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



Love and Death in Swaziland – A Book about Cabrini Ministries


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,


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

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

Write On Africa Mural Painting

Hi Everyone,

We’ve been keeping busy as usual. Sr. Diane recently traveled to Geneva, Switzerland as an invited guest to a World Health Organization/Stop TB two-day meeting, consulting on community-based organizations and running effective tuberculosis programs in the rural areas of developing countries. In addition we hired a medical doctor a few months ago, and we’ve been recently nominated for a couple of awards.

We wanted to share photos of the recent visit of the group Write On Africa who created murals on the buildings here with help from the kids. The children enjoyed the creative activity and our buildings have been transformed into colorful, cheerful works of art.

Day 1- unloading the supplies (all photos courtesy of

Meeting and greeting


The children enjoyed the opportunity to be creative with colors and shapes.

Everyone was very committed to finishing the murals in two days, especially the children.


The text reads: “Let this mural be a window into a world of imagination, inspiration, and hope.”

We are so grateful for their visit and all our visitors. Read their story on the Write On Africa Blog by clicking here.

Srs. Barbara and Diane

Volunteers and Visitors: Caterina, Silvia and Selena from the Faculty of Medicine, Italy

This message was sent to us from some of our visitors from Italy that we’d like to share with you. We want to also thank them and the Maria Bonino Foundation which has supported our work for health care and children. Here is the translation:

We are three Italian medical students, Caterina, Silvia and Selena, and we attend the fifth year at the Faculty of Medicine in Italy. We would like to tell you about our experience in St. Philips, Swaziland, with Sister Diane and Sister Barbara, from July 25th to August 10th last year.

This experience began when Caterina met Sister Diane in Milan, Italy. Caterina was in the nursing home Columbus to give some materials to Sister Diane. They didn’t know each other before. Caterina works in the “Maria Bonino Foundation,” which supports humanitarian projects in Africa, especially within health services.

Caterina was really struck by the accidental meeting. In university she told her friend Silvia about the special person she had met. Sister Diane had told Caterina that visiting St. Philips could be a good opportunity for her work. Silvia was immediately affected by Caterina’s enthusiasm, and she thought that it was a wonderful idea to go there. The decision to leave was immediate, and Selly, another friend, came with us. We took the last exam on the 23rd of July and we left the following day.

Sister Barbara was waiting for us at the Manzini Airport. She drove the van through the roads of Swaziland to St. Philips. Our first impression was astonishment at the gratuity and generosity of the Sisters’ welcome for us. We were also struck by the amazing landscape, which is so different from the Italian landscape we are used to. We were stuck by the wide spaces, but also by the desolation: all around, just the “bush”, bare soil with tangled brushwood; above, a wide sky we have never seen before and a wonderful light spread everywhere. We thought we would find a village, but really, in Swaziland there are no villages- people live on homesteads. The mission is the only union point around there.

The house where we lived was very comfortable: this was another surprise! The Sisters had thought of everything: besides providing us with lots of supplies, they gave us a detailed program of what we could do during the week. As we are Italian, we are not used to such organization!

The following night we followed Jakonia to give some families blankets because in the night it’s really cold and moreover the huts, made of mud and straw, don’t have any other way of heating than fire. We were very astonished by the huts: it was night, the only lights came from the fire in the huts and the stars in the sky. For the first time in our lives we became aware of the beauty and the huge number of the stars- in Italy there is too much artificial light to see them- and the sky in the South of Africa is not as the one we are used to, it is like a huge bright cloak that surrounds and wraps in every direction. It’s really wonderful! But we were particularly struck by the people we met, and first of all Jakonia. In that simple gesture of giving the blankets, he had a very impressive familiarity, discretion and care so that the people in the homesteads didn’t feel ashamed.

We went in the homesteads to visit the patients with David, a very good nurse who works in the mission. It was an opportunity to get in touch with local people and see how it is important that health services take care of every single person in an individual way from the realistic and human points of view; it is often difficult for people to go to the mission to get treatment because of stigma or other reasons.

