Volunteers & Visitors: Anna Brice, Cabrini College Faculty and Heather Anderson’s Fundraiser

We like to collect stories and a keep a running photo-history of Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland on the blog, so here are some stories and photos from visitors we had last year.

Anna Brice, a Junior at University of Oregon, stayed with us for 10 weeks. Read her story below:

“With my goals set on medical school, I knew there would be so much to learn from working there. Not only directly medical things such as how to draw blood and treat wounds, but how, as a health care professional, to work in such a devastating environment. However, I was surprised to find that I was equally excited to have the opportunity to work with the children in the hostel. These children have been through things I could never imagine, and having the opportunity to simply put a smile on their faces was something I could not wait to do.

“Despite the fact that I was new, I was a foreigner, the entire community at Cabrini made me feel so welcomed. As I was accepted into the community, there were some interesting cultural things in Swaziland that I picked up on. One of which was even the people who know absolutely no English know ‘How are you’ and ‘I am fine.’ This always seemed weird, and at first I thought it was because people simply were not taught other responses, like ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ This may be true, but I found that many people truly are just ‘fine.’ The devastation HIV/AIDS and TB have brought to this society has been earth-shattering. Everyone has lost numerous friends and family members, and there is no recovery from this devastation; people simply move on.

“Much of my time there was spent helping in the clinic, mostly driving the nurses out for home-based care. This was where I truly saw the devastation of poverty and disease. Between giving patients daily injections and driving severe cases to hospitals, I was able to witness not only how the nurses provide medical care for a wide array of needs, but also how they were able to cope with all they were seeing. After dropping a patient off at the hospital that was HIV positive, had MDR and Kaposi Sarcoma, I hesitated as it began to sink in just how much pain this patient must be experiencing. The nurse I was working with caught on to my hesitation, and simply said, ‘We’ve done all we can do for him, and if you want to do your best to help the rest of the patients we meet today, you cannot dwell.’ This was a hard reality to face, but is one that I will keep with me for a long time.

“I was also able to see that these nurses are not alone in dealing with difficult cases – the clinic has truly made its own community. Together, they find support for dealing with the realities they must face every day, and I was fortunate enough to be able to experience that community for even a short time. Being new to the environment, they took me under their wings and helped me to cope with my personal difficulties, but more than that, between Braais and s’mores, they became my friends. Now that I am back, it is impossible to answer the question ‘How was Swaziland?’ There is no way to adequately express how much this trip meant to me, what I saw and how it affected me. The best answer I have found is simply to tell people, ‘It was fine.’”

Beverly Bryde, a faculty member at Cabrini College, and five others from the college visited Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland, Beverly writes:

“As a Cabrini College faculty member, I was overwhelmed by the joy, spirit and life of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as expressed by the work they are doing in Swaziland at Cabrini Ministries. Reflecting on my moments of connections, Cabrini Ministries is truly about restoring life and hope. The government schools in Swaziland are not free and Cabrini Ministries pays the tuition for their 120 children at the hostel to attend the government school on the mission. In every culture, we can understand how education is a hope for a child and for a nation.

“A special moment of the visit for me was observing the afterschool tutoring by the staff. As a story was read, the children talked about how they express themselves through dance. At one point the small group of children did a dance together as we observed them. The six of us from Cabrini however responded with a dance of our own… ‘The Hokey Pokey.’ Our dance needed work, but the moment was wonderful as it gave the children a chance to observe us and our ways. They giggled a bit but then joined in doing the Hokey Pokey themselves. The moment transcended our cultures and brought us into a space of celebrating our lives together….’that’s what it’s all about!’

“One of last days on the mission was visiting the homesteads. This was the most difficult experience of the trip because you clearly understood the magnitude of the desperate living conditions. The families welcomed us on the straw mats and their homesteads had no running water, no electricity, no food and barely decent shelter. It was very difficult to comprehend.

“As we returned to the mission and walked around the hostel, I stopped to ponder the soccer game in the dry dirt field. There were about 20 kids playing barefoot and the field was marked by stick goal posts and dirt lines. They knew the game, direct kicks and all; it was a competition. It reminded me of my kickball days in the streets as a kid. It was fun, it was a good life, it was hopeful. And, that is how I felt for these children at Cabrini Ministries. They have hope, they have a good life, and with the education they are receiving, they can have a future…. That’s what it is all about!”

Finally a big thanks to Heather Anderson who biked 135 miles to raise funds for the high school education of Celamusa, a bright young man who has overcome many obstacles to succeed in school. Heather managed to raise over her goal and created a great travel blog where you can read more:

Cycling for Celemusa: Two Girls Take to the Road for a Boy’s Education in Swaziland, Africa

Blessings, love, and big thank yous,
Srs. Barbara and Diane