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!

Fantastic Feast Day!

On the 13th of November, we here at Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland, celebrate our namesake and the foundress of the ministries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. This year our celebration was made even more joyous by the addition of a much needed bout of rainfall! As the entire staff of Cabrini Ministries Swaziland gathered together to honor the life of Mother Cabrini, we reflected on the life of an amazing woman, without whom our work would not be possible.

Frances Cabrini was a remarkable woman who practiced great determination and perseverance in order to live her life spreading God’s love to those most in need. We are grateful to her and all she did in her life to make the world a better place. Siyabonga, Make Cabrini!

As it does every year, we start our Feast Day with a procession to the church carrying the statue of Mother Cabrini…

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Halloween, Feast of Mother Cabrini, Form 5 pictures 121

We then attended a beautiful mass lead by Fr. Gaston, who was assisted by a few of our hostel children performing their duties as altar servers.

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Halloween, Feast of Mother Cabrini, Form 5 pictures 135

Some of our hostel girls approaching the altar with offerings for Mother Cabrini.

After the moving mass, the entire staff gathered at the dining hall for some entertainment, speeches, and, of course, a feast!

Our Deputy Executive Director, Ben Kickert, kicked the program off to a great start, bringing up all the new employees that have joined us this year at Cabrini Ministries of Swaziland.

New Employees

“Welcome to the family!”

He then continued the recognition party by presenting staff members who have been with us for 5 and 10 years with a special gift and thank you from Cabrini Ministries.

5 Year Employees

And of course it would not be called a Cabrini party if we did not get to hear a few songs sung by our glorious choir!


To send the entertainment portion of the celebration out with a bang, Grade 5 and Grade 6 performed a fantastic retelling of Saint Frances Cabrini’s inspiring life, appropriately titled Mother Cabrini and the Cabrini Way. 

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Here we see Bongiswa Nxumalo perform the role of the priest in the baptism scene of the play.

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When Frances was a young girl, she admired her sister, Rosa, very much and was always copying everything she did!

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Here we see Celemphilo Maziya and Ncobile Gumedze with their prop boats and flowers as they perform the scene where Frances explains to her sister that she is imagining that the little boats are filled with missionaries that she is sending off down the river.

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Here we see Mother Cabrini’s first voyage to New York City!

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“Siyabonga, Mother Cabrini” the children sing for the finale of “Mother Cabrini and the Cabrini Way”

And then…we feasted on a wonderful meal prepared by our very own Cabrini staff.
The Cabrini Staff ate, laughed, and cheered on the rain as it fell down onto our thirsty land.

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Grades 5 and 6.

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Simo Mamba in traditional party attire.

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As always, we are grateful, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, for all that you did for this world. We strive to live on in your spirit of peace and goodwill!

-The Cabrini Staff



Thank you!

We wanted to thank everyone who participated in the Sponsor-A-Child Fundraiser (it was a success!) and to give a general thank you for those who have supported us in the past year. It’s very humbling to think how good people have been and of the help that has been offered.

Here are some photos from the Chicago event:

Here is a photo of Sr. Barbara, Mzamo and Thandiwe visiting the St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson River:

Mzamo started out working in the hostel, and is now in training be the human resources manager for Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland. Thandiwe is the director of health care at Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland.

We wanted to share with you the story of one child at Cabrini who is sponsored, to illustrate what the sponsorship does for a young person.

This is Fanana. Both of his parents died, and when we discovered him he was living on the homestead of his father’s second wife. He was no blood relation to the family where he was living, and in Swazi tradition, blood relatives come first in importance for getting basic needs met and having any kind of social status, especially in families that are overburdened and stressed by illness and poverty. The family was physically abusive to him, renting him out as a cow-herder, and when he was found by our staff he was actually pulling a hand plow (that animals like donkeys usually pull) and was physically beaten if he wasn’t pulling it fast enough.

He came to live in the hostel in 2002. Almost all of our kids are malnourished when they arrive, and many have not been in school. He didn’t have much schooling- he had started school (first grade) in 2002 as an older student, and that is difficult for a student’s self-esteem. At Cabrini, Fanana was one of the first kids to participate in our Bridge School program, which is an intensive afterschool program for older children to accelerate their learning in order to catch up and be in the grade they should be for their age group. He completed grades 5, 6, and 7 in the year 2007. We also helped him reconnect with other family members so he has much better family involvement now, with blood relatives on a more stable homestead. They can be more involved in his life, because his needs are being met.

Now he is attending what is considered a very good boarding school. We have family meetings three times a year, where we meet with the hostel children’s remaining family members for a business-type meeting, and also a presentation from the children such as dancing, skits, and speeches, and we host a barbeque. We had the kids who were sent away to boarding school come because they’re very good students, so Fanana got in front of everyone talking in Siswati about his experience. Then in perfect English (which is a huge, amazing thing) he said, “For the benefit of my friends here in this room who do not speak Siswati, I will now repeat everything I just said in English.” He was so grown-up in the way that he did it, and he went on to say that he had gotten many opportunities from Cabrini, and that even though he was going to a school where there were a lot more privileged children, he said he wasn’t identifiable as an orphan. Cabrini had made sure he had clothes that made him look like a peer, and money for books and such, so he wasn’t stigmatized as different. And probably most of the kids don’t even really realize that he is an orphan. This is what a sponsorship gives to this child.

Fanana is an example of a young person who today would likely still be a cow-herder with not many other opportunities if it wasn’t for Cabrini and his sponsorship. He was a smart child who had so much more potential than that. He has made it into his second year of high school, and he will continue to make it; he’s blossomed into a natural leader. He also grew several inches taller this year. Without bridge school, he would still be in primary school. In a class of 90 he was ranked #10, so he’s doing very well. And he will go to college. A success story thanks to sponsorship.

If you’d like to sponsor a child, please visit:

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S. and thank you for your support!

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane

Sponsor A Child

Hi Everyone,

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