Alone No More
The Dlamini family lives on a traditional Swazi homestead: a compound of mud-and-thatch huts surrounded by a small cement building, perched on a hillside in the remote village of Kaphunga.
Like many of their neighbors, the Dlaminis raise chickens and cattle and get up early in the morning to work in their maize field. They share family chores – cooking, washing dishes, and looking after the small children. The Dlamini family has nine children in all.
The Dlamini children are different from children in other families, and not just because there are so many of them. The Dlamini children don’t have parents.
Six years ago, the children’s mother passed away. One year later, their father died too. Since then, the Dlamini children – who range in age from 20 to 6 – have been raising themselves.
“I am happy to be alive,” says Zodwa, the oldest sibling. “But sometimes we only have porridge to eat. No meat, no vegetables.”
Zodwa goes to school every day. She’s in Form 2 and speaks English well. “I would love to be a doctor,” Zodwa says. “I want to help the sick.” Every day before school, she sweeps the yard and cooks for her siblings. The oldest children also work in the maize field before school, and care for the cattle provided to them by other members of the community.
What is the most difficult part of life for the Dlaminis? “We are lacking proper homes,” Zodwa tells us. Their huts are small and dark, with no furniture save a few chairs and mattresses. “And we must walk a long way for water.” She points to the top of an adjacent hill, about a kilometre away. “The water is there,” she says.
It’s no surprise that the children’s clothes lie in dirty heaps on the floors of the huts. There is nowhere to store them, and water is too precious for frequent clothes-washing.
But the Dlamini children, unlike thousands of other Swazi children in the same predicament, are fortunately not alone. Rev. Percival Nhlabatsi, pastor of Philadelphia Church in Kaphunga, and other volunteers from his church are looking after the Dlaminis, along with 140 more orphans and vulnerable children (children who have lost one or both parents) in his community. Most of Swaziland’s orphans have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. More than 25 percent of Swazi adults are living with HIV.
“At first we tried to support them [the Dlaminis] with money from an NGO,” says Pastor Percival. “But that support was too meager. Now, at our church, we take care of the children ourselves. We help them with food and clothing, and we check in on them.”
With support from the Samaritans’s Purse HOPE (Holistic Outreach Empowerment Partnership) Programme, Kaphunga churches like Rev. Percival’s are coming together to assess the needs of their communities, and determine what local resources are available to fill those needs. For the Dlamini children, this meant church members with the necessary experience teaching them how to grow their maize crops more efficiently. Most importantly, the Dlamini children now know that there are people around them who care.
“The community has really taken an interest in this family,” says Wandy Shongwe, Partnership Liaison Manager for Samaritan’s Purse. “The children now know there is hope for the future for them.”
The Dlamini family has very little. But thanks to Rev. Percival and the Kaphunga community, these children have hope. Hope is a powerful thing.
By Heather Mason
Click here to find out more about how we are reaching orphans in Swaziland through our Church Mobilisation Programme.