Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sibusiso Magagula - a 2010 Christmas Interview

Sibusiso Magagula is the Bulembu Country Lodge Manager.  We asked him a few questions about Christmas and what his goals are for 2011:

How are you going to be celebrating an African Christmas?
I’ll be working this Christmas, because we have a few guests at the Lodge. 

What do you enjoy most about Christmas?
The most exciting thing about Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ and getting together with my family. It is very important for me to spend time with my family.

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?
Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Have you experienced a white Christmas before?

What do you think it is like?
I think Christmas is more exciting in countries where they have snow.

What was a highlight for you in 2010?
I was more involved with running the Lodge this year. Last year I had Mr. Vernon and Mr. Andrew’s input, but this year it has been a big challenge for me because I have had to oversee everything. If I have to make crucial decisions, I have to make sure the Lodge is up to standard. We have to keep on pushing for a higher standard. I think this year I have learned a lot and I have achieved many of my own personal goals. When big groups come in, we need to be prepared. I need to sit down a month before and plan for the groups so that we can be ready. The biggest challenge for me this year was the bicycle race in October. There were 220 people in town and we had to organize beds, bedding, plates, glasses and cutlery. It was hard work, but we achieved it. We were ready for them a week before the time. We were able to learn from our past mistakes.

What are you looking forward to next year?
I am looking forward to the opening of our Hospitality Training Centre and our conference centre. I am looking forward to working with Rose Woller who will be assisting with the Lodge. Next year, my biggest dream is to see the Lodge moving forward, improving service and operating at a higher standard.

What has been the biggest change in Bulembu in the last year?
I think it’s continuously changing. Previously in management I was reporting back to Mr. Andrew, but now we have the directors of different departments which lightens Mr. Andrew’s load. Now I am dealing with Mr. Collin le Roux on a daily basis so that is a step forward for Bulembu. The Hospitality Training Centre is also another big change that is happening in Bulembu.

What is the biggest challenge you face in the year ahead?
The biggest challenge in 2011 is to improve the Lodge, coming up with new ideas and more specifically coming up with new kitchen menus. I am trying to introduce new meals. I am going to try and transform my staff at the lodge through service improvement, to have the staff all on the same page and for them to know exactly what’s going on, what events are coming up and what teams will be visiting the lodge. Maybe there is even a chance for the staff at the Lodge to be put through the vocational training course.  To me that would be another step forward.

What’s best about living in Bulembu?
It’s a quiet place. It’s less expensive than other towns. There are no shops for you to spend your money unwisely. 

What do you wish for Christmas for yourself?
I wish for a good life for my family and myself and for everybody who lives in town.

What do you wish for Christmas for Bulembu?
I wish that God would give the people of Bulembu strength. They have been working hard for the last 12 months and I hope that they all come back next year. I also wish them a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sam Ritcher - a 2010 Christmas Interview

Leading up to Christmas, we thought we'd pull together a series of interviews featuring some faces from the community as they talk about the year past, the year ahead and Christmas.  Enjoy.

Sam Richter arrived in Buelembu with his parents in 2005 and has been here eversince. He is 18 years old and attends the Bulembu Christian Academy. I asked Sam how he was going to be celebrating Christmas and what goals he has for 2011. 

How are you going to celebrate and African Christmas?
We usually go out of town and spend time with friends and family. This year we will be doing the same and spending time with my brother and sister in the Manzini area.

What do you enjoy most about Christmas?
For me it’s the  time where friends and family actually get together and have a good time. Birthdays come and go and not many people show up, but on Christmas, everyone is there. Even people who you wouldn’t expect, show up.

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?
Yes, ‘O Holy Night’

Have you experienced a white Christmas before? What do you think it is like?
No. A friend told me that once he had a Christmas where there was sleet and it was one of the coldest nights ever. You could see small snowflakes falling, that’s how cold it got. I haven’t seen snow yet, only in the movies. But I would love to see snow! Here in Bulembu you have lots of hills to slide down so if it did snow, it would be loads of fun! I think a white Christmas for some of the kids, would be a dream come true. For me in particular it would be a dream come true!

What was a highlight for you in 2010?
The first Royal Rangers camp and then coming back and being so on fire for God and filled with the Holy Spirit.

