Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Let Men Be Men

 Two of the boys take a break to smile as they work hard chipping off floor tiling in their new kitchen.
On any given afternoon, if you wander up the stretch of road just above the old cable way station you will hear the sounds of tiles being scraped off a floor, brush being cleared from a yard and wet paint being rolled onto dry walls. These are the sounds of some of Bulembu’s young men renovating their new home.

Headed up by Jason Mitchell, one of Bulembu Ministries Swaziland’s youth program coordinators, the home is a project geared towards transitioning young men above the age of 18 out of the BMS children’s homes and into a more independent lifestyle.

“These young men are going to be responsible for caring for the house, cooking for themselves and over the past six weeks they have been actively involved in the remodeling of the home,” Jason explains. “The whole idea is about creating that sense of ownership and responsibility as they move into their adult lives.”

The young men have repainted the interior of the house, repaired most of the flooring, cleaned up the garden and have filled the house with furniture.
 The outside of the home.
The program, however, extends far beyond the physical renovation of the home. “Within this community there is a lack of masculine influence in these boys’ lives,” says Jason. “We want to teach them what it means to be a man – especially a man of God – as they move towards roles as fathers, husbands and leaders within this community.”

With a few more finishing touches and an official ‘okay’ on the electrics and three young men from the BMS program will move into the house later this week under the supervision of Berto, another BMS youth program coordinator.

“Having these young men step into this new home with Berto is a part of what this town is all about,” Jason says. “Part of the overall BMS vision is to create leadership and mentors within the Swazi culture. These boys are a key part of that. Once they have been mentored they will mentor others and a cycle will be created that spreads positive masculine influence, building up young, Swazi men who are able to lead this country forward.”

Keep an eye out for final photos coming early next week!
 One of the bedrooms mid-renovation.

 A layer of paint changes the walls from purple to green in one of the home's three bedrooms.

 The entrance room mid-renovation.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Bulembu State of Mine

The old Havelock Mine tailings just outside of Bulembu.

Hold up, it’s time for a fifty-five second history lesson.

Between 1939 and 2001, Bulembu operated as a chrysotile mine. Originally named Havelock Mine, the mine was part of the Turner & Newall Asbestos Group. The mine encountered heavy losses in the late 1980's and subsequently went bankrupt in 1991. The company was liquidated and the assets purchased in 1991 by HVL Asbestos Swd. Ltd. who changed the name of the mine to Bulembu Mine. HVL Asbestos ran the mine until it went into liquidation in 2001.

Got it?

Okay, fast-forward to the present.

The view of the old mine tailings serves as a backdrop for the town.

The mine has remained inactive since 2001 but the large grey mass of mine tailings at the south-west end of town serve as an eyesore, an unusable plot of land and a constant reminder of what used to be.

To address these issues, Bulembu asked two Canadian-based environmental remediation specialists, Ron and Brian from Vancouver-based Quantum Murray LP, to come survey the mine tailings in order to determine the best course of action to reclaim the dumpsite.

“The tailings are basically the waste product left behind after the asbestos was extracted from the mine,” explains one of the specialists, Brian. “For aesthetic reasons, health concerns and to be able to actually use the land our plan is to reshape and re-vegetate the tailing pile.”

When it comes to the ‘a-word’ (asbestos) it is expected that everyone wants to know what health risks the old mine poses. There has been no conclusive evidence to point to the fact that the tailings pose a serious, or even moderate health risk to townspeople. However, Brian and Ron make it clear that rehabilitating the mine by capping the tailings with soil in order to mitigate any perceived risks.

“We have taken baseline air samples and will take them back to Canada to be tested,” Brian explains, “and hopefully in the next little while we will send an industrial hygienist to come assess the risk, but for us it is not the primary concern. The most important reason to rehabilitate the mine tailings is to free-up another 50 hectares of land to facilitate community enterprises.”

After the tailings have been reshaped, capped with a meter of soil and replanted with thick, matted vegetation, one possibility that has been discussed is that the area would be used as grazing land for Bulembu Dairy’s cattle.

While more assessments are needed and more research must be done, the plan is to begin the physical rehabilitation of the tailings in November 2010. This target date was chosen because it is during the rainy season. This is ideal because the ground will be damp and the amount of airborne particles will therefore be kept to a minimum.

It is expected that the first phase of the rehabilitation (the part you can see from in town – phase two is the steep slope on the western edge of the tailings) would take eight months to a year and would create jobs for approximately twenty people. Quantum would provide experts to train local operators to use the machinery and would ensure a site-specific health and safety plan is put in place.

“The idea is that we would take what is basically a moonscape and change it into an aesthetically pleasing and physically useful area,” says Brian. “Rehabilitating the mine tailings is all part of restoring the town and looking towards the future.”
A view of the tailing's western slope. This slope is phase two of the rehabilitation process.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Big Things In Store

Current storefront of the soon-to-be Bulembu Store.

In early 2010 Bulembu secured a lease agreement for a retail location in Piggs Peak – the soon-to-be home of Bulembu Store. Located opposite the local hospital and on one of the main transportation routes that connects South Africa to the main business centers of Swaziland, Bulembu Store is an ideal distribution point for Bulembu products.

Slated to open on March 1, 2010, Bulembu Store will sell maas (sour milk), milk, cream, yogurt, brown and white bread, bread rolls, doughnuts, Swazi buns, scones, mielie-meal, seedlings, honey and bottled water.

While a pilot project, the goal is to sell between 400-500 loaves of bread, 400 liters of milk based products and 50-100 bags of mielie-meal at the Bulembu Store each day.
The interior of Bulembu Store is currently under renovation.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Planting Seeds and Building Dreams

Dennis Neville, Bulembu's new Director of Education, and his family.

Bulembu’s new Director of Education, Dennis Neville, has arrived from Cape Town with his wife Nicky and their three daughters Daniella, Talitha and Olivia.

Dennis was raised in South Africa and actually went to primary school with Andrew le Roux and Neal Rijkenberg in Piet Retief (although this connection was not made until just a few months ago). Attending WITS University in Johannesburg and the University of Cape Town, Dennis obtained his Bachelors, Honors and Masters degrees in Archeology and Anthropology.

His wife, Nicky, was born and raised in Johannesburg and has studied and worked in the field of Communications and Public Relations for most of her career life. Graduating with a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership from Regent University in the United States, Nicky has been active in writing and editing for numerous organizations and publications including the popular, Christian magazine Today.

Both Dennis and Nicky have also spent considerable time working with His People, a ministry based in Cape Town. Dennis headed up the 
ministry’s national Bible School and managed curriculum development while Nicky worked with the Communications team.  “The season came when we needed to step out of full time ministry,” Nicky explains. “We needed a chance for restoration and renewal of our vision and miraculously God opened the door for Dennis to move into the Louis Group.”


Dennis’ transition into the Louis Group, a Cape Town based financial services and property management company, provided him with a chance to rest. Focusing his efforts on leadership training and entrepreneurial development for the Group’s 450 staff, Dennis’ desire to return to ministry came back stronger than ever.

“There were so many seeds that God planted in our hearts during that season,” Dennis says. “For example, He planted seeds of compassion for orphans. But as we tried to pursue these things and even went as far as looking into moving to Romania to work with abandoned children, but God stopped us each time.”

The period of waiting proved challenging for the Nevilles as it seemed at times as if the dreams of their hearts were not being realized. “We felt like we were living such a normal life when I believed we had been promised more than that,” Nicky remembers. “But I kept on wondering – Lord, what about those promises?”

Dennis’ involvement with transformational business through his work with the Louis Group proved to provide the foundation for his transition into his work here in Bulembu. “My passion developed – the idea that we can transform nations and transform the world through business,” he explains. “When we started to learn about Bulembu the people with this organization spoke our language and that got us excited. We had parallel dreams to bring biblical principles into all areas of enterprise and can in doing so, witness the transformational power of God at work restoring a nation.”

Dennis emailed Andrew to explain his passion and ideas and in October 2009 he was invited to visit Bulembu. Over his short visit Dennis’ relationship with Bulembu’s Directors developed and it became clear that he would be an ideal candidate to fill the role of Director of Education.

“We spent a lot of time following that initial visit seeking the Lord and He so clearly answered all of our prayers,” Nicky remembers. “We returned as a family in early December to meet the Board of Directors as well as to see what our girls thought of the town. And by the end of that visit we had confirmation and we knew that God had called us here.”

With just under two months to pack their life in Cape Town up, the Nevilles arrived in Bulembu in late January. As the Director of Education Dennis’ role is to develop education initiatives across town. Included in these initiatives are curriculum development at the school and training and leadership development within enterprises to connect all learners in Bulembu to resources. “My vision is to provide the best education possible for every learner in Bulembu so that they can each grow into who God has called them to be,” Dennis says. “In giving each of Bulembu’s learners the very best schooling and training – the very best access to education – I want people to have the freedom to dream big dreams and to partner with them to see these dreams come true.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Done Like Dinner

Perched on the side of a mountain on the far side of town, the Dvudvusi Central Dining Room has been completed and is open for business. Hosting nearly fifty children each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner the Central Dining Room was built to streamline the Orphan Care Program's feeding process and to create a more efficient use of resources. 

"When we were serving meals to the children the houses there was no room for us to cook or eat the meals," explains Gennie Falcon, Manager of the Dvudvusi Orphan Homes. "This dining room was a necessity because we did not have the capacity to serve food to any more children that would move into our homes - but now we do."

The communal eating and washing-up areas allow the children to interact with other kids from different houses. The building, with it's vaulted ceilings and spacious interior, is also used for rainy day activities and movie nights.

The dining hall has the capacity to serve 200 children and as the Orphan Care Program continues to expand so too will the amount of children the Dining Hall serves each day. "It's neat being in the Dining Room - it's inspiring to see the space that will eventually house the realized vision the Orphan Care Program has for Dvudvusi," says Gennie. "When you're here it is easy to picture 200 kids laughing, eating and growing together."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Royal Flush

The washroom building before and after renovations

The washroom complex adjacent to the Dvudvusi Central Dining room have been finished. The old workers’ house underwent renovations over the past two months and is now home to toilet and sink facilities for boys and girls. The facility has been built to serve the more than forty children that currently eat their meals at the Central Dining Room next door.