On Thursday, before the dawn, we left with Bongani in a truck to go to the homesteads around the mission to take people who needed to go to the hospital in Siteki. During our trip we got to know Bongani better. He doesn’t speak a lot, but he gave much attention towards us and the patients- he is a wonderful person.

In Siteki we learned of the work of doctors and nurses there, and we discovered that in all of Swaziland there are just 80 doctors! It was a good opportunity to get to know Swaziland from the health and medical points of view: hygienic conditions are very poor and particularly they need a qualified staff, who can also teach local people how to take care of patients.

We spent our free time in the orphan hostel; we met the teachers Simo, Siswei, Mtula and many of the children. We shared with them the activities during the afternoon: English classes, games, wood harvest in the bush. We enjoyed playing with them and teaching new games, but above all we really became fond of them! They’re very poor, but it’s incredible to see how happy they are, and they really enjoy themselves!

We helped out in the new Health Care Center, then, in the afternoon we went to Manzini by jeep with five women, who work in the mission, to buy some materials. We had an absurd but amusing trip: we had some moments of discouragements, in particular Caterina was not used to driving on the left side of the road and was worried about the bad conditions of the road: we got up the hills and over the bumps just thanks to our prayers! In Italy the streets, the traffic and the way of driving are very different- you should come and see!

During the following days the Sisters asked us to clean the windows in the Health Care Center. We worked with the workmen and we became friends with Stadium, who told us his story. We were happy to talk to him and this was another opportunity to discover that just working together it’s possible to transmit a different way to live, also to do the simplest things. It was very difficult to get accustomed to the African way of understanding group work and time, which is very different from the individual work in the West. As a matter of fact, we had to find a meeting point in order to cooperate with Stadium and the other workmen, listening and teaching each other. We experienced that the greatest help we can give isn’t finished projects to improve bad conditions, but we can give our time and lives in a different way, working together cooperatively. We shared the greatest aspects of our culture, for example, the attention to detail, our notion of time, etc, and learned of the wonderful aspects of Swazi culture: happiness and optimism, even in the most difficult situations.

Especially we thank Jos, with whom we shared meals and a home for some days; he was our tour guide during our trips, and patiently dealing with our bad English he showed us many traditions of Swazi culture, helping us to learn of some aspects that are difficult to understand for us.

It was a wonderful experience, even if sometimes it was hard because, for the first time in our lives, we had to cope with a completely different culture. We learned humbleness and simplicity, and to trust others. When we arrived in Swaziland we intended to help and do the best we could, but when we left we realized that we received even more: smiles, stories, gazes, handshakes and hugs filled us with joy and made us grow in a way we couldn’t imagine before.

This experience has lasted in our hearts, and now, back in Italy, we desire everyday the same beauty of living together happily, as we experienced in Swaziland. Meeting the Sisters and all the people, who gave us their time in the mission, was a real gift, and we thank you.

Selly, Cate, and Silvia

Here is the original in Italian:

