Christmas at Cabrini!

Seasons Greetings!

We have been having a great time here in Swaziland celebrating Christmas with the lowveld community. On December 12th, members of the Teen Club, along with their caregivers and guardians, came together to enjoy their annual Christmas party. For those who don’t know, Teen Club Swaziland is part of an international family of support groups, spearheaded by Baylor International Pediatric Aids Initiative.  The clubs are made up of young members of the community who are living with HIV. Rising to the challenge of addressing the psychosocial and medical needs of HIV positive adolescents, the club meets once a month to offer support, to learn valuable lessons given by qualified medical professionals, and to nurture a sense of camaraderie amongst their members. It is also a great way to make sure the teens and their guardians are receiving all the help and guidance they need from Cabrini Ministries. To learn more about this exciting international program, visit BPAI’s website!

We also want to send out a big thank you to RUCHI Wholesalers for donating mielie meal, beans, and sugar for the families to take home and enjoy. Thank you, RUCHI!

Enjoy pictures from our fabulous Teen Club Christmas Party!


What a treat! A few of the guardians perform a drama about the importance of being tested and adherence to medication. We were blown away by their talent!


An angel appears! One of our talented Teen Club members performs the role of the angel for the nativity play.



The girls perform traditional Swazi dances for an audience of their peers and caregivers.


Simo Mamba does a great job as the Christmas Party MC!


Thobile Matsubula, head facilitator of the Teen Club at Cabrini, opens the ceremonies with a word of thanks to the staff, the club members, and the guardians.


More dancing by our fabulous Teen Club Stars!


A word of prayer lead by one of the Teen Club guardians.


Make way for the boys performing traditional Swazi dances!


And of course, we must give the makes (mothers) and Go Gos (grandmothers) a chance to show off their dancing skills!



Teen Club members and their guardians all together to celebrate Christmas!

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.



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.

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.

“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.

“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.

Incarnational Ministry

Christmas may be celebrated world-wide, but in Swaziland it feels much different than it does in North America and Europe: The promise of snow is replaced with hot and humid days. The ideas of Santa Clause and Christmas trees and reindeer are largely unfamiliar. The pageantry and liturgy and traditions seem to be after thoughts if they are present at all. The holiday buzz is muted.

Even though many Swazis like to play Christmas carols this time of year, one cannot help but notice how foreign many of the themes are in a land of high poverty and oppressive heat: No one has ever seen a snow man or knows what sleigh-bells are. The giving of gifts is a luxury beyond the capacity of many. None of us can go “dashing through the snow” and there isn’t even the vision of what it would be like to dream of a White Christmas.

But despite all these things, people in Swaziland have the ability to grasp the true theme of Christmas in a way that very few can. Christmas, above all else, is about the incarnation. It is about Emmanuel – God with us. It is about God coming in the flesh to live among his people. Christmas reminds us that God does not come flaunting power and prestige, but rather comes in the most humble of circumstances to the lowliest of people. The omnipotence of God is revealed in the powerlessness and innocence of an infant.

The Swazis may not understand snow, or St. Nick, or presents stacked under a Christmas tree, but they can appreciate the incarnation in a very profound way. The idea of God in the Flesh walking among his people is incredibly profound, but it gains even more significance when one focuses on the people Jesus chose to walk. He came to be with those on the fringes, those who were broken, those who were utterly without power and those who had nothing to give. Emmanuel – God with us – all of us, regardless of our circumstance.

The concept of the incarnation is not just a one-time event that occurred a couple thousand years ago. Instead, the incarnation is about an ongoing promise and a revitalized way of viewing the world. It is about radical love that is lived out among the downtrodden and forgotten.


Hlobsile, a Cabrini nurse, practices incarnational ministry
as she provides training and treatment in the community.

The incarnation not only provides the reason for what we do at Cabrini Ministries, but it also provides the model by which we operate. Cabrini’s work is incarnational by its very nature. We work among the sick and the dying, provide love to those who have been forgotten, and offer our services alongside those whom we serve. Because Jesus demonstrated the need to go to the people, we try to do the same.

This Christmas season, we find ourselves renewed daily through service. Our clients and partners remind us that wholeness is found among brokenness, contentment is found in the midst of suffering and true power is found in weakness.

We would like to offer you, our friends, family and supporters, the opportunity to join us in the incarnational ministry of Cabrini Ministry. As God has blessed you, we ask that you consider blessing those around you. Jesus came to be with the “least of these” and all seek to live out the promise of presence in the days to come.

Merry Christmas to all, from the Cabrini Family

Feast of Mother Cabrini Video

As promised, here is a video of the celebration of the Feast of Mother Cabrini at St. Philips Mission in Swaziland.  All of the groups that performed were either clients or staff of Cabrini Ministries.

