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Swaziland: Grandmother cares for her five orphaned grandchildren

In AIDS-ravaged Swaziland, Nkhomose raises her five grandchildren with help from World Vision.

February 27, 2008

During her interview, Nkhomose recollects what life was like before World Vision came to her community.
During her interview, Nkhomose recollects what life was like before World Vision came to her community.
© 2008 Mandla Luphondvo/World Vision
At 75, Nkhomose Sifundza feels blessed just to be alive.

HIV and AIDS have ravaged her community and her country, causing the average life expectancy in Swaziland to plummet to a scant 32 years. In 2007, the Swazi government conducted random testing and found that an estimated one in four residents is infected with HIV.

"I am happy to have lived to see and take care of my grandchildren," Nkhomose says. "However, of the six children I had, four passed away. I am only left with two, who are both married."

'Swazi Gold'

Nkhomose lives in a community in Nkalashane, supported by World Vision donors in Australia. But she didn't always live there.

"We used to have our home next to the Mbuluzi River. However, in 1983, a sugar company relocated at least nine homesteads to where we are today," she says.

This forced relocation was to make way for expanding sugar cane production. In Swaziland, sugar has become known as "real Swazi Gold" because it is the country's major source of foreign revenue.

Sadly, no one was there to defend the families' rights when the sugar company forced them to move. "We were not given any kind of compensation — only temporary shelter in the form of caravans," Nkhomose explains. "These were meant to assist us reconstruct our homes at our own cost."

After the move, things didn't get any easier. "When we were adjusting to this new environment, my husband, Gobondela Sifundza, passed away," she says.

Empty stomachs

Nkhomose was left to single-handedly take care of her children and grandchildren, who range in age from 5 to 20. Several of them were sick at the time.

"We used to plant maize for survival. However, we have had a continuous problem of inconsistent rain. I cannot recall when last we had a meaningful harvest," she explains.

Due to several failed crops, the family ran out of resources to get their fields planted. "Many times, we have been forced to go to bed on an empty stomach," she says.

But Nkhomose was resourceful. "In order to meet the family's basic needs, I would travel to the nearest sugar cane fields at Vuvulane Irrigated Farm, where I would request some farmers to give me a portion to weed in exchange for food," she says.

Nkhomose did this for more than a year before her energy wore thin. She could no longer travel to Vuvulane to work in exchange for food, but she was determined to provide for her grandchildren.

"I requested households that sold traditional beer brewed out of sorghum to give me the waste sorghum. I would dry and grind it to prepare thin porridge for my grandchildren," she explains.

Sorghum waste from beer production is commonly used to feed pigs because it is thought to be of no other use. But for Nkhomose's family, it was food.

Help arrives

Busangani, 15, is grateful for the wheelchair and two goats that she received through World Vision.
Busangani, 15, is grateful for the wheelchair and two goats that she received through World Vision. © 2008 Mandla Luphondvo/World Vision

Thankfully, God was watching out for them, and the family's circumstances improved in 1992 when World Vision began relief work in Swaziland. Nkhomose registered her grandchildren with World Vision, and the family has received help ever since. They receive food distributions through the Food Security Consortium, supported by World Vision and the Swaziland Red Cross Society.

"I am grateful for the food rations, sponges, blankets, and dishes that we have received from the World Vision program. It has really supported this family," says Nkhomose.

Recently, funding from World Vision's donors in Australia helped build a two-room house for Nkhomose and the five grandchildren under her care, complete with a water reservoir system.

"The house is quite useful, since the stick-and-mud house we had was leaking each time it rained," she says.

Gaining independence

While the entire family is grateful for World Vision's help, one of Nkhomose's granddaughters, 15-year-old Busangani, feels especially blessed. Support from World Vision donors in Australia provided her with a wheelchair.

"I'm excited to have the wheelchair, since I am able to go to church all by myself," she explains. Busangani makes the 50-minute trek to church every week by herself, but needs the help of friends to push her back home.

"I love going to church, because it makes me feel so happy," she says.

Busangani is also happy because World Vision gave her two goats early last year. "I am hoping that the goats would multiply so that I can sell them to assist my grandmother meet some of the family's basic needs," she says with a smile.

Nkhomose is proud of her grandchildren and is happy about the progress they've made so far, but she is unsure how long she will live to take care of them. "I can only trust that God will assist them … once I'm gone," she says.

Thankfully, the children have each other and World Vision to help them reach their full potential.

Learn more

>> Read an article about another family in drought-ravaged Swaziland whose faith has helped sustain them through difficult times.

Three ways you can help

>> Pray that God would sustain Nkhomose and her grandchildren as well as those in similar situations in Swaziland and other areas of beleaguered Southern Africa. Pray also for caring adults to look after the children who have been orphaned because of AIDS.
>> Sponsor a child in a community affected by AIDS. You can help provide the child with care, nutrition, education, and hope for the future.
>> Provide nutritious food and agricultural assistance to children around the world who need it most, like Nkhomose's grandchildren in Swaziland.
>> Speak out for AIDS-affected children. Add your name to our Make Your Mark for Children petition to ask Congress to swiftly reauthorize the global AIDS bill and ensure that 10 percent of all global AIDS funds be used to care for orphans and vulnerable children.

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