Siamo tre studentesse del quinto anno di medicina italiane Caterina, Silvia e Selena, vorremmo raccontare l’esperienza vissuta a St Philips Swaziland con Sr. Diane Delle Molle e Sr Barbara, dal 25 luglio al 10 agosto.
Questa esperienza è nata dall’incontro di Caterina con sr. Diane a Milano, in Italia. Caterina si trovava nella clinica Columbus per consegnare del materiale a Sr. Diane, che non conosceva; Caterina infatti lavora nella fondazione Maria Bonino che sostiene progetti soprattutto in ambito sanitario in Africa.
Da quell’incontro così casuale Caterina fu molto colpita. Arrivando in università raccontò alla sua compagna di studi- Silvia- di aver incontrato una persona molto speciale. Sr Diane aveva detto a Cate che visitare St Philips sarebbe stata un’occasione per crescere.
Silvia, subito contagiata dall’entusiasmo di Caterina, pensò che fosse un’ottima idea.
Da lì il passo fu breve: insieme a un’altra compagna di università, Selly, decidemmo di partire.
Il 23 sostenemmo l’ultimo esame e il 24 prendemmo l’aereo.
Ad attenderci all’aeroporto di Manzini c’era Sr Barbara, con cui, in una corsa indiavolata sulle strade dello Swaziland su un camioncino che imparammo poi a conoscere bene, arrivammo a St. Philips.
Le prime impressioni furono tante: prima lo stupore per l’accoglienza gratuita e generosa delle srs, poi la meraviglia davanti a un luogo così diverso dal paesaggio italiano a cui siamo abituate.
Quello che più ci colpì del posto fu l’immensità dello spazio ma anche la desolazione: intorno, fino all’orizzonte, si estende solo il bush, terra brulla con sterpaglie di rovi, sopra un cielo infinito quale non avevamo mai visto e una luce bellissima a invadere tutto.
Ci aspettavamo di trovare un villaggio, ma in realtà, come abbiamo imparato poi, in Swaziland non ci sono villaggi, e la gente vive nelle homesteads. La missione è l’unico punto di aggregazione del luogo.
La casa dove abbiamo vissuto era davvero confortevole; un’altra sorpresa!
Le sisters avevano pensato proprio a tutto: oltre ad averci rifornito di provviste, ci avevano preparato un programma dettagliatissimo delle cose da fare nella settimana: noi italiane non siamo abituate a tutta questa organizzazione!
La sera seguente siamo andate con Jakonia a consegnare delle coperte ad alcune famiglie per far fronte alle rigide temperature notturne poiché le capanne, costruite con fango e paglia, sono dotate solo di fuoco quale fonte di calore; siamo state davvero colpite dall’ambiente: era notte fonda, l’unica luce era quella dei fuochi accesi nelle capanne e quella della volta stellata, ci siamo rese conto per la prima volta della bellezza e dell’immensità delle stelle – in Italia c’è sempre troppa luce per poterle vedere- e il cielo del sud dell’africa non è quello a cui siamo abituate, sembra un enorme manto luminoso che ti circonda e ti avvolge in ogni direzione. E’ davvero stupefacente!
Ma a colpirci di più sono state le persone incontrate, primo fra tutti Jakonia che, in quel gesto così semplice di dare le coperte, aveva una familiarità, una discrezione e un amore davvero grandi per le persone delle homesteads, senza far provare vergogna a chi le riceveva.
Con David, un infermiere davvero bravo che lavora nella missione, siamo andate nelle homesteads a visitare gli ammalati: è stata un occasione per entrare in contatto con la gente del luogo e sperimentare come sia importante che ogni singola persona sia curata e seguita in modo individuale dal punto di vista sanitario ma anche umano e assistenziale; la gente spesso ha difficoltà a recarsi nella missione per essere curata.
Il giovedì con Bongani siamo partite prima dell’alba con il solito mitico camioncino per andare a raccogliere le persone che nelle homesteads intorno avevano bisogno di recarsi all’ospedale di Siteki. Durante il viaggio abbiamo imparato a conoscere Bongani, che si è rivelato una persona stupenda, di poche parole ma piena di attenzione per noi e per i malati.
A Siteki abbiamo condiviso il lavoro dei medici e soprattutto degli infermieri: abbiamo scoperto che in Swaziland ci sono solo 80 medici!!
E’ stata un’occasione per conoscere la realtà sanitaria dello Swaziland: le condizioni igieniche sono pessime e soprattutto c’è un disperato bisogno di personale qualificato, che si occupi anche di insegnare alla gente del posto come occuparsi dei malati.