As you can see, everyone had a great time and was excited to celebrate the lasting impact of Mother Cabrini.  Her legacy lives through those inspired by her faith lived out in bold service.

Mentorships and a Christmas ‘Thank you’

Hi Everyone,

We want to share some recent photos of some of our older children and send everyone Christmas blessings.

Recently we had two children graduate high school, and we had about 8 who finished their 3rd year of high school, which is a terminal point in the education system in Swaziland. Several of those children are those which we have sent away to board at schools for talented and gifted children. We brought them back to Cabrini to stay with us during the last 6 weeks, to provide them a small apprenticeship opportunity to build practical skills that might be useful in their lives as they grow into young adults.

The experience was a great success. The children that go to outside schools were able to feel part of the Cabrini family again. We go and visit them and support them but during school breaks they visit their extended family like the other children, so it was a nice chance to strengthen our relationship, letting them know that they belong to us and we belong to them, and that they always have a home at Cabrini.

The experience also gave these young people a very nice sense of working relationships with adults. The managers in all our departments- maintenance, agriculture, health care departments- were very much willing to take these kids on, even though they knew nothing, which can be more burdensome than helpful. But all of the managers were kind to the children and said, ‘Yes, I’ll teach them.’ The one-on-one supervision and direction, and a sense of belonging, made the kids feel good about themselves.

Colani has lost both parents. At Cabrini he attended our Bridge School- which is for kids that are too old for their grade to accelerate them through a few grades at a time. He just finished grade 7 and he’ll be moving into high school. Here Colani is working on a new part of the hostel that we are expanding into, learning to set bathroom tile.

Vusi lost his father at age 13. He went to live with his mother and her second husband, but the husband was abusive. When Vusi stepped in to defend his mother the husband threw Vusi off the homestead. Cabrini supported Vusi to apprentice at a private carpentry factory. He’s been employed as a regular employee at Cabrini, but in January he’ll be going to a trade school for carpentry.

Celemusa has lost both parents, but he is our bright light. He attended our Bridge School as well, and did so well that he was able to attend Siteki Nazarene High School, which is considered one of the best schools in the whole country. We are so proud- he is number 1 in his class. We’re expecting him to do very well nationally and have opportunities open for him. Here he is learning to put in a ceiling.

Fanana lost both parents, and was also a Bridge School student. Several of the Bridge School students ended up going to Siteki Nazarene which is real triumph, including Fanana. He’s been doing well.

Ronnie goes to St Philip’s High School. He is an average student but a very good boy. Here he’s learning to lay tile.

Aretha, Sikholiwe and Dumile helped in the hostel, cooking mealy-meal for breakfast and cleaning up. They learned how to cook for large groups and about good nutrition.

Ever since we have known Thobile, she has wanted to be a nurse. So Thobile volunteered in the health department, which she loved.

She was able to take blood pressure, blood sugar, and check in the patients. She was a big help and was thrilled doing it. The staff there were really happy with her work. We’re hoping that her scores on her exams will be high enough for her to get in to nursing school.

A few children also worked in our agriculture department, doing overall planning, weeding, planting, and learning about cabbages and chili peppers which are our two big crops that are planted right now.

All of the children worked hard and they seemed to enjoy the tasks. They also got much more one-on-one attention with adults, and they really liked it and responded positively to it. We trusted them with something special that none of their peers were being trusted with, and they really did a great job. As co-parents we want them to feel responsible for Cabrini and what they have been able to do here, and the work helps connect them to that.

Finally we want to send special Christmas blessings to everyone. We do the work here but there must be 1000 people out there that keep us operating. We are aware of that and very very grateful. People who connect us with funding, or share the good news, or work on our part to donate services, or donate $10- whatever it is- it’s all that together that make Cabrini Ministries function. The fact that these kids are growing and thriving is part of the thanks that we give. To the hidden people out there that are part of our Cabrini Ministries family we wish a very Merry Christmas!

Srs. Barbara and Diane

Lent Message- 2009

Dear Sisters, Brothers, Friends, Benefactors, and Colleagues,

Our warm greetings from Swaziland.

As Christians throughout the world celebrate this time of Lent we at Cabrini Ministries would like to share a few thoughts with you. Let us start with these words of St. Paul from Scripture:

Though he was in the form of God
Christ did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, He emptied Himself,
Taking the form of a servant. (Phil.2: 6-7)

In these words we see Jesus’ understanding of what was asked of Him in bringing His Father’s message of love into the world…that He would serve others with every gift of nature and grace given to Him in becoming human. Before He died Jesus acted out his servanthood in a way unforgettable and startling to His disciples by washing their feet.

In Lent we enter a particular time of renewing and deepening our relationship with God through Jesus by spending time reading, praying, and contemplating His life and actions with the desire to become more like Him so we can continue His work of servanthood in today’s world. If we desire to become more like Him, we too must become more and more emptied of ourselves so we might serve others.

