Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Day in the Life – Hospitality Training Students

First 2011 HTC class 

The next time you’re roaming through the southeastern half of Africa, enjoying a lovely hotel room or a scrumptious meal, take a close look at those serving you. These are waitrons and hotel staff members who may very well have been trained at Bulembu’s Hospitality Training Center. The students, like Mbongiseni (Bones) and Gabsile, come to Bulembu to study every aspect of the hospitality industry so they can go out into Swaziland – and other countries – and find a prosperous and fulfilling career. What’s it like a day in the life of one of these students? Let’s find out!

 The 19 students – 6 boys and 13 girls – live in a dorm-like house. They wake early and jockey for position in the bathroom for showers. In between morning prayers, a breakfast of cereal or toast and getting dressed, Bones checks on the others in the house to make sure everyone is ok. They all leave the house together at 8:45 and make their way to the training center for their 9 am class. School days typically last until 4:30 or 5:30, depending on what is scheduled for the students.
The students are divided into teams - green, black and red - and they each take turns preparing lunch and handling other duties in the house. The lessons they learn are even incorporated into their everyday lives. After classes, each student is responsible for his or her own meal. Bones says he likes to take walks and photograph the beautiful nature that surrounds Bulembu when he is not reviewing his school notes. Gabsile says they all often watch DVD’s in the evening because the TV isn’t connected to satellite. She explains that they have seen most of the movies numerous times, but it’s still a pleasurable time to be together.

After working in classroom settings and getting some hands-on experience at the Bulembu Country Lodge, the students are ready to move on to their practicum. Bones will be going to work in a hotel in Manzini while Gabsile will be stationed at Mountain Inn in Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane. But first, she will make a stop to see her mother and stepfather and meet her new sibling!
Students in class
Both Bones and Gabsile say they have learned so much through their classes, which don’t just revolve around setting tables and pouring drinks. They have classes in life application and education, including awareness about HIV/AIDS. Bones says he is naturally shy but these classes have helped him to try to overcome the shyness and break out of his shell, which he is looking forward to doing when he arrives in Manzini.

Students having breakfast
 Gabsile said this has been the greatest experience of her life. “I’ve never been so happy,” she says. “I’m also learning a lot about myself, and making great friends.” Friends, she insists, she will miss when they go separate ways into a bright new world of opportunities. Perhaps one of those opportunities will include serving you and making sure your visit is made of wonderful memories.

Written by Theresia Whitfield
Photos by Gary Todoroff

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bulembu In Black & White

A serene and comfortable gathering place for fellowship and food in a cottage at Bulembu Country Lodge.

Lighting the way to a bright future on the streets of Bulembu.

Welcome home. A relaxing setting at the Bulembu Country Lodge.

A teacher plays a game of soccer with students from the Bulembu Christian Academy.

Moving mountains: A bulldozer works to clear mine tailings in preparation for more growth in Bulembu.

Two trees stand above the rest; Eucalyptus forest in Bulembu.

Storms passing over the mountains surrounding Bulembu. The night sky shines brightly at the moment lightning strikes.

Teachers give special attention throughout the class day to ensure that children keep up with their class mates in the Cambridge curriculum.

All of the world's children know their place in line.

Photographer: Gary Todoroff
Captions: Theresia Whitfield
Edited: Bianca Puttkammer

Monday, April 11, 2011

“Welcome Home”

One of the biggest and ongoing challenges for the social workers and staff in Bulembu is the transitioning of a child from a destitute and neglected life to one of care and hope. The first place every arriving child sees is the Welcome Centre where that transition begins to take place.

Vernon & social worker on their way to a homestead to fetch a child in need.
The children come literally from all over Swaziland and are initially referred to Swaziland Social Welfare either by hospitals, police, child protection, struggling family members or neighbors, community workers and pastors. After tracking and investigating family members who might be alive and, if no one is alive and/or willing to take the child, death certificates are obtained and affidavits are completed by Swaziland Social Welfare. Then the children are prepared for a new home and a new life.

