As many as 8,000 children are orphaned monthly in Swaziland due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts are dying from an HIV infection rate of over 40%.
In traditional Swazi culture, there was no child left uncared for in the community. Children always had an aunt, uncle, cousin or sibling to go to for refuge and care. Times have changed as the adult population is diminishing to levels that leave many thousands of children without any living relative.
The result is that many children are left stranded living alone in the abandoned desolate homestead, living off insects, berries and frogs, dropping out of school, or living with strangers who abuse them and use them as unpaid labour.
The surrounding nations like South Africa and Botswana have governments with resources able to provide child support of about US$120 monthly to the orphans living with relatives or strangers but the Swaziland Government is not able to do so. Funds once available to help orphans has gone thousands of children were sent home before the end of the school year due to lack of funds to pay school fees, adding to the losses of hope for the future to the children of this nation.
The New Hope Centreís mission is to find children who have lost all hope of having a family to care for them, those who have fallen through all the social networks to care for them. Children are referred to the New Hope Centre by teachers in the community, neighbours, strangers who see a problem, police or pastors. Most of our children have had no birth certificates, no living relative that is able to care for them. In a few cases the grandmother or grandfather has contacted us through the police or through pastors to request help as they have reached the stage in life where they can no longer care for these children or provide for them.
One of our children, a baby at the time, was found abandoned under a tree. A passing labourer saw her. He came to New Hope Centre and asked if we could help. We went with him the next day and found this little two year old girl under a tree, all alone, eating dirt, under nourished so she was unable to talk, unable to walk, her body like that of a 5 month old. We discovered that all her relatives had died. A community family had taken her in, but even they could not care for her as they all went to work each day so she was left under a tree, where she might be bitten by snakes, eaten by ants, raped or murdered by some passing stranger. JEDIDAH (the name of King Josiahís mother that means GODíS DARLING) came to live with us and is now a bright, cheerful little girl. This is the reason we exist, to bring life, hope and a future where there is none.
The Childrenís Home is a permanent home for 120 children aged 2 to 16. It includes a large wooden house on the Bethany mountain where children are cared for by a houseparent, Brother Carers and Sister Carers. Children are cared for with much love, tender care and equipping them with skills in personal hygiene, cooking, cleaning, gardening, leadership and entrepeneur. Traditionally all Swazis grew up working the soil and we have a vegetable garden providing for the home and the community to enhance the quality of nutrition with fresh vegetables, fruit trees and in time chickens for meat and dairy cattle for fresh milk. Laundry time in Africa is a special social time as traditionally everyone gathered in the sun along the river banks chatting and sharing community life. Our children spend time doing their washing together by hand each day to maintain links with their culture and past.
Two teenagers homes were recently built. The two separate houses are Intsanga for girls and the Lilawu for boys, in keeping with the traditional Swazi family homestead. Traditionally children live with their motherís in her hut from infancy to puberty. Thereafter all the teenage children from the various mothers in the polygamous family live in either the girls hut or the boys hut until they marry and establish their own family.