As we celebrate Lent we would like to share with you a wonderful blessing and inpouring of the Holy Spirit which helped us to act out symbolically this servanthood and grow in desire to live it more fully as an organization.

Youth with a Mission, a Christian evangelical organization working in Swaziland and led by Jim and Lisa Nave, had received a large number of new Nike sneakers. The organization which gave it asked only that a ceremony of foot washing be done before the sneakers be given. Jim and Lisa along with Petros and Elizabeth Kunene, Mathew and Nini came to the Mission and asked Sr. Barbara and I if they could wash our feet and pray over us. We were very touched by the experience. And then at the end we were surprised to receive new Nikes. In reflecting on the experience we desired very much to do the same for our entire staff of about 43 local people. Youth with a Mission agreed and we set the date for our February staff meeting.

When the day arrived we all praised God in song and then Petros Kunene spoke to the staff (in siSwati) about the good work the staff do daily as servants of the community who are sick, orphaned, without sufficient food and often voiceless. The scripture passage from St. John was read and Sr. Barbara and I went around the room washing the feet of all the staff while Jim, Lisa, Petros, Elizabeth, Mathew and Nini prayed over each and every staff member. We asked God to make us true servants like His Son, Jesus. We ended by coming together in a circle of about 50 of us to sing and pray over Youth with a Mission who had brought us such blessing.

When the shoes were brought in (with the correct size for each staff member!) everyone was surprised and happy, but clearly the inpouring of the Holy Spirit which was given to all of us made the shoes secondary in the experience. Many of the staff are very poor people themselves, like the people they serve each day and yet it was clear that all knew the true gift which had been given was a renewal of our commitment to be Jesus as we serve Jesus among His more vulnerable children.

May you also in God’s great love know Him again and more closely in this time of contemplating more closely His life as a servant of all, His suffering, death and resurrection.

With grateful hearts,
Srs. Diane and Barbara

Christmas 2008

Dear sisters and brothers, friends and benefactors,

May our loving God bring you deep joy and peace in this time of Christmas. We remember again our humble God coming into this world, becoming one with us so that we could become one with Him.

It is always a “wonder” to remember that God came among us small, vulnerable, into a poor country ruled and oppressed by another country; his mother had no proper place to give birth and in his early years he lived as a refugee in another country. A very unlikely, paradoxical God and Saviour! And yet in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we have been given access to our good God and to abundant life without end.

It is because of the great Love which we celebrate at Christmas that we respond with love by caring for those who are vulnerable today. Those of us who work directly with the orphans and the sick, those who pray for this work, and those who contribute material resources for this work all participate in returning love for Love. All of us together continue this message of love and reconciliation in today’s world.

Sr. Barbara, myself (Sr. Diane) and all the staff of Cabrini Ministries thank you for your kindness and generosity and for participating with us in the life-giving circle of love. May you and your loved ones be blessed again and again.

Sincerely, Srs. Diane and Barbara

Christmas Gifts for the Children

Photo from a Christmas party past

Last weekend we held our annual Christmas party celebration for the children at the hostel. The children are off visiting their homesteads now for their long break (6 weeks), and we check in with them often. (Read more about school breaks by clicking on this previous post: School Break Time.) Among some of the gifts we were able to give them at the Christmas party were bikes, soccer shoes, and watches.

Photo of a staff member trying out one of the bikes

Four of the older children in the hostel received bicycles that greatly help with transportation. These young people are getting older and beginning to transition to working full-time jobs and living on their own. (Read about one older boy’s transition in another previous post: Siyabonga! Giving Thanks for Friends & Family.) Bikes reduce the time spent traveling from work to homestead, etc, which can be hours when you’re on foot.

At the shoe store- one of our staff members shopping.

All of the boys received a brand new pair of soccer shoes. The grant that provided these gifts was from a private Italian donor who visited Cabrini Ministries, and the story is that he was talking to some of the children that play soccer, and one of them confided in him that the boys felt embarrassed that they didn’t have proper soccer shoes when they would play soccer games with other teams that did.

So both the staff and the boys were thrilled this year that OUR kids could have something beyond what’s just essential for basic living, and that is essential for fun and social life and making them feel non-distinct from kids on other soccer teams that we play. Every day, we try to keep life as normal as possible for these kids and for the 1000 patients we serve—and we are so grateful to our supporters who help us to keep doing that.

We were also able to purchase watches and skirts for all the girls. (Money for gifts goes pretty far in Swaziland, thankfully.) Our staff has really enjoyed being able to make the children happy, and at times like this, the children can feel like normal kids, and not just forgotten orphans. Such actions of love and generosity change these kids’ lives forever.

Many blessings to everyone during this joyous Advent and Christmas season.

Sr. Barbara & Sr. Diane