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…

Halloween, Feast of Mother Cabrini, Form 5 pictures 120

Halloween, Feast of Mother Cabrini, Form 5 pictures 129

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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Halloween, Feast of Mother Cabrini, Form 5 pictures 169

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



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.

2010: Celebrating Our Five-Year Anniversary

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart (Cabrini Sisters) have been serving the St. Philips area of the lowveld of Swaziland since 1971, where they came to bring the love of the Heart of Christ to the people. They did this through Catechism, developing healthcare, and providing skills training for adults. By 1996 they considered leaving the area due to increased development and improvement of life circumstances. Then came HIV, and everything changed: people all around were falling ill and dying, leaving their children and families behind. At that point, the sisters realized they had to stay- the need had become so apparent.

It was five years ago that we began operating under the name of Cabrini Ministries, having developed a focus of addressing the problems of HIV and TB. Since then, we have been blessed with the resources and opportunities to expand our programs to better serve the community, thanks to the generous support of donors as well as new grant opportunities.

As an organization, we have received positive recognition through various articles and photos in major newspapers, a TV interview opportunity, and our many colleagues sharing word of our work. Thankfully, these opportunities to spread the name and work of Cabrini Ministries have helped us improve and expand services while widening the net of potential donors, increasing rapport with ongoing supporters, and improving our standing in Swaziland.

Over the past few years, we have been able to progress from a sole reliance on individual donor funding to a more diverse mixture of private donations and grant funding. Additionally, we have become integrated into many of Swaziland’s national strategies and have become partners, working hand in hand with various governmental and nongovernmental organizations and agencies.

In addition to the exciting development we have seen within our relationships with other key players, we have had positive changes happening within the organization as well. Our staff has increased in number to over 40 local community members, with the staff becoming more knowledgeable and skilled within their respective areas of work. Some areas of staff development include accounting, human resources, database maintenance, and training health care paraprofessionals. Both the Child Care and Health Care arms of Cabrini Ministries have increased their capacity to provide for the needs of the area.

On February 5, 2010, we held an all-staff celebration to commemorate our growth over the past five years. Staff members were recognized based on the year they joined the organization, with special acknowledgement of the 26 employees who began working with Cabrini Ministries in 2005 or before.

We would like to publicly thank and congratulate the following employees for five years of dedication and hard work: Bongani Nhleko, Esau Bhembe, Fodo Mbingo, Jabulile Gamedze, Johannes Ngcamphalala, Khisimusi Mamba, Lucia Gamedze, Mathew Mkhaliphi, Mcoshwa Hlandze, Mkhawuleni Nkhabindze, Mkhumbi Shongwe, Nkosingiphile Vilane, Ntombi Vilakati, Ntombizile Simelane, Nxobile Mkhatjwa, Priscilla Mamba, Sanele Dlamini, Pius Siboniseleni Mamba, Sindi Nhleko, Sonnyboy Sikhosane, Thandiwe Mathunjwa, Thokozile Nxumalo, Zodwa Gama, and Zodwa Vilakati.

We will continue our celebration of the 5 Year Anniversary of Cabrini Ministries over the next few months, where you can expect to learn more about the advancements in Child Care and Health Care programming and join us in thanking some of our most committed supporters.

Without you, there is no Cabrini Ministries; thank you for all that you do that allows us to continue our work here. May 2010 be a blessed year for us all!

Blessings and love,
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

Restoring Life: Staff Stories

One of our goals at Cabrini Ministries is restoring life. We use this phrase often, because it captures both the literal and figurative meaning of the renewal and growth of livelihoods that we aim for.

Two of our staff members’ stories illustrate the cycle of “restoring life.”

This is Phindele. When we first met Phindi, she was so emaciated and weak from HIV and TB that Sister Diane had to pick her up and carry her to the vehicle to receive care, even though Phindi was a young adult. She could not even receive HIV treatment at first, because her liver had shut-down. Phindele’s story was typical: she had left her rural homestead for work in an industrial part of Swaziland. She contracted HIV there, became ill, and returned to her homestead, as is usually the case, to die.

TB with HIV is killing so many of our people. These are photos of our patients from a recent slide show we did for the World Health Organization about the TB/HIV situation in Swaziland. Phindele looked like this once. Everyone thought she would die.

She was one of Cabrini Ministries’ first ARV patients, and she was treated for TB and HIV. She was lucky in that this was the time when ARV medications for HIV were first being distributed around the country in 2004. She has managed to gain back her health, and now lives a productive, normal life. She is able to raise her children, who would have been orphaned, and she can help her extended family.

Phindele is one of the many people we see that get a new lease on life thanks to medicine and care. Now, she works in our healthcare department, doing monitoring and evaluation, and she is a community educator, training other people in her community about prevention of HIV. Restoring life with treatment and care has been our focus, but we, with the rest of the country, must also support critical prevention activities, such as Phindele’s community education.

