A Wedding, A Funeral, and A Family Health Day

Hi Everyone,

Here is an update on what has been happening at Cabrini Ministries in the past few months.

FAMILY HEALTH DAY– April 2010

Over 2500 people attended our first Family Day at the Mission. The message was ‘Stay alive to raise your children.’ Not a topic you would normally need in the Western world but here where HIV/AIDS, TB and hunger are taking their toll, it was an important message.

The day started at 7am and was supported by doctors testing for HIV, TB, blindness and other acute medical conditions. Even breast cancer screening and prostate cancer tests were done. Action Against Hunger provided nutrition and cooking demonstrations while others taught the benefits of male circumcision, a program which will be introduced later in the year to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The atmosphere was wonderful as all the local people used the Mission as a centre to draw them together and support each other. Children laughed as they played on Jumping Castles, had their faces painted, played games and danced to music. The faces on Swazi adults and children alike beamed as they saw the local school’s marching band and singers entertain them and regular dramas unfolded teaching all about HIV. The day was so successful that it didn’t wind up until midnight.

To see such poor people – in fact the poorest of the poor – arrive in their best clothes, so bright and clean with their beautiful white teeth beaming out of smiles, it is hard to imagine that they live on bare earth with no water, electricity or any worldly possessions. Everyone received a meal and for some it was their only one in many days. The first Family Day was such a success that the local people hope it will be an annual event.

FUNERAL FOR THANDIZILE

We are very sad to share that we have lost the first child ever to death under our care. Thandizile was only 13 years old when she died of measles outbreak at the Mission. She was born with HIV/AIDS, the same disease which claimed her parents and made her an orphan. Thandizile is survived by her elder brother, 20 years older than her, who is a herdsman in the district. Her brother tried to feed her but a herdsman is the lowest of paid jobs here and soon she found herself struggling to find food.

Just six months ago the Mission embraced her, with her beautiful spirit and will to live. She loved each day at the Mission with other children and knowing the care of the Sisters and ‘Aunties’ were strengthening her life. “The one gift we could give her in her hard life, was one full term of being able to live like a normal little girl, reasonably healthy, very happy and loved,” said Sister Barbara in her time of mourning.

The measles outbreak has already taken 17 people in the area- all were vulnerable because of their HIV/AIDS status which destroys their resistance to other diseases. Thandizile was the first to contract measles at the Mission. The Sisters quickly acted by having all students and staff vaccinated but not before the very sad death of little Thandizile. Our community was hit very hard by this loss.

SWAZI WEDDING
On a much more joyous note, there is nothing as raw and alive as a traditional Swazi Wedding- and it lasts for three days!

Two of our female Swazi staff, Philisiwe and Jane, were married recently. Each wedding followed the sound of Africian drums which echoed through the Low Veld and brought all the community together.

The first day is the gathering with dancing around camp fires where hundreds talk and chat. The numbers attending the wedding are hard to judge as it is quite normal to welcome ‘gate crashers.’ In fact there are no invitations, it is just who turns up for the festivities and banquet. By the second day there were many hundred of guests to see the bride dance with her lady friends while the men dressed like warriors and staged the ‘kidnapping’ of the bride from the village. This is a 4 hour ritual and wonderful to see. The beating of the drums travels miles as all the men dance a warrior dance to approach the camp. Meanwhile the ladies line up and dance to a steady rhythm to ‘protect’ the bride. By the end all the guests are dancing too and enjoying the mock battle. The ladies costumes are richly decorated while the men are covered in African furs and beads holding spears and shields. Hundreds of people dancing to the beat of the drums and stirring up the dust is mesmerising. It leaves you with the true spirit of Africa, the culture of hundreds of years of history and is something you will never forget.

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane