Swazi Observer covers Feast of Mother Cabrini

On Saturday, Cabrini Ministries celebrated the Feast of Mother Cabrini with Mass, drama, singing, dancing, and lots of food.  The Swazi Observer was on hand to cover the events.  You can click the image below to see the article or read the full text of the article below.

Feast

 

Saint Francis Cabrini honoured

19 November, 2012 11:55:00   Stories by Joseph Zulu

CABRINI Ministries at St. Phillip’s on Saturday celebrated Francis Xavier Cabrini, a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to helping orphans and immigrants in the late 1800s in America.

The day, also known as ‘Cabrini Feast’ started off with a church service at St. Phillip’s Catholic Church and was followed by plays, dance and song by the community. Cabrini, who died in 1917, is considered a Saint and a section of nuns known as Cabrini Sisters have continued her work throughout the world.

The Italian born Saint travelled to America where she worked extensively to help orphans, immigrants as well as miners.
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She ensured that they had basic healthcare as well as basic education and even went inside the mines to ensure the working conditions for miners were safe and healthy.

In Swaziland, the Cabrini sisters under the Catholic Church have continued the work of Francis Cabrini where thousands of residents around St. Phillip’s have been helped.

Residents were also treated to a slide show of the life of Cabrini and how she struggled to reach thousands of orphans and immigrants who at the time were considered low class citizens.

Although her initial dream was to travel to China and serve communities there, the Pope at the time advised her to travel to America. By the time of her death, she had founded 67 missionary institutions to serve the sick and poor as well as train additional nuns to carry on the work.

Highest survival rate for HIV patients on ART

SISTER Barbara Staley says Cabrini Ministries has the highest survival rate amongst HIV patients who are on the antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme.

She said according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the survival rate was at least 80% but with Cabrini Ministries, it was 90%. She said the rate was based on how many patients died within a year from commencement of the ART programme. Sister Staley said some of the patients died because they arrived late for ART but that the extensive awareness made by Cabrini in the area had made it possible for people to test for HIV.

Cabrini taking care of over 3 000 HIV patients

CABRINI Ministries is taking care of at least 3 000 HIV and AIDS patients, including both children and adults around the St. Phillip’s area.

Sister Barbara Staley, the Director at Cabrini, revealed this during the ‘Cabrini Feast Day’ for residents around the area. She said some of the patients were orphans due to the pandemic and that Cabrini provides for their needs, including education.
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“We want to provide the same care they would get from their parents,” said Staley, adding that the organisation only stopped helping the orphans once they were grown up and able to support themselves.

In most instances, she said some of the children were also provided with school fees at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Noteworthy is that this is similar to the work done by the founder, Francis Cabrini who also assisted orphans, sent them to school and provided free medication.

At St. Phillip’s, Cabrini Ministries provides free medication to its patients and also operates a mobile clinic.

According to Bongani Khumalo, who heads the programme, Cabrini has several outreach activities for residents.

He said they provided mobile medical facilities at Ncandweni, Nkanini, Mbadlane and Madleni.
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“We provide similar health services offered in bigger towns,” said Khumalo. He also said they had partnered with bigger hospitals such that patients who need further treatment were referred to major health facilities.

He said due to the high level of poverty in the area, patients were also provided with transport and got their medical bills paid. Khumalo revealed that Cabrini was funded through ICAP and that they also work in collaboration with the ministry of health.

Year at a Glance

October is always a busy month for us at Cabrini.  School is getting back into session, we often have visitors and it is the time when we transition from one grant cycle to the next.  While this means lots of paperwork and reporting, it also means we have the chance to take a look at the impact we are making in our community.

In the last year Cabrini has:

  • Served over 3,087 unique clients
  • Provide care to 710 Orphans and Vulnerable Children
    • 152 children receive a “total care package” (nutrition, shelter, health, education, legal/protection, psycho-social support)
  • Treated 2,377 clients for HIV and TB related issues
  • Administered 756 HIV tests and follow-up counseling
    • Overall rate of positive tests was around 30% with a distinct upward trend the previous two quarters.
  • Supplied life-saving anti-retroviral drugs to 1,258 people
  • Followed up on 1,258 missed appointments and seen 92.4% of clients return to care
  • Offered clinic care to 32% of Health Care Clients either on their homesteads or in their local community
  • Trained 125 people on sustainable agriculture and food security

 

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As with any organization that works with at-risk populations, the numbers are simply a gateway to understanding the larger impact that occurs in actual people’s lives.  The 1,258 individuals who are receiving intensive HIV treatment are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, who would be dead but are now alive.  The 152 children receiving comprehensive care are vulnerable individuals who would be alone without intervention.  The 441 receiving academic support are the next generation who are being given a chance to succeed in life.  The 125 reached with agricultural training represent homesteads that will now be able to produce food for their entire families.

