Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Swaziland 2013 - part 7, last day at Bheveni

The last day at Bheveni. Even though everyone was missing home in one way or another it was hard to admit it was the last day. When you're there in the moment and you've spent several days making connections and building relationships it's painfully hard to say goodbye.

We spent the day as we had for the past few - visiting with the bomake, playing, teaching and singing with the kids. We also put the finishing touches on the murals and the playground. All of us - our B-team, the D-team, the bomake and the kids - took turns having our hands painted and then putting our hand prints on the mural. The kids squealed as their hands were painted and the ladies from Bheveni laughed as they took their turn.

This was also the day that we presented the bomake with their meal of choice, the same as last year: KFC. They eyed it like it was gold, and I laughed a little because I have to tell you - the chicken dust that the locals make is, in my opinion, way better than any KFC I've ever had. But they love it so that's what we get for them. It's so fun to watch them enjoy every last morsel!

We were honored to find out that the bomake had cooked one of their few chickens for us to eat. It was a huge gesture on their part. It is things like this that constantly amaze me - the graciousness and giving nature that these women have. They work constantly, every day. They don't get to eat meat on a regular basis - as I've said before many people that are living in poverty eat meat once or twice a YEAR - yet they cooked up one of their few chickens for us.

One of my favorite parts of the day was having the kids come up and ask me about my shirt. I had made a t-shirt with a picture of my kids on it to wear to the carepoint. I can't even tell you how many kids pointed and asked me all about my kids. The little ones would crawl onto my lap and point to each of my kids and ask their names. They would repeat each name as I said it and would giggle as they tried to remember which name belonged to which kid. One of the little ones who doesn't speak English did this game with me several times and when I said at the end, "these are my children" he copied those words too. So sweet.

As the day drew to a close we gathered inside the carepoint. The kids sang for us and it was unbelievable. I wish that I was able to convey with words what it was like - I had goosebumps and I had tears in my eyes. The voices were beautiful. 

We had journals to hand out to each of the kids and also the candy that I had packed and ready to go. We distributed that and then went to the playground for a final picture with everyone. Once the photo was taken the kids started singing for us one last time and it was then that the reality set in for me. This was it... for at least another year. The tears started to flow.

I was able to spend a few minutes saying goodbye to Sphelele - I kept a smile on my face even though I could feel the tears coming again. As I've mentioned, she doesn't speak much English so we couldn't say a lot. She gave me a big hug and a really big smile as she and her siblings headed out to the road.

Luckily, I was a little distracted because I had to get ready for a home visit to Gcebile's house. She is the preschool teacher at the carepoint and has two children that attend the carepoint. I don't have the right words to describe her - she is simply amazing. During this past year we worked to raise funds to help build her a new home - hers had been destroyed in a storm and her family had nowhere else to go. The Bheveni online community came together beautifully and raised enough to rebuild. She was so proud to show us the new home and was delighted with a gift we gave her - canvases with tiles representing the "blocks" people donated toward her house.

It was an emotional day. Saying goodbye is never easy. I think the fact that I knew I'd be in Swaziland for another week made it a little easier, but I knew that I wouldn't be back to Bheveni until our next trip.

One highlight from this last day was a special moment for my friend DeNise. She sponsors a young girl at Bheveni but the girl attends a school that is a distance away. That means that her girl is not able to make it to the carepoint every day because school is too far of a walk for her. DeNise really wanted to see her during our stay and she hadn't made an appearance - and it was the last day. Well, a different child had told this young girl that DeNise was at the carepoint and the girl made a special trip to Bheveni just to see DeNise. I saw her walking up to DeNise, who had her back turned, and was able to get my camera out in time to capture this moment.

Another highlight - and this might be one of the very best of the trip - was watching two of the teenage girls from the carepoint bond with two of our team members, Missy and Brittany:

A little back story: Brittany and Missy are the daughters of Britt Bush, who was on the 2011 trip to Swaziland. Bheveni captured his heart so much so that his wife Pam and 2 of his girls wanted to make the journey this time. It took me all of 30 seconds to fall in love with the Bush women and to be thankful that they had joined our team. Their family sponsors these two amazing young women from the carepoint and have been sending letters every so often to them.

It was fun to watch as the Bheveni girls got to meet the Bush girls - I'm sure they were thrilled to have some people a little closer to their age visit. These four got to spend time together and I heard them chatting and giggling together several times. Missy and Brittany were amazed to hear that these two girls remembered all of the things that they had wrote to them - like what they want to study in school and other personal info. We all trust that HopeChest distributes the letters and emails that we send but it was just so neat to know that these two teenagers cared about what was happening with their "special friends" in America!

I was brought to tears once again when Brittany and Missy shared two letters that the girls wrote for them. The letters were awesome - telling the whole Bush family how much they mean to them. It was so heartfelt - I'll share one of the pages here:

I was just floored when I read through the letters. I mean, I know that the kids from Bheveni appreciate the sponsorship. At the carepoint they get a meal and a safe place to go and discipleship and help with school fees. I guess that I just hadn't realized the bond that these kids have with their sponsors. Both of the kids that my family sponsors are pretty young so they are excited to see me but it's a little more one sided with kids that small. They can't always convey their feelings (and relationships are different for their ages too.) But to see these two teenage girls and the love and gratitude that they have for their sponsors - and to see firsthand the joy they got from meeting them in person... it was so awesome! I know that both Missy and Brittany were really touched when these girls told them that they are their best friends. Imagine that - people from half a world away that you are only in contact with a few times a year - the fact that they love you, value you, encourage you would put them in the "best friend" slot. Humbling, to say the least. I think it brings the importance of sponsorship into a whole new light... obviously the financial aspect is important but the personal side means so much more to these kids, especially the older ones. For them to know that someone out there cares enough to sponsor them is huge. For them to get a letter or an email from that person is huge. It reaffirms what I've mentioned before - that what our Swazi friends need is not a quick fix up, but someone to live life with them, support and encourage them, even if it's from thousands of miles away.

All of that to say - if you have ever thought of sponsoring a child please look into it again. I'm partial to Swaziland and to HopeChest but there are also many different organizations out there that help people all over the world. Read up on the organization so you know what they're about but do look into it. I have seen the outcome of what HopeChest is doing and it's working miracles for these kids.

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