Il tempo che ci rimaneva libero lo abbiamo trascorso all’hostel; abbiamo conosciuto soprattutto Simo, Siswei, Mtula tra i teachers e molti dei ragazzi. Abbiamo condiviso con loro le attività del pomeriggio le lezioni di inglese, i giochi, la raccolta di legna nel bush. Ci siamo divertite un sacco a giocare con i ragazzi e insegnare dei nuovi giochi, ma soprattutto ci siamo affezionate moltissimo!! E’ sconvolgente vedere come siano felici e coi pochi mezzi che hanno a disposizione ce la mettano tutta per divertirsi.
Le sisters, viste le nostre ancora acerbe conoscenze mediche, hanno pensato di affidarci la realizzazione delle tende per il nuovo Health Care Centre; così un pomeriggio siamo partite alla volta di Manzini con una jeep dal motore un po’ scassato insieme a cinque donne della missione per comprare il materiale. Il viaggio è stato assurdo ma divertente: ci sono stati dei momenti di scoraggiamento soprattutto per Caterina che guidava, oltre a non essere abituata alla guida a sinistra era preoccupata per le condizioni della macchina: le salite siamo riuscite a superarle solo grazie alle nostre preghiere! In Italia le strade, il traffico e il modo di guidare sono molto diversi, dovete venire per sperimentare di persona!
Comunque dopo due ore siamo riuscite ad arrivare a destinazione: è stato difficile confrontarsi sulla scelta dei tessuti, diciamo che è stato uno scontro-incontro tra la moda italiana e quella africana!!! Con l’aiuto di una gentilissima signora abbiamo familiarizzato con le macchine da cucire- rigorosamente dotate di manopola a mano- e armate di molta pazienza siamo riuscite a confezionare le tende.
Nei giorni successivi le sisters ci hanno chiesto di pulire i vetri dell’Health Care Centre, e così abbiamo lavorato insieme agli operai e siamo diventate amiche di Stadium, che ci ha raccontato la sua storia. E’ stato bello confrontarsi con lui ed è stata ancora una volta un’occasione per capire che solo lavorando insieme si può trasmettere un modo diverso di fare le cose, anche le più semplici. E’ stato molto difficile abituarsi alla visione del lavoro “africana”, molto diversa da quella individualista e stacanovista occidentale, infatti il nostro lavoro è stato trovare un punto di incontro e una spinta verso la crescita di una collaborazione con Stadium e gli altri operai basata sul reciproco ascolto e insegnamento. Quello che abbiamo sperimentato è che l’aiuto più grande che possiamo dare non sia tanto realizzare progetti per migliorare condizioni critiche quanto donare il nostro tempo per costruire braccio a braccio un modo diverso di vivere arricchendosi a vicenda.
Così è possibile trasmettere ciò che di più prezioso c’è nella nostra cultura (come l’attenzione al particolare, la metodicità, il senso della fatica e del tempo) e assorbire gli aspetti meravigliosi della cultura Swazi: la felicità e l’ottimismo anche nelle situazioni più dure.
Un ringraziamento speciale va a Jos, con il quale abbiamo condiviso molte cene e lo stesso tetto per qualche giorno; è stata la nostra guida nei momenti di svago e, con molta pazienza per il nostro scarso inglese, ci ha spiegato molte usanze della cultura Swadi aiutandoci a capire ciò che per noi a volte risultava incomprensibile.
E’ stata un’esperienza stupenda e a volte dura che ci ha, per la prima volta, messe a confronto con una cultura completamente diversa dalla nostra, insegnandoci ad essere umili e ad entrare in punta di piedi in un mondo, spesso per noi difficile persino da immaginare, che ci ha trasmesso l’importanza della semplicità e della fiducia nel prossimo.
Siamo partite con l’intenzione di aiutare il più possibile ma, una volta tornate, ci siamo rese conto di aver ricevuto molto di più..i sorrisi,le storie, gli sguardi, le strette di mano e gli abbracci ci hanno riempito il cuore e ci hanno fatto crescere come non credemmo possibile.
Tornando in Italia desideriamo che questa esperienza non resti una parentesi isolata, ma che la bellezza dello stare insieme per un progetto e un ideale più grandi continui anche qui in Italia nella nostra quotidianità. L’incontro con le sisters soprattutto, ma anche con tutte le persone che ci hanno dedicato il loro tempo nella missione è stato un dono grandissimo per il quale non possiamo fare altro che ringraziare.

