Over the past few days we have been working with the Home Based Care team (HBC) by putting on small Christmas parties for outback ‘homesteads’. A homestead is basically an extended family group living together. These families are identified by the Home Based Care team from Good Shepherd Hospital as living below the poverty line and in need of medical assistance (see below).
Words cannot explain how poor these homesteads are – meagre dwellings made of mud huts sticks and straw roofs. When we arrive at our first homestead people came out from everywhere – happiness was on everyone’s faces. We were greeted with the family singing in acapella. Wow Swazi’s got talent! It was beautiful.
Matron Swane (one of the HBC team) went on to explain why we came and proceeded to tell the Christmas story. Thando then goes to the car, turns on the car stereo then BANG the party begins… African style!
Everyone celebrated with singing and dancing. We even got into the spirit but there’s truly nothing like watching these Africans strut their stuff. It’s so cool. We gave out lollypops, chips, juice and biscuits to each child. They were so happy! Some didn’t even open their gift… they just held onto them like precious jewels.
The first homestead was so special, maybe because it was the first but also because there was so much joy. Even the Babe´ (father) danced. The Gogo (grandma) was gorgeous and clapped and joined in the fun. There is such joy amongst such poverty. After dancing we played games with them like soccer and Frisbee and then I taught them jacks and pick up sticks – the games we took over. Chris’ magic tricks were a huge hit even among the adults.
At the second homestead we visited, children seemed to come out from nowhere.
One girl received a pair thongs (it was as if we gave her gold). Her face lit up and she kept smiling.
The last homestead really affected me. A woman lived there with 3 children, one of which was a downs syndrome boy who was badly burned some weeks back. During the dancing the man next door who apparently always complained of sore knees got down and boogied. It was an amazing sight!
These two days have been very special days. We have all laughed, danced and clapped and celebrated together. Most of these people are very sick, sleep in mud huts, some even on the muddy floor. They eat mealy meal (cornmeal) almost everyday. They have experienced death on a scale that we can’t even imagine… and yet we have seen joy, happiness, thankfulness (not just to us but also to God – many prayed before we left), and gratitude for the gifts they were given and time we spent with them.
There is an inward joy in these people that is not based on external circumstances or material possessions. Even with death, hunger, illness, an uncertain future, poverty, wet, dirt, sameness, drudgery, hard work, unclean water, limited flavours, bitter cold and blistering heat their joy is still present. I don’t know if I could be like that.
Our gifts were nothing compared to the joy we saw shining from these beautiful people. They have truly been our Christmas gift.
Home Based Care Team
With the growth of Aids/HIV, HBC was created and is now a dispenser of medication, assessments and care. They go to about 30 villages/homesteads a month with a dedicated team of about 5 nurses, most of them Swazis to treat those with TB, Aids, HIV positive and other illnesses.