Tfobhi (pronounced “Tobi”) came to Cabrini when she was pregnant with twins and needed healthcare services. She got to know us as a patient, and began working with children in the hostel in 2006. She led the Weekend and Evening department, which managed such activities as study halls and tutoring, traditional games, crafts, sports, song and dance, and teaching life skills. She has shown great leadership abilities and now supervises all of the hostel staff.

She writes: “I have learned a lot. When I came here, I didn’t know that I had so many potential skills, or that I could do so many things. Through working, I can say that I can try- I don’t know if I’ll be able to do everything, but I will try. I’ve gained a lot. I learned a lot about children. I knew children, but I’ve learned that you can’t approach different children in the same way. Also, I was very, very shy in talking to people, but now I try to correct and teach people; now I talk, present and demonstrate.”

Tfobhi’s growing skills and confidence as a leader are particularly significant in the context of female status in this country. Before a new constitution was adopted in 2006 which granted some rights, Swazi women had the legal status of minors, and were unable to own property or open a bank account without the permission of a male relative or husband. Still, women in our community often won’t raise their eyes or speak up. Both Tfobhi and Phindele demonstrate great courage as managers and community educators, and are role models for our young girls.

These are photos of Tfobhi during the last Christmas event at the hostel.

There is a cycle and continuum that restoring life involves. Both Phindele and Tfobhi were once healthcare patients, as were or are many of the employees at Cabrini Ministries, and they are individuals who have so much to offer their communities. Healthy people can build healthy communities. We are grateful to all who help to restore the life to this community.

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane

Living Cycle of Hope

This is Ncamsile. She is an employee at Cabrini Ministries. She is HIV+ and 29 years old.

Ncamsile discovered she was HIV+ in 2004, when she was working as a teacher, and found one morning she could not get out of bed. This is often the case in Swaziland- people do not acknowledge more subtle signs and symptoms of disease, and often seek health care only when gravely ill, probably because of a lack of health knowledge and the lack of a reliable system from which to receive care. Ncamsile’s CD4 (or T-cell) count was only 100 when she first sought treatment, which is considered late-stage AIDS and is a life-threatening level of illness. Her sister came in for treatment as well, Sr. Diane went out to see and try to treat her, but she passed away soon after. Ncamsile also lost another sister and brother to the disease. Ncamsile is responsible for raising her sister’s two children who were orphaned now.

Photo:Luis Maximiano

Once she was on ARV treatment, she responded very well. She had to leave her job and recuperate for a month until she felt her health return. When she felt well again, she applied for a job at Cabrini Ministries; we hired her in February of 2005. At first she worked as the residential manager of the hostel, then she got more and more involved with healthcare. She also began to disclose her HIV+ status publicly.

Photo:Luis Maximiano

Swaziland is a country where HIV+ status has been highly stigmatized, especially in the more traditional, rural areas. Even though many people have become HIV+ and died of AIDS, people avoid talking about it directly, instead saying that a person was “very sick” or had “the plague”. Shame, fear and ignorance keep people quiet about HIV/AIDS, and it has the very detrimental effect of delaying important preventions like testing and treatment. Ncamsile is the first person that has revealed her status in the local area where she was well known. This takes so much courage and self-esteem and we respect her so much for that.

Photo:Luis Maximiano

Because she has been willing to disclose her HIV+ status, she has become what is known as an “expert client”- someone who can speak from their own experience to others about living with HIV/AIDS. When she speaks, the community listens. Because she is a local Swazi, her voice has much more authority than even a nurse or an outsider. We are in the process of developing a formalized community health education program, and she will head that up. It is people like her doing community education that destigmatize HIV/AIDS and help save people’s lives through sharing information. Also the naturally forming communities we see in our healthcare department, such as people riding together in our vehicles to get treatment, coming together at the walk-in clinic to get ARV treatments, or coming to get food parcels at the same time, are a naturally built open support system that helps patients to share their HIV status and actively seek care without shame.

As an employer, Cabrini Ministries has an attitude of affirmative action for people living with HIV/AIDS. When we have a job position open, and two equally qualified people apply but one of them is HIV+, we would choose to hire the HIV+ person. There are a few reasons for that. First because HIV/AIDS strikes the young, working population who are usually the main breadwinners for the whole extended family. The person’s family has probably already been undermined by the person’s illness. Also, we can never overlook the importance of psychosocial support. The HIV+ person needs to have meaning, purpose, and hope in their lives to go on, and one of the things that gives anybody hope is a job. If you have a healthy person and a person who thought they were going to die of HIV/AIDS, a person who thinks they’re going to die needs more hope and things to give them hope.

(Drawing by one of the OVC kids in the hostel)

Ncamsile recognizes the importance of sharing her experience with her community, and works at giving all she can to the orphans she raises at home and in the hostel, and to the patients that are sick like she was in the past. Our employees at Cabrini Ministries like Ncamsile are a part of a living cycle of change, regeneration, and hope. Thanks to everyone that keeps the spirit of such good work alive everywhere out there and at Cabrini Ministries here.

Srs. Barbara and Diane