What are you looking forward to next year?
The basic things. Succeeding in school work. Even the smallest of things like doing your chores and waking up in time for school.  I also feel that God has something big planned ahead for the year.

What has been the biggest change in Bulembu in the last year?
There were two major changes. The changing of the school syllabus from ACE to Cambridge which meant that I had to take new tests and was placed in a different grade. Now, that means I have 4 more years of school before I graduate. I am still excited though!

What is your biggest challenge you face in Bulembu in the year ahead?
It’s got to be school! Math is my big challenge!

What’s best about living in Bulembu?
Well, it’s quietish. Unlike Big Bend where it was constantly noisy with traffic and loud city noises. 

On my way here I thought nothing could live up here in the mountains. How they managed to put all of this together is something else!

 What do you wish for Christmas for yourself..?
Ahhh….hmmm…..a cell phone. 

 What do you wish for Christmas for Bulemu?
To see this place expand nationally and internationally. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Swazi 1000

Bulembu is unique in many ways from its avid commitment to sustainability by 2020 to its holistic community development approach. But, one of the most compelling characteristics is the scope of the work. Three years ago a group of charismatic individuals caught the vision and dreamed of bringing 1000 students to Bulembu to volunteer and engage with the community in work projects and various ministry outreaches. This birthed what has become known as the Swazi1000.

In December 2008, 350 volunteers joined in on the first Swazi 1000 mission to Bulembu. Besides painting 12 community buildings, renovating 2 orphan homes, and painting 420 houses, these young people were challenged to live in radical devotion to their faith in God. The outpouring of their experience was far greater than expected as they returned to their own communities and set up outreaches, prayer groups and community development projects.

In 2009, 220 volunteers packed their tents and work gloves once again traveled to Bulembu for the second Swazi1000. This time they erected a 1.6km dairy fence, renovated the outer shell of nearly 12 orphan homes, painted murals, logos and even toenails of women in the community.

This year, the Swazi1000 returned on November 28th with over 150 students. Although this was by far the wettest Swazi 1000, that certainly has not stopped the team from heading out every morning to get the work done.

The energy around camp is one of excitement as volunteers divide into work groups and are briefed for the day’s work ahead. There are eleven teams on a rotation system, where the volunteers will have the opportunity in the course of the next two weeks to serve on kitchen duty, cleaning duty, bush clearing, painting, renovating orphan homes, as well as various ministry projects. Four fixed teams work solely on murals, fencing, renovating the school playground and caring for the new intake of orphaned babies in Bulembu.

During the first week, the rain was pouring so hard, it made work nearly impossible. The Swazi1000 leaders gave the volunteers the choice to come back to camp and get out of the rain. However, the majority of volunteers chose to remain working in the rain and mud. Those at the orphan homes decided to dig trenches around a few of the houses in order to prevent them from flooding. The perseverance and servant hood of the Swazi1000 team is one which continues to amaze the Bulembu community.

This year on Swazi1000 there were two small teams on a Mission Outreach Team Exposure (MOTE Level 2) experience. For this experience, the small teams spent the two weeks actually living in the villages outside of Bulembu, working, eating and serving with the local people and developing relationships with them as they built a community church and cow kraal.

The work that has been completed over the last 3 years by 728 Swazi1000 volunteers has uplifted the community and shown how important volunteers and teams are to the continual development of Bulembu. Next year Bulembu is looking to host over 400 Swazi1000 volunteers and if one thing is certain, there will be no shortage of work projects.

The Swazi 1000 team

Team ready to go paint the town red!

Students clearing weeds around houses

Building playground for children

Team works together to move jungle-gym

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World Aids Day

It’s the 1st of December and it’s World Aids Day. World Aids Day is all about raising awareness  to stop the spread of HIV /AIDS and working together to do this. Stephen Lewis, a former  United Nations' special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa who has seen the bigger picture of what HIV/Aids is doing to people and nations and has been persistent in trying to stop this devastating disease.  In Stephen Lewis’ World Aids Day Message last year, he stated “prevention is not yet working. For every two people whom we put on anti-retroviral treatment so that they might live, there are five new infections. Prevention remains an elusive goal in the high-prevalence countries.” It is becomingly more widely known that Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world. Therefore it is a central focus to many of the projects and strategies in Bulembu. To give more information on what Bulembu is specifically doing to help fight against HIV/AIDS, we interviewed Niel Geldenhuys, manager of the Bulembu Clinic. 

