On Sunday November 1 at Ben Lenz’s studio in Chicago, a benefit event for the Sponsor-A-Child Program will be held in the afternoon. (More on this later- we hope to see you soon!)
Our Sponsor-A-Child Program is the focus of the event as well as our overall fundraising lately, because we currently have a large group of children that are still unsponsored and need your help. Three of those children’s stories are featured below to illustrate why they need sponsorship, what sponsorship provides, and what it means for the child.
Khululiwe is a double orphan (meaning both parents have died) who was brought to our attention by former Cabrini staff member Simo. At the time, Simo was a member of a community service youth group that was started by a Cabrini Mission Corps volunteer. On a homestead visit, Simo and his group found an orphaned and very sick little girl, only 5 or 6 years old. Simo asked Cabrini to take her in to the hostel, and he kindly offered to pay her school fees (though he was only a young man who was trying to take care of himself and his own family). He also asked his mother for permission to bring Khululiwe into their homestead as a family member. The homestead accepted her, which is no small thing in such resource-limited settings- it is a great act of kindness. (Simo is now studying to be a teacher.)
When Khululiwe came to live at the Cabrini hostel, we first treated terrible sores on her head that were infected, and we discovered she had very bad tuberculosis, she was HIV positive, and she was dying. We worked with Good Shepherd Hospital to get her on ARVs and TB medicine, and she gets full medical treatment through Cabrini, which means once-a-month checkups plus treating any other opportunistic problems as needed. We are proud to report that her health has been restored. She’s got a lot of personality, she is very good about taking care of herself and taking her medications, and she teaches the other kids about HIV.
Recently we helped her find her father’s family, which in Swazi culture is where she belongs, to really be rooted and have hope for her future. She is now in her last year of primary school. Under the care of Cabrini, she’s gotten her health back, she has a promising future to continue on in secondary school, and she is getting re-established with her family and the local area where she comes from. Also, we aim to take the burden off of those families that are good enough to take orphans in, providing material resources and a lot of psychosocial support, so the children are accepted much more deeply as a real member of the family. Whenever children go home, we make sure there is enough food and resources for their homestead and themselves.
Khululiwe is a child that was dying and was given new life. If it hadn’t been for the intervention of this young man, reaching out, making a connection with Khululiwe and taking her under his wing, this little girl would have been dead. We strive to continue helping her strengthen her relationships with family, and to continue to provide her with healthcare. It’s sponsorship that allows us to do these things. Sponsorship includes shelter, clothing, food, school fees, healthcare, as well as making connections with the child’s extended families, supporting social activities, games, psychosocial and mental health support … whatever is needed to raise the child. Whatever the child needs to live and thrive, Cabrini tries to give.
Tanele is also a double orphan. She calls Menzi her brother (the little boy from the previous blog post from Von), because they have the same last name, and in Swaziland everyone with the same last name is your brother or sister, but they are not related in the way Americans think of themselves as related. For us it is a great sign that she’s found a bit of a family at Cabrini.
Tanele is the youngest of 6 children. About three years ago, her twenty-year-old sister died, then months later, her mother died. Her father was a Mozambiquan refugee from the war in Mozambique and had abandoned the homestead. The head-of-household became a 22 year-old sister, who had three children of her own. This sister’s husband died, and she was likely HIV positive. So when Tanele’s mother died, we brought her, her second youngest sister and two brothers in the hostel, because there was too much stress and burden for the eldest sister to deal with. The only money the sister had was from cutting sugarcane, which is seasonal, very difficult, dehumanizing work.
Tanele has a lot of energy, she dances and sings, she’s a beautiful little girl, and she’s very smart. At Cabrini she is able to get academic stimulation. We run an afterschool program that she is part of. She’s not even in preschool yet, but we have staff that engage in structured educational activities with these kids, such as teaching them their letters, etc. When everyone on a homestead is sick and barely surviving to do anything, children get no early stimulation and their interactions are very limited. So here she is in an environment that stimulates curiosity and learning, and helps her in building relationships.
With children who have experienced such trauma of death and poverty, first you must provide security, safety and basic needs- food every day, shelter, healthcare, and love to help them out of the survival mode of scavenging and taking care of themselves. We feel that the best gift we can give is to allow a child to be a child. When they no longer have to lay awake and worry if they’re going to eat, if they have to fight… they can be kids.
Bonakele is a teenager, in her third year of secondary school, and has been a double orphan since 2003. She and her two young siblings came to live at the Cabrini hostel in January 2004. The third year of secondary school in Swaziland is like the last year of junior high in the US. We would really love to help her go to one of the better high schools because she’s very smart and tremendously responsible.
When she came to Cabrini in 2004, her younger sisters were aged two and three, and she was very attentive, like a mother, at a very young age. She’s an incredibly nice young lady who deserves an opportunity. Good schools are very expensive here because there’s a boarding fee. In addition, most teenagers need guidance to help them find a good school, apply, and work out the details of attending. We act like a capable parent in that role, helping the child to achieve things that their socio-cultural class ordinarily wouldn’t let them access.
Bonakele has real potential to go to University and help her family rise out of the trenches of poverty, if she goes to a good high school and is prepared well for her exams. At these schools for example they speak English all the time, so that helps them pass the English part of the exam, one of the most difficult for students to pass.
Part of sponsorship, in addition to the medical care, food, clothing, etc., is monitoring children’s progress in school, and, particularly for teenagers, seeking out opportunities to capitalize on their potential on a very individual basis. Bonakele is one of the children we hope to support to get into a good high school, because she has the capacity and potential to take advantage of it. Let us not forget that so many of these children are severely traumatized. Bonakele lost both of her parents at 12 years old, within months of each other. To show any type of achievement in school with both parents tragically dying is a struggle. But she is a standout. She’s worked very hard at her studies and benefited from the afterschool program as well. We hope with sponsorship to support her and guide her towards opportunity and new life.
Here is the link to sponsor a child- please sign up today!:
Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane