She is from New York and has worked as a volunteer in Swaziland on and off now for 10 years. Though small and petite, her big heart and commitment to the people really shines through. As a result she partnered with a group of other concerned individuals to commence Possible Dreams International, an organisation which aims to serve the Swazi people. Kathleen was instrumental in helping us achieve what we did while in Swaziland, but more than this, she became a good friend, someone we shared lots of laughs and tears with.
Meet Nomsa Gamedze
Nomsa Gamedze had a hard start to life, falling pregnant at 17, living in very poor conditions and trying to survive. Her struggles shaped who she is now and even though a lot of her living conditions are the same she has a deep love for her community. Nomsa runs a local youth group who, despite their own individual poverty, seeks to assist old grandmas (gogos) and members of the community by gardening and cleaning for them. The youth group also helps raise awareness of HIV prevention through drama productions. Nomsa takes care of Mega for us by feeding him breakfast each morning and getting him ready for school. She is an amazing lady with a heart the size of Swaziland.
Meet Babe Elliot (pronounced ‘bar-bear’ meaning father)
Babe Elliot is a family man who works tirelessly for the Mambane community (see the ‘Liquid Gold’ post). Currently he runs a care point for about 70 children under a tree, ensuring they receive a meal a day as well as education. He has big dreams and a big heart for his people, which has affected many in his community. We hope to continue partnering with him.
Meet Thando and Sphamandla
These two young men have truly become our brothers. Their commitment to helping their community is really inspirational. Where some young adults here are self obsessed, bored and get up to no good, these young men volunteer their time to help others. They connect with children in an amazing way and boy can these two dance (regardless of what they say!).
Thando over the last year has been instrumental on the ground for Possible Dreams International, keeping financial records and overseeing projects. His dream is to do social work and was just admitted to university last week. Spha wants to be a doctor working out of Good Shepherd Hospital. We are sure he’s going to succeed.
These young men are huge assets to their community.
Thando and Spha made us laugh and really made our time in Swaziland so much fun. We played games at Kathleen’s place and often hung out together. Along with Thobani, Mthobisi, Mlekelele, Heli, Sue, Anna and Kathleen, they made our time in Swaziland a memorable one.