How many medical staff work at the clinic?
“Wiseman a nurse, and myself, Margret who is a Midwife and Vera who is funded by ICAP (Aids Care and Treatment Programs) from Columbia University but works for us.”

How is Bulembu clinic dealing with HIV AIDS problem in Swaziland on a day-to-day basis?
“ Bulembu Clinic offers volunteer counseling and testing for any and every patient in the community at no cost. If they want to come to the clinic for an HIV test then they don’t pay anything for it. What happens when patients tell us they want an HIV test done, we open a file for them and there is a woman here that specifically works with HIV/AIDSpatients. She is called an expert client which means her HIV status is positive and she is on anti-retrovirals herself. She gets paid to speak to people about her HIV status, how the drugs are affecting her, how she is getting better and that it actually works. That is her job, so any of us, either the nurses can do the testing or counseling, but she is here full time to council and she is effective because she can relate to the patients.” 

How do you test for HIV/AIDS and how do you deal with AIDS patients?
“The Aids test is a finger prick test. We use two different rapid tests just to make sure that the results are accurate. If both rapid tests are positive then we tell the patient their status. We do pre-test counseling and post-test counseling, explain to them what it means and what the road forward looks like from here. From then onwards whoever does the test would bring the patient to me and I will do a general examination of the patient and clinically stage the patient, see how sick the patient is, determine what stage of the disease the patient is at, then we also take bloods from them and run tests on them e.g. test their liver, test their kidneys, check their CD4 count. “

“We then follow them up and so it’s patient dependent. If I have a patient with a CD4 count of 1000, I tell them to come back in three to six months, set a date for them and test them again and see if their CD4 count is lowering or if they need any other medicine to keep them healthy. Once we make a decision that a patient needs anti-retroviral therapy they go to Piggs Peak Hospital for the first initiation day of therapy then they will initiate them there and start them off on medicine and every time from then on a monthly basis the patience come to Bulembu. We do a full medical workup on them, check that they are taking their tablets properly, actually count their tablets make sure that they are taking the tablets at the correct time that they don’t build up resistance, draw bloods here and monitor their CD4 counts and if we need to, their viral loads. That is all for free of charge.”

Who is subsidizing all the HIV/AIDS tests and anti-retroviral medication?
“Everything is run by the Swazi government. Apart from that everything else is private at the clinic. Most of the patients however that we do test come in with another opportunistic infection. In other words they have some infection that they are prone to have because they have HIV/AIDS. While dealing with that we usually suggest to them that they need to have an HIV test and we council them through it.They would still pay the $1.50 for the consultation of the other problem but all the HIV is free of charge. Donors from Canada and around the world fund the Clinic general operations, indirectly by supporting Bulembu.”

What do you think can reduce the HIV rate in Swaziland?
“I believe that an effective way of tackling AIDS in Bulembu, instead of having mass campaigns like they have been doing, putting posters up and handling out pamphlets is to speak to people one-on-one. So every patient that comes through here gets offered an HIV test. If they don’t want to do it, they don’t have to do it but to me it’s made a big difference. When I started off here, we did about 12 to 15 HIV tests a month and at the moment we test roughly 60 to 80 patients a month. We are encouraging them on a one-on-one basis to take the test. If they want an HIV test done, they will ask the nurse and have an  HIV test done but more often than not, if you don’t ask a patient and say: listen I really think you should have an HIV AIDS test done. Nine out often would be too scared to have it and not do it. We also council the patient on prevention of HIV and family planning.”

“Females are usually more willing to test than what men are. Men are usually a bit more stubborn when testing. A lot of the times we will have the women coming and we would suggest that they bring their boyfriend or husband when they comet o the clinic and the guys don’t want to test. We probably have more women on anti-retroviral medication than men.”

The Bulembu Clinic sees a large number of patients every day and administers medical care and medication to the community and the greater population of Swaziland. Niel and his staff are filled with hope and expectation to help many more lives in the years to come as the clinic’s capacity to treat more people is increasing and meeting an ever growing need. “Of course we can turn the tide on AIDS in Africa. It just takes your help, sprinkled with a touch of imagination and love.” – Stephen Lewis