Selly Cate Silvia

Visitor Von Shade-Zeldow Shares Her Experience at Cabrini Ministries Swaziland

Hi Everyone,
We wanted to share with you a piece written by Von Shade-Zeldow, from our Chicago-area Cabrini community, who just returned to the US after spending six weeks with us here in Swaziland, sharing her skills as a clinical psychologist to help children and staff. We deeply thank you Von for your visit and your great work here.

Von writes:

“I have just completed an amazing and powerful journey to Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland. Sisters Barbara and Diane were my supportive guides and directors of my experience as I dove into the world of orphaned and vulnerable children, hostel workers responsible for their care, and a healthcare team who protect and nurture hundreds of families in the lowveldt.

“As a clinical psychologist volunteering my skills and time (and supported generously by my employers in Chicago, Illinois- CINN Foundation and CINN Medical Group), I arrived in St. Philip’s with an open heart and great enthusiasm. I left six weeks later enriched by relationships with adults and children who helped me more fully appreciate the gifts in my life and the power of the human spirit to struggle for survival, health and a most rudimentary existence. My contributions were small (but hopefully sustainable) during such a short stay, but I relish the idea of returning to take up where I left off, in building a world just a bit better than before.

“On days when the “bigger picture” loomed (What will become of this country? Can people continue to rally in a landscape so desolate? Will deaths from AIDS and TB ever slow?), I reminded myself of the incredible efforts right before my eyes: 155 children who sleep safely and comfortably in beds each night and who have nourishment to face the next day, education and homeland documents provided to ensure each child is documented as a full Swazi citizen and landowner, hundreds of families served in the bush with healthcare, support, food and medication to survive the threats of illness and death, and a staff of 45 employed from the local area to help build this environment of caring and concern. In just a meager five years, Sisters Barbara and Diane have confronted the ills and consequences of a twenty-year drought and the ravaging effects of HIV/AIDS, while always remaining respectful of Swazi traditions and their importance to those they serve.

“During my stay at the mission, I worked with staff on two fronts. My time with the hostel workers who oversee the childrens’ lives each day was focused on teaching new skills, with the goal of creating for them a greater understanding of child development and the meaning and expression of loss in this vulnerable population. Staff are dedicated but have had significant ongoing challenges in their own lives prior to coming to work at Cabrini. Hence, they often have minimal skills and experiences to draw on in handling childrens’ misbehavior, sadness and need for comfort and praise. Our language barrier at times created humorous situations we will all remember. Swazi culture as a whole does not encourage open expression of positive feelings, but we worked hard to share together enough for all to see that there is always more to give should one choose to do so.

“Secondly, I was involved with the healthcare team whose responsibilities bring them to constantly confront chronic illness and death in Swazis of all ages. They are a compassionate and dedicated group of professionals who rarely if ever acknowledge the intense stress inherent in their work each day. Encouraging them to feel it was okay to share their emotions and fears, helping them to see that each and every one of them felt very similarly about their work and their patients, and giving them an outlet to grieve together and separately was a challenging task. Most importantly, these efforts will hopefully continue with the assistance of a state facilitator now available to programs providing healthcare. While everyone knew ‘stress’ as a concept when I arrived, staff as a group were unable to imagine they could have an impact in reducing the effects of stress in their lives. It was humbling to be a part of the process to empower them individually to care for themselves as well as families in the lowveldt.

“Quite by accident I fell in love with a three-year-old little boy named Menzi who was literally rescued one year ago from a homestead where he was found malnourished, developmentally delayed and near death. Today he is engaging, happy and playful. Nonetheless, when I met him, he was echolalic, repeating whatever phrases or words said to him in siSwati or English. Daily Menzi and I took walks where we spoke only English and improved his vocabulary one word at a time. I struggled to find ways to make words into responsive conversation, assuming I was getting nowhere (and having no professionals to guide by instincts). Several days before I left Swaziland, I said ‘How are you?’ to Menzi (to which he had always echoed ‘how are you?’). He looked at me and said ‘I’m fine’! I literally threw him up into the air – scaring both of us, I’m sure – and we fell into laughter the power of which cannot possibly be re-created. Each day afterward, we continued to make progress slowly. I dream that he has made progress in leaps and bounds and will someday have lots of conversations with me again. I miss him immensely.

“As a part of my experience in working with the women who are the daily caregivers for the children, I sat in on the yearly case conferences, meetings conducted to provide feedback to guardians from the homesteads and to update mission staff with any new circumstances which might affect the children in their care. As the conferences were conducted in siSwati, the staff would provide me with written summaries in English from the prior year’s meetings. Family members (often only distantly-related to the children if related at all) would arrive from many kilometers away to participate in this experience. At first, the histories struck me as so tragic as to be unlikely to have actually happened. Then it became painfully obvious that there was not one history to be told which was not marked by early loss, hunger and sadness. Early trauma and abuse were common threads of experience and not unusual events as I had once thought. It stirs my heart to know these children have found a safe haven. The dedication, caring and determination of Sisters Barbara and Diane and all their staff who join together to provide a better world for these beautiful lives in the bush of Swaziland are an inspiration to all who are touched by them.”

Blessings & love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane

Visitors and Volunteers: Brian Gaisford’s Hemingway Safari Group 2009

Recently we enjoyed a visit by a group of people on safari. Swaziland has some of the best game parks in the world, and our friend Brian Gaisford leads safari groups as part of his Hemingway Gallery and Photographic Safaris outfit, based in New York (

As many of you know, shipping anything to and from Swaziland is costly and unreliable to say the least. Many people want to donate much-needed items but unfortunately we can’t usually take them because there is no good way to get the packages. The best way for us to bring items to and from Swaziland is actually carrying them with our luggage. Enter Brian and his safari group- and their extra duffel bags.

Brian was able to send us $7000 and Brian and friends were able to gather many donated items- shoes, clothing, etc- in New York. His safari group this year consisted of 12 people, including John and Barbara Costantino, who won a safari for two at the Cabrini Mission Foundation Gala fundraising auction in 2007.

So how to get this stuff to our remote location in Swaziland? Each person actually carried on two extra duffel bags full of supplies for their flight to Johannesburg, then they drove to Swaziland, visiting St. Philip’s Mission, with a trailer of supplies.

Here is the safari group with us and all the stuff hand-carried by them.

We hosted everyone for a small lunch.

Some of the children put on a show (of course!) with some wonderful traditional song and dance.

More of the show…

These girls are very good singers.

Brian was presented with a basket that was handmade by one of the children’s mothers. He writes: “There was a note to me with the basket and when I showed it to my group, it brought all to tears. Thanks so much for that and the basket now hangs with the note in my house.”

We are very grateful to Brian and the safari group for visiting and bringing the supplies. The supplies mean so much to us and the children who often have only one set of clothes and shoes. We especially recognize the extra effort made by Brian and the group in adding this visit on to their safari vacation. It’s amazing what can happen when people choose to participate by volunteering and find creative ways to help. THANK YOU!

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane

Volunteers & Visitors Series: Katie McCaskie and Youth With A Mission (YWAM)

For being out in the middle of the bush, Cabrini Ministries receives its fair share of visitors and volunteers, that bring to us a wonderful flow of fresh air, positive attitudes, a variety of aid and assistance, and always good times… !

We wanted to share with you some of the photos and perspectives of a few of these visitors and volunteers as part of a series, and honor all of them in spirit for all that they’ve brought to us. Siyabonga (Thanks)!


Sr. Barbara & Sr. Diane

Volunteer visitor Katie McCaskie shares her great writing and photos below about her time here recently:

“As part of a four-month odyssey through Africa, I spent three weeks with Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland and I can honestly say that it was the most meaningful and enjoyable time of my whole trip! I’m a clinical social worker and during graduate school I had the privilege of working at Cabrini Immigrant Services, a grassroots agency in NYC run by another amazing Cabrini woman, Sr. Pietrina Raccuglia. At her suggestion, I contacted Sr. Barbara and Sr. Diane about spending some time with them in Swaziland and they kindly agreed.

“Shortly after arriving, Sr. Barbara told me that one of my jobs would be organizing the two-week stay of a volunteer group from Youth With A Mission (YWAM- ), an international Christian organization. The group included 8 volunteers, ranging in age from 19 to 30 from 6 different countries: USA (Jessica Landrus, Jane Kim, Victoria Vail), Germany (Johannes Birzele), Northern Ireland (Debra Lindsay), Australia (Luana Martin), Malawi (Daniel Kaphuka) and South Korea (Audrey Oh). It was quite a multicultural bunch. They had already spent several weeks together taking classes in South Africa and were completing their field experience in another area of Swaziland and at Cabrini Ministries (CM).

