Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Forest and a Future

By: Theresia Whitfield

Skumbuzo at the sawmill

Imagine growing up in a close-knit community only to watch your town virtually disappear. The few citizens that remain are suffering for lack of the basics but more than that; they turn to crime to compensate for the lack of jobs. Now imagine watching that same town completely revitalized with new opportunities for business, education, health and hope.

One of the ladies at the sawmill preparing logs to be sawed

Skumbuzo Dlamini has seen both of these scenarios come to life. He was born and raised in Bulembu amid the hay-day of what was a bustling town with a vibrant and active mine company providing for 10,000 residents. When the mine shut its doors in 2001, Skumbuzo watched as practically everyone he knew left to try to find a new life. But Skumbuzo and his family had nowhere to go. They stayed, watching Bulembu fall into disarray and become a ghost town.

Sawmill during the night shift

Today Skumbuzo is able to smile about life in Bulembu because it is a happy place once again. When Bulembu Ministries Swaziland arrived in 2006, Skumbuzo says he felt that God had answered his prayers. He began working in security, following in the footsteps of his father. (His mother and grandfather both worked in the mine.) Eventually, he ended up at Bulembu Sawmill, which has been operational since 2004.
Workers at sawmill

Neal Rijkenberg, who once owned the sawmill, turned it over to BMS in 2006 so that the Swazi people could run it exclusively for the benefit of the town and country. The primary function of the sawmill is to maintain profitability in order to financially assist the Child Care Program.  According to Kurt Puttkammer, the Forestry Manager in Bulembu, duties range from manually loading the conveyors with round logs, operating basic machinery to packing the final product into bundles. Forklift drivers, a maintenance team and Bell loggers are also employed at the sawmill.

One of the Bell loaders loading a truck

“The sawmill offers timber for sale to the surrounding community at very cheap prices,” said Kurt.

Skumbuzo has also seen a lot of change at the sawmill since he began working there. What started as a small group of people, there are now more than 120 people who work at the sawmill, including 16 who are employed at the charcoal plant. The newest addition to the sawmill is a wood chipper that is used to chip waste coming from the mill and is then sold to the sugar mills in Swaziland. And Skumbuzo has also become the General Manager.

Skumbuzo showing worker how to work machinery

Skumbuzo and Kurt said that the sawmill is always looking for new markets and ideas that will make Bulembu Sawmill a more efficient operation. All Bulembu forests are forestry stewardship council certified, which allows for some export to Holland and Belgium. Those items being exported include the harder Eucalyptus species such as Paniculata and Cloeziana, which are rot resistant and often used in wet areas for walkways and outdoor furniture.

Worker sorting off-cuts

Skumbuzo, who is married and has two children, beams with joy when talking about what he feels is a tremendous future for his own family and that of his employees.

“Each morning before we begin work, we pray,” he said. “I tell them we need to respect our jobs. I tell them to work hard and as one team so that their children won’t have to suffer.”  


Monday, May 23, 2011

Good News From BI

Dear Friends of Bulembu,

By now we trust you have had a chance to read and process
the letter sent several days ago outlining the scaling back of
Bulembu International’s (BI) partnership with Bulembu
Ministries Swaziland (BMS).  Many of you have taken time to
send words of encouragement and I want to thank you for
caring so deeply for our family, staff, directors, the Bulembu
community, and Swaziland.

The BI Board of Directors met last week and unanimously
expressed their unwavering commitment to the well-being and
future of the children in Bulembu.   A scaled back Bulembu
International will continue to provide ongoing financial
support for the orphaned and vulnerable children being
cared for through Bulembu’s Child Care Program. In
addition, private funding has been secured to cover the
administration costs associated with operating BI to ensure that
100% of your donations will go directly towards caring for the
children in Bulembu.

BI continues to affirm the integrity with which BMS manages

our donations and the effectiveness with which the Bulembu
Child Care Program (child care, education, medical) is
operated.  The children are well cared for and loved, they are
receiving an excellent education, and they are being given
hope and a future.

I would like to encourage you to follow the lead of BI's Board

of Directors and give generously to Bulembu's Child Care
Program.  To make a donation, please visit Bulembu reStore
(  If you are currently a Child 
Sponsor, monthly or annual donor, your donations will be
directed towards the care of the children as the team in
Bulembu seeks to raise up a new generation of Swazi leaders.
If you have any questions or wish to discontinue your pre-
authorized monthly donations, please contact Jan Quiring
( or 778-288-7411).

What has been accomplished to date in Bulembu is truly

remarkable.  On behalf of Bulembu International, thank you
for your commitment and support.  We pray each of you will
continue to be a blessing to this community.

With much gratitude,

Volker Wagner 
Executive Director

Bulembu International

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Next Step

Life’s journey for Phephile Khumalo is taken one step at a time. But for this seven-year-old in the Bulembu childcare program, each physical step has been taken only with the aid of crutches. Phephile was a baby when a snake bit her. The bite caused permanent muscle damage, preventing her foot from developing normally. But Phephile is ready to take the next step, and it will come a little bit easier when she receives a prosthetic leg.

Dr. Detlef Brock, his wife, Angelica and Bulembu’s Registered General Nurse, Wiseman Sisamala work together to make a mold of Phephile’s leg so she can be fitted with a prosthetic leg.

Dr. Detlef Brock and his wife, Angelica, had visited various hospitals in Swaziland and while in the country, made a stop in Bulembu. During his visit, Dr. Brock, who specializes in pediatric surgery and sports medicine in Leipzig, Germany, was able to make a fiberglass cast of Phephile’s leg. This lightweight cast was then removed and taken back to Germany where he will create a prosthetic leg, fit specifically for Phephile.
Wiseman comforts a frightened Phephile while she’s being fitted with a mold that will be used to make a prosthetic leg. 
Dr. Brock’s wife, Angelica, who is a physical therapist and Wiseman Sisamala worked with Phephile to keep her calm and comforted during the mold fitting. Wiseman, originally from Zimbabwe and a Registered General Nurse has been working in the Bulembu Clinic for one year, so he is quite familiar with Phephile and her struggles to walk. Angelica is an expert at helping children strengthen muscles that, for one reason or another, have not developed properly. Initially frightened, Phephile was unharmed during the fitting and happily accepted a tasty treat when it was over!

Phephile winces during the process of being fitted with a mold that will be used to make a prosthetic leg. 

Phephile’s mold was created when Dr. Brock and Angelica paid a visit to Bulembu in mid-April. She’ll be fitted with her prosthetic leg in approximately one month. And when that day comes, Phephile will be able to walk and run with her friends. Her crutches will be a thing of the past, and the next step will be cause for celebration! 

Wiseman shows Phephile the mold that will be taken back to Germany to prepare the prosthetic leg she’ll receive in May. 

Angelica offers Phephile a tasty treat after the fitting process which will lead to a prosthetic leg. 
A teary-eyed Phephile enjoys a tasty treat after the fitting process to make her new prosthetic leg.

Phephile smiles alongside Angelica and Dr. Detlef Brock.

Phephile Khumalo smiles knowing she will soon be able to walk without the aid of her crutches.