Monday, 24 January 2011

Why Swaziland? Why Me? Why Now?

It all started during last Autumn at a Harvest Thanksgiving Service in one of the smaller churches in our parish. On the suggestion of a colleague (Thank you Vicki) I had invited a young student, Amy Hanna to speak to the congregation about her experiences in Swaziland. She had just returned from a working trip with USPG Ireland and what she had to share with us quite literally moved me and many others to tears.
She talked of a population of little over a million people where almost half of the adult populations have HIV/AIDS. As a result of this appaling statistic the average life expectancy has fallen into the 30s and many if not the majority of households are led by grandparents or children. In some cases children as young as six are caring for their younger siblings and perhaps dying parents with little if any other adult supervision.
Economically speaking the country is in a state of ruin and it is quite hard to see how things can be turned around. And yet there is hope! Amy told us of the extroardinary vibrancy in the Church's worship and the sense of trust that many of the people have in God despite what to you and me must surely look like hell on earth.
It is this extroardinary sense of hope and the energy that comes from it that USPG Ireland are trying to harness and channel into practical measures to help create a real future for the people of this forgotten land. Due to the small size both geographically and in population the country has nothing like the level of NGO activity that is found in many other parts of the African continent and has been almost forgotten.
However the size of the country also means that despite the terrible situation which exists at the moment it is on a scale that can and could be addressed if enough aid and resources were put into the country. USPG Ireland has adopted Swaziland as its sole project for the time being and is putting all its energies into making a real difference in Swaziland.
I was recently approached by USPG and asked to become a Board member of the organisation which was both an honour and a challenge. As a member of the Board I have been invited to travel to Swaziland after Easter (28th April - 5th May) on a factfinding trip. We will be visiting Feeding Stations, Aids clinics, Primary schools all of which are supported by the Anglican Church and USPG through their Mission partners on the ground: Rev'd Andrew & Rosemary Symonds.
We also hope to look at a major new project sponsored by USPG Ireland, Luyengo Agricultural Project which aims to develop a 200 acre farm on church owned land which will in time provide employmnt, self-sufficiency and a produce and income stream to support the feeding stations and Aids clinics and programmes operated by the Diocese.
Needless to say all of this costs money and USPG like other charitable organisations working in development work overseas has been badly hit by the cut in the Irish Aid budget. And so if there is to be any possibility of a real future for the people of Swaziland it will rely on the genorosity of strangers like you and me.
However it is hard to look for support for strangers - we all find it easier to help those we know and we are wary of sending money to far off places for fear it will not get to where it is needed. It took somebody like Amy Hanna who got to know the people of Swaziland and to whom she is no longer a stranger to convince me of the urgency and importance of this cause. The Anglican Church and USPG are uniquely equipped to work effectively in this country. They have built up the trust of the people and are tolerated by the regime which is essential to meaningful progress.
I hope that my experiences in Swaziland will help me to convince others of the worthiness of this project and that I can help to raise the profile of this forgotten land.
This is where you come in. Firstly, getting me there(and back) is going to cost about €1500 - We fly into South Africa and from there by 'road' to Swaziland. I would also like to be in a position to make a financial contribution to the work of USPG in Swaziland while I am there. So I am asking you who read this to consider making a donation to help make this possible. There is a Paypal button on the right hand side of this page where you can donate via paypal or credit card. For details on donating via cheque and regular updates on progress please go to my dedicated page: Send Stephen to Swaziland I will provide a receipt to all donors and unless you stipulate otherwise will print a list of donors on this site. I will also provide regular updates on amount raised etc. I realise that I am asking a lot of you at a time when many people are really hurting financially. If you are unable to assist financially at this time please pass on the link to this page to anyone else who you think might be interested and if you are so moved say a prayer for the people of Swaziland and the work of USPG Ireland and their Mission partners Andrew & Rosemary.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and do come back for more information on the work of USPG in Swaziland and my progress and preparations for the visit in April.
Stephen aka Paddyanglican

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