Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hey, can Swaziland borrow 10 bucks?

After months of committee meetings, painstaking budget calculations, countless red-inked drafts and a lengthy review process, my long-awaited Peace Corps Partnership Project has FINALLY been posted on the Peace Corps website. FINALLY I can begin the process of getting it taken down, which will happen as soon as I’ve collected $8591.69. (No, please keep reading!) I’m optimistic.

So, you’re asking, “What in the world do you need $8591.69 for?” I’m glad you asked.

My local clinic, Our Lady of Sorrows, runs a support group for 166 HIV-positive adults and children in the community. The support group, which focuses its monthly meetings on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) adherence, HIV education, nutrition and positive living, provides an open space for HIV-positive individuals in the community to share their experiences, seek advice for dealing with complex issues like disclosing their status to family members, and access the psychological support necessary to live with a chronic, devastating disease like HIV.

Since 2008, the support group has also run a community garden for its members, giving landless members a place to grow maize (the staple crop of Swaziland) and supplying bed-ridden support group members with nourishment needed to survive, which everyone in the group helps tend to. Unfortunately, because water is scarce in the area and because they don’t have a fence, the support group can only grow maize. (Cows usually leave maize alone, but if you plant lettuce, carrots, beets, beans or anything else the cows, goats, chickens, pigs and neighbors treat it like a buffet.) Since all members of the support group are HIV-positive and many come from homesteads where other adults and children are also infected with the virus, it’s important that they supplement their maize-based diets with fruits and vegetables to boost their immune systems and continue to be productive members of their families and the larger community.

My (actually "your") $8591.69 will pay for a fence, a 120-meter borehole that will pump water to a nearby tank, and a small (1.5m2) storage shed where the gardeners can safely store their tools. The project will be completed over a period of eight weeks (beginning when it gets funded, but it may take longer because, after all, this is Swaziland), and from the time of its completion the support group members will be able to plant, grow and eat vegetables. (And maybe more people will join the support group because they see the benefits?? But they have to help with the garden and have regular attendance at meetings before they get any vegetables.) Since most families in the area gather their water from a river or an unreliable water pump, everyone conserves the water they gather for bathing, cooking and washing clothes. Considering the amount of water vegetables drink, it’s impossible for most families to grow them on their homesteads. Thus, though it’s very expensive, providing water to the support group’s garden is essential. But wait, there’s more! Since we’ll be digging a borehole in a part of the community that currently doesn’t have water, we’ll be giving hundreds of people, who previously hauled their water out of a dirty river, clean water for drinking, bathing and cooking. (Or even for planting their own gardens on their homesteads!)

This week, as I was walking to the clinic at my unusually fast pace, I passed a couple of support group members carrying shovels and pick-axes. And then a couple more. So I slowed down to ask what was going on. Apparently, they are so eager about the project that they’ve already started digging the holes for the fence posts! Seriously. It’s encouraging (and rare) to see that kind of motivation in Swaziland, but I’m not entirely surprised. The support group is run by an extremely dedicated nurse and a committee of 6 HIV-positive community leaders, and the whole lot of them have been pushing HARD for this project to succeed since long before I became involved. Last year, they raised money for a borehole to be dug, but ended up contracting with a man who was either incompetent or willfully dishonest, and they lost all the money. Now, since they’re out of money, they’ve pledged hundreds of hours of manual labor in the construction of the fence, the storage shed, and a 200-meter trench for underground water pipes, and Our Lady of Sorrows Mission has promised to provide free transport for all the materials required and the use of a number of building/digging/gardening tools that we’ll need.

So, all we need is money. Or if you anticipate being in Swaziland anytime between March and June of this year (Mom and Dad), you can come help put up a fence, dig a trench, install a water tank or hand-plow a gigantic vegetable garden. Yeah, it would just be easier to donate money.

The way I see it, I only need 859 people to donate $10 each. And, seriously, what else would you have spent that $10 on? A grande cinnamon latte and a brownie at Starbucks? A movie ticket? A couple of packs of cigarettes? A Double Whopper Meal? (I actually have no idea how much cigarettes or Whoppers cost. Or anything, for that matter, because I live in Swaziland.)

In Swaziland, that $10 could buy 5 of the 274 fencing posts we’ll need for the project. Or one of the 10 bags of cement we’ll need for the storage shed. Or 1/35 of a 4000L water tank. Every little bit helps!

Even if you want to donate less…$1 buys a cement block, and we need 175 of those.

If you’re still not sure: it’s 100% secure, 100% tax deductible, and I promise that 100% of the money you donate (not 95%, not 99%, but ALL OF IT) will go towards this project. Beat that, Save the Children!

So, now that I’ve convinced you, here’s what you do:

Go to and enter the amount you want to donate, click “Donate!” and follow the directions. It’s easy, I promise.

If you want to do more, copy-paste and send this address to somebody else who has $10 to spare:

I’ll keep you updated on my fundraising efforts and, after the project is fully-funded, the progress of the project’s completion. Thanks for your help in this project: siyabonga kakhulu (we’re all very thankful)!

Hopefully, next time I write I won’t be begging for money.

Love from the Swaz!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just sent you $100 but think I called you Rachel rather than Justine in the note i sent with it sorry