Every number has a person behind it and every person has a story of how Cabrini has assisted them.  All of this would not be possible without your support.  If you would like to participate in this life-restoring work, please consider partnering with Cabrini Ministries.

Tough Month

May was a difficult period for the Cabrini Ministries’ family as we have been dealing with several tragic deaths: the loss of two children and the loss of an employee.

A couple weeks ago, a family that is deeply connected with the organization lost their two small children when they drowned in the canal by their homestead where they were playing.  Even in a nation that is unfortunately accustomed to death, this tragedy brought with it the deepest sense of grief and sorrow.  It is pain upon pain when unforeseen death comes to those so full of life.

The mother, Nakiwe, was one of our brightest employees before she took a new job to be closer to her husband in Manzini.  The father, Felix, is a police officer, but has worked with Cabrini in the education since he was a youth himself; he was apart of life on the mission even before the current sisters were.  The grandfather was one of the major leaders in the church and in his chiefdom.  Probably a quarter of our staff live within a couple kilometers of where the boys drowned.

Mabuza boys

[Nakiwe, Sisandza,Tandziso and Felix Mabuza at the Feast of St. Philips]

Then, while our community was still grieving the loss of the Mabuza boys, we received word that one of our staff members who had been battling illness for a few months had died.  Matthew was our night watchman and is the father of Mfundi, one of our drivers.  This made his passing doubly painful for the Cabrini Family.

Matthew was beloved by the staff.  Despite the fact that he was often soft-spoken, he would gladly share how blessed he felt through word and song ever change he got.  Anytime we had a staff meeting where people were asked to share, you could always count on Matthew using the opportunity to preach and pray and even even sing.

Sister Barbara was always fond of saying tongue in cheek: “The only security issues we have are with our security staff.”  And while that may or not be true, what is unquestioned is that Cabrini as a whole was better off for having him as part of the staff.

Themba Import (Cabrini Kids) 354 [Matthew enjoying the buffet at the Child Protection training.]

These deaths certainly put our work and our own lives in perspective.  We are often tempted to ask “Why?”  But, in times of loss, sometimes it better to not try and find an answer for now; instead, we need to rest in the knowledge that is timeless.  During our grieving, Sister Diane had this to say:

Times like these are a great mystery, and while we may never have an answer for the pain we feel, one thing never changes: God has eternal and perfect love for all people.

Even in difficult times like these, Cabrini Ministries is humbled to be working towards a larger vision of Restoring Life.

Love and Death in Swaziland – A Book about Cabrini Ministries

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In 2011, author Glenn Cheney spent a couple months in the lowveld of Swaziland to document what life is really like at Cabrini Ministries.  His account has recently been published as an eBook entitled Love and Death in the Kingdom of Swaziland.  This book started as a story about nuns and religious sisters living and working in difficult situations.  As such, it follows the experiences of Sr. Diane DalleMolle and Sr. Barbara Staley and their intense work over the past eight years.  But, it is not only a story about how the sisters have responded to the AIDS epidemic and the orphan crisis that followed; it is also the story of what day-to-day life is like for the clients and staff at Cabrini Ministries as they make their home in the rough environment of the Swaziland bush.

The book is available online for $2.99 USD and can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Since this is currently only published as an eBook, it can only be read electronically.  If you don’t have a Kindle, Nook, iPad or similar device, you can still read it on your computer using a Kindle App.

This book is a great way to get the inside story of what goes on around St. Philips Mission and to “meet” the people who really make Cabrini Ministries function.

We are thankful for the hard work Glenn put into telling our story and think you will enjoy the book.

Life-long Impact

We received the following email from a volunteer who served with Cabrini Ministries several years ago.  It is always exciting to hear about the work going on in Swaziland extends far beyond just the mission here.

Sisters Barbara and Diane –

My name is Anna Brice and I stayed at Cabrini for 10 weeks through the IE3 program in summer 2010. I wanted to send a note to express to you how much I appreciate the opportunity you provided me. I just got accepted to a new medical school in Oregon starting this upcoming August. Looking at my application and my interview, I am constantly reminded how much of a gift my experience in Swaziland was. The experiences and interactions that I had at Cabrini were cited multiple times during my application process. I have learned about myself that much of my motivation and inspiration to pursue medicine with such vigor is the desire to work with under-served communities and, ideally, one day return to Africa. This inspiration would not have been possible without your generosity and accepting me in to your community.

I truly feel that I am on the path God has intended for me. I am so grateful to all of the pieces that made this possible, and I cannot thank you enough for your role in helping me get to this point. I hope that this email finds you well, I cannot tell you how much I enjoy reading the blog and trying to keep updated with things in Swaziland.

Thank you not only for your help and impact in my life, but for the impact you have on those in the Swazi community. I will continue to keep you and those you work with in my prayers.

In grateful appreciation,

Anna

Stories like Anna’s remind us that life transformation occurs not only for those who are served, but also for those who serve.

MDR Tuberculosis in Swaziland

The United Nations just released the following video concerning Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in Swaziland (MDR-TB).  In the rural Lubombo Lowveld where Cabrini works, this is a particularly troubling issue.

While this video shows an entirely different area of the country than where Cabrini is based, the issues and responses are entirely the same.  MRD-TB is extremely dangerous, easy to transmit and requires months of treatment.  It can develop out of “regular” TB or can be passed on directly.  Patients with MDR-TB have to take extreme precautions to avoid transmission and must dedicate themselves to extensive treatment.  As pointed out in the video, this is difficult considering the limited resources in much of Swaziland.

Local experts predict that in the coming years, MDR-TB will become the dominate strain of Tuberculosis in the country.  This means more deaths, more expensive treatment, and higher risks for populations that have already been decimated by the HIV crisis.

While most of the patients treated by Cabrini Ministries are HIV+ clients, a growing number  receive services for TB.  In 2011, there were 125 people who received TB treatment.  As outlined in the video above, adherence is essential and that often means traveling deep into the bush to provide medication and other health care related services.  This work is labor and cost intensive considering the rugged rural setting we operate in.  Yet, because with HIV and TB, adherence is essential part of stopping the epidemic we are dedicated to reaching our clients regardless of their location or situation.  This includes setting up remove refill locations as well as sending adherence specialists and outreach nurses out into the communities on a daily basis.

If you would like to know more about work related to Tuberculosis or would like to donate to help support our work in this area, please contact us at info@cabriniministries.org or click on the DONATE button above.

Note: Nathi Gumede, who is quoted in this video from the Red Cross, serves on the Board for Cabrini Ministries Swaziland.  We are grateful for his service to our organization and the country as a whole.

Technology Upgrades and Thanks!

In Swaziland, you find things either change very quickly or not at all.  We have seen huge advances in treatment for HIV/AIDS in the past couple years, but other things like infrastructure (electricity and roads) seems to be going back in town.

Technology is one area that seems to move forward either quickly or not at all.  Lately we have seen some incredible advances that have allowed us to work at a new level of efficiency.  The cellular networks were recently upgraded to allow for fast (but expensive) access on a new 3G network.  We can now skype and have reliable access to essential tools like email.  We have also installed a new internal wireless network on the mission that allows staff members to communicate back and forth and share documents — a luxury unimaginable just 6 months ago.

These new capabilities have also allowed us to form new connections with the outside world.  As you can probably tell if you are reading this post online, we have upgraded our web presence to include a revamped website while still maintaining all of the previous posts from the older blog.  We have also set up a twitter account and a facebook page.  You can subscribe to updates via email or put the feed into an aggregator like google reader.  All of these tools will allow us to better share the story of Cabrini Ministries and keep you up to date on what is happening in rural Swaziland.  Isn’t technology amazing?

In moving forward, it is certainly important that we remember where we have come from and how we got here.  A very special thanks needs to go out to Erika Baehr for the behind the scenes, yet essential role she played in getting the first website up and going and keeping it updated.  Despite the fact Erika has yet to travel to Swaziland, she has been able to share the stories of the mission as one who is truly ingrained into the ongoing work.  Everything we have now is built on the work she did several years ago.  Thank you Erika!

We also want to thank our friends at Cabrini College who have provided technical and practical support to our work.  They not only assisted with the transition, but have provided on the ground input in areas such as marketing, business development, and education.  A special thanks goes out to the leadership of the college as well as the implementors who helped to make this possible.

The more things progress in the Lubombo lowveld of Swaziland, the more we are remind just how connected we are with our friends and supporters across the world.  Thank you all for everything you do and have done.  We look forward to continuing to share the story that happens in the bush, but is facilitated by people world-wide.