L to R first row: Jane, Joyce, and Johannes; second row: Luana, Sr. Diane, Jessica, Audrey, Debbie, Victoria, and Katie; third row: Daniel

“Energetic and enthusiastic, the group came ready to contribute and accomplished a great deal in two weeks, including painting the ‘K-Line’ (turning a truck-size utilitarian storage box into an aesthetically pleasing structure and a potential shady location for children to read, study, etc); constructing a protective fence around the hostel; setting up Shelterbox tents (read about Shelterbox at Cabrini here) on homesteads for families in need; cleaning the entire health care outreach center and assisting with services; conducting vision screenings and measuring the weight and height of all the children returning to the hostel after school vacation; and helping with Olympic Day. Here are some photos demonstrating their handiwork:

Jessica painting the K-Line

Daniel and Johannes building the fence

Jane and Debbie decorating the hostel

Victoria and Audrey decorating the hostel

“I was thankful to work with Joyce Djokoto, a long-term employee of Cabrini Ministries, who helped make the process a smooth and enjoyable one for both the YWAM volunteers and the Cabrini community. I also worked with Joyce on the educational enrichment program with David Senzanje, the Director of Education, and Mavis Steenkamp, a teacher. CM started this program to support students while school is out of session and they are staying on homesteads with their guardians. The students came to St. Philip’s Monday through Thursday for a half day and had the opportunity to receive individualized attention in a more dynamic, innovative way than is usually available to them at school.

“Lucky for me, I was at CM for two very special events which were both happening for the first time ever. The first was a staff outing to Mantenga Falls organized by Maggie Horne, a fabulous Peace Corp volunteer who has been working at CM since February. The staff, many of whom were visiting the falls for the first time in their lives, observed and spontaneously participated in a traditional dance performance and afterwards, engaged in some fun competition involving water balloons and “three legs.” 🙂 It was so wonderful to see everyone having so much fun, especially knowing some of the seemingly insurmountable challenges many of them have had to overcome just to be alive.

The staff at Mantenga Falls

Sr. Barbara and Ms. Mamba dancing at Mantenga

“The following week, Maggie organized an ‘Olympic Day,’ a delightful afternoon of games and activities to welcome the children back from their homesteads. The day was also part of a larger effort to create a healthy sense of competition in the hostels and highlight the children’s special accomplishments and talents. The YWAM volunteers assisted Maggie in decorating the hostels with signs about hygiene, positive affirmations, and child-friendly pictures, including the four animals that served as the team mascots: cobra, zebra, cheetah and lion. It was a joy to watch these children really PLAY, something that they have had very little opportunity to do in their lives as a result of extreme loss and hardship, and the cultural mores that expect children to be somewhat seen and not heard. The day ended with an American style barbeque with the help of Sr. Barbara who provided some basic ed on hamburgers and hotdogs!

Sr. Diane and kids on Olympic Day

COBRAS! on Olympic Day

Jane and Audrey and friends on Olympic Day

Three-legged race on Olympic Day

“I was exhausted by the end of the three weeks, but felt so blessed to be welcomed into the community and invigorated by the dedication that I witnessed. I’m grateful to the staff for their willingness to get to know me and share their knowledge and experiences, even though it was only for a short time. I learned so much from Sr. Barbara and Sr. Diane about HIV, AIDS and TB in Swaziland and the grave consequences for the nation and its future. Their respect for the Swazis was clearly apparent, and like good social workers, they approach their work with an understanding that the client or the community is the expert of their own lives. Their dedication and compassion seem endless and it was incredibly inspiring. It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend valuable time with such passionate, open-minded, and remarkable women.”

Colleen-another terrific Peace Corps volunteer who has been helping at Cabrini the last few months- and Katie enjoying the American-style BBQ