Child at one of the homesteads checking out the situation.
Newcomers are provided a bath, food and sleep, precious comforts the rest of us take for granted but might be completely foreign to these little ones. At the start of a new day, they are examined at the medical clinic. Staff at the Bulembu Clinic check weight and height, look for bruises and sends them for x-rays if necessary, provides HIV testing, and conduct other necessary medical treatments before they receive new clothing, shoes, and an opportunity to do what kids do best: play!

Vernon speaking to one of the children who will be joining the Bulembu  program.

 Ruth Boys, the Homes Manager, is actively involved in this process along with the two social workers in Bulembu, both of whom are native Swazi’s. Ruth says that up to 70% of the children who come through the Welcome Centre have faced some type of abuse, regardless of their age. Tending to hurts and hearts is a main focus in caring for the newest and most vulnerable residents. And before the children are placed in a permanent orphan home with their new “siblings” and a dedicated and devoted “auntie”, the children’s every need is met for the first four to eight weeks of their stay at the Welcome Centre.

A great grandmother saying goodbye to children whom she is unable to look after anymore.
Since the middle of March, five more children have become part of the Bulembu family; five babies under the age of two and one five year old. In addition, two more orphan homes have opened in Dvudvusi, one for boys and one for girls. New stairs have also been installed between the homes in Dvudvusi in order to provide a safer walk for the children. Small strides in the long journey to providing the children in the program with the love and resources they need to thrive.

Children arrive at the Welcome Center. 
For the newest additions, welcome home, for in Bulembu all of the children are indeed home.

By: Theresia Whitfield

Monday, April 4, 2011

Coffee, Tea or Turn Down Your Bed?

A main priority in restoring and transforming Bulembu is to help its citizens and neighbors get on their feet and provide for themselves through education and jobs. This never-ending circle not only benefits the individual but the community and the entire nation of Swaziland through the economy as well as preparing for the next generation of leaders.

Two HTC students in class
Students from all across Swaziland know that they can find excellent training and internships in planning for their own careers at Bulembu’s Hospitality Training Center. The training focuses on the hospitality industry, which is already beginning to make a large impact on the economy as a whole. Students spend three months of in-class and practical training before going on to a three-month internship elsewhere, putting their lessons to use in the real world.

HTC students
Sibusiso Magagula, the Bulembu Country Lodge Manager, is at the front lines of the training program where he helps to provide hands-on training in guest room preparations such as turning down beds or making them, cleaning restrooms and stocking them, and making sure guest needs are met as well as dining room obligations as a waitron. Sibusiso has been the manager of the Lodge since 2010 but started as a waitron there in 2008. His role grew into a supervisory one before taking over as manager. He says he learned a lot in his hospitality training even before coming to Bulembu, but the on the job training he experienced as well as the guidance and support of his mentors helped him take the next step in his career. And that’s what he hopes to impart on his students.

“At the end of every day,” he explained, “I ask myself, ‘What did I do wrong today, and what can I do to make it better tomorrow?’ I encourage the students to ask these same questions of themselves.”  

Sibusiso knows that the hospitality industry provides tremendous opportunities for Swazi’s, and his mission is to make sure his students are prepared. But he’s teaching them so much more than how to brew coffee or how to set a table or where to place the mint on the bed at night. He’s teaching them about dress codes and how to have pride in your appearance. He reminds them to not be discouraged if they make a mistake and simply strive to make it better. Sometimes shy Swazi students are learning how to come out of their shell and interact with guests, which means, according to Sibusiso, that a clear understanding of what’s happening in Swaziland and the world is a vital part of everyday’s preparation process. And he’s helping them to catch the vision that they, too, can climb the ladder of success, just as he did.

HTC students in training at the lodge

“Reception training is the next natural step into management,” he said. “This part of the training teaches a lot of different things about managing a lodge, hotel or restaurant.”

Sibusiso knows that the extra work he puts into his trainees will ultimately benefit Bulembu by bringing it more attention, which will result in more trainees, and more guests who will be treated with the same, consistent wonderful service.

By: Theresia Whitfield