I can't believe another month has already passed! I wish I could report we have our visas and are good to go for the rest of our time here, but alas. After no news of our South African appeal and trying to border hop by leaving South Africa and re-entering only to be given a short 7 days and a strict warning (including fingerprints and pictures of us) we made the move to the Kingdom of Swaziland (last absolute monarchy in the world). We applied for visas in country in Swaziland as is customary for Americans and were told to come back in 3 weeks time to retrieve them. Three weeks has come and gone and we went to gather them only to be told one was ready and one was not and therefore we should come back next week. We are hopeful they will both be ready by our next visit to home affairs as our current tourist visas for Swaziland also expire next week...
Aside from this ongoing frustration we are settling in well in Swaziland, are staying very busy and having much more interaction with the kids (which we love). We also live with the community here which offers us increased ability to participate with them in their spiritual exercises.
Some highlights from February aside from the border hopping and move to Swaziland include Josiah being named (after only two days) the basketball coach for Salesian High School here in Manzini. This is a dream come true for him and he is enjoying every second. He is also teaching some of the boys guitar and I am learning table tennis even though they beat me every time! We continue to fill our roles for the Planning and Development office remotely from Swaziland and continue to work on some very exciting projects which will positively impact all 3 countries (South Africa, Losotho, and Swaziland).
Josiah is also working on heading the recreation for our Enjabulweni Bridging School. This is a wonderful school which allows the children we work with who have been living on the streets to re-initiate in education without humiliation. A lot of our boys are in their teens, but maybe haven't been in school since grade 3 or 4. They would be expected in the public schools to then join traditional grade 3 or 4 students and work their way through school traditionally If they are accepted at all. This then often keeps them from ever pursuing an education once they get behind. The bridging school, however, works with these students to aid in fast tracking them to where they need to be in order to be able to rejoin public school as soon as possible in an age appropriate setting. It's an awesome example of working within your circumstances and seeing a need and finding a way to fill it. That's what I love about the Salesians!
I have been able to meet some beautiful girls from St. Anne's High School in Malkerns, our other Salesian mission location. St. Anne's is managed by one of our Salesian priests, Father Martin, who was instrumental in the organization of the marches to end gender-based violence mentioned in a previous blog. I am going to be able to put my social work and therapy skills to use with the girls there to aid them in overcoming some of the many obstacles they face. Here they're showing off their completion of leadership class with a "certificate selfie."
I also met some lovely ladies from England who have allowed me to use a sewing machine they are leaving here in Swaziland and have shown me how to make reusable sanitary towels for the St. Anne's girls and other females in the area. I am very excited to be able to help empower these girls and ladies so they no longer have to miss out on life just because they are girls. I think I've even rallied my troops back home to help with this which is very exciting.
We are also working closely with Salesian Manzini Youth Care which along with the bridging school provides homes for orphaned and vulnerable children. There is much work to be done, but we are very excited to help any way we can while we're here. For fear I've gone on too long I'll leave you with our video journal for February and a few pictures of some of our other adventures!
Please continue to keep us in our prayers! You are in ours!