People of Austin: Meet Swaziland!

A challenge to change the lives of 2,000 children and their communities through World Vision child sponsorship comes to Austin, Texas.

Published January 5, 2011 at 12:00am PST

The Austin campaign for children

This is your opportunity to partner with World Vision, local churches, businesses, and nearly 17,000 individual World Vision supporters in Austin, Texas, through child sponsorship.

Catching the vision in Swaziland

A team of Austin community leaders, pastors, business professionals, and journalists are taking to trip to Swaziland to see how World Vision child sponsorship works — and how it impacts children and their communities for good.

Follow their journey to this small country in Southern Africa through updates, videos, photos, or blogs posted here each day of their trip, January 6-15.

Stay tuned to learn more about what the city of Austin is doing to help children around the world — and how you can join in and make a difference!

Day 1Day 4
Day 2Day 5
Day 3Day 6

Day 1: Fly to Johannesburg, South Africa

World Vision staff from Seattle will meet up with the pastors, city leaders, business representatives, and TV journalists from Austin at the airport in Atlanta. Then, they’ll take a 15-hour flight to Johannesburg, where they’ll stay overnight before flying to the city of Manzini, Swaziland, the next morning. In Manzini, the team will get a welcome, briefing, and orientation before heading out of the city to a sponsorship project area in the southwest part of the country.

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Day 2: The hands and feet of Jesus

In case you’ve ever wondered, this is what the hands and feet of Jesus look like. They belong to Nomsa Mdluli, a member of the Mzizi community in Swaziland. She is 46, the mother of 10 children (only half of whom are living), and caregiver to 124 individuals in her community who are ill. To me, she is the embodiment of this Scripture and the epitome of grace — which is the meaning of her name.

Daily she is visiting someone under her care. Her goal is to find out more about their illness, help them get treatment, and encourage them to continue taking their medicines and not give up on God. In short, she listens and acts on behalf of those she tends to. She says the skills for the job are simple and birthed out of her Christian faith: have love, be patient, and persevere. Nomsa doesn’t want thanks and recognition on this side of heaven, but looks forward to the day that God Himself will reward her work.

She became a caregiver because she was wondering how to cope with her own distress over losing two children — when it occurred to her that others might be going through the same thing and could use some help. She responded to a volunteer opportunity and received training with World Vision. Doing this work fills her with love and hope, and the comfort that if something happened to her, others might follow her example and take care of her children.

Nomsa took us to the home of a young mother, Phetsile Mayisela, who is now bedridden because of AIDS. We watched as she patiently talked with her, rubbed her feet, and gave her a drink. Before we left, she encouraged Phetsile with Scripture and with song. It was a beautiful act of compassion — delivered with grace, humility, and honor.

This is the hands and feet of Jesus. This is Nomsa. 

Will you please pray?
Pray for Nomsa to be able to prioritize her time and attention well.
Pray for Phetsile to continue to respond well to the medicines, so she can get out of bed and help support her family.

Dania Heffington, Austin Bridge Builders Association


Bible clubs for sponsored children

With training and support from World Vision sponsorship programs, we saw how local churches gather children from the community for a weekly Bible Club.  Lorie Barnes visits a Bible Club for children in a World Vision sponsorship project area.This is not where you are going to find great sound systems, playground equipment, and a Coke machine, like many churches I’ve seen in the United States.  But it is where God is working mightily in the lives of dedicated volunteers and pastors. 

We saw more than 200 children gather to learn songs, Bible stories, and memorize Scriptures.  It goes beyond basic Bible skills and knowledge, however. They were dealing with relevant, real-life issues in an age-appropriate, loving way.  For example, we saw an innovative skit about the danger of HIV and AIDS. A child representing the AIDS virus, dressed in red, recited:

“My name is AIDS. I have come to kill – young and old, educated and uneducated. I kill all people, I don’t care who. Be careful, or I will kill you!”

The Bible teachers shared about the need for supplies and materials, but more significantly, the need to provide for the children in a much deeper way. These kids often face abuse, neglect, hunger, lack of clean water, and difficulties getting to the Bible Club. Inconsistent attendance is often a problem because the caregivers in the children’s lives are unable to make this a priority.

But it is certain that God is at work here, as evidenced by the joy and love of Christ that shows through the enthusiastic, undaunted spirits of these children. I love that the goal of these Bible Clubs is to help children know God for themselves. Once again, it is a good reminder, that the local church, whether in the suburbs of Austin, or the countryside of Swaziland, does a good job of bringing us home to Him.

- Lorie Barnes, Westlake Hills Church, Austin, TX

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Day 3: Bringing water through sponsorship

Children gather to fetch water from one of the few sources they have available.It is always frustrating to see that people in the developing world struggle to get water. They spend time each day getting what they need to drink, cook, and wash. It is a real problem in Swaziland.

The kids we spoke with are 3 to 15 years old, and they all have responsibility to help transport water. These kids are fortunate enough most days to only travel half a mile to collect water. They showed us the second source, and it was more like two-thirds of a mile away. We went up a hill, down a hill, and back — not an easy hike with a five-gallon bucket on one’s head. They are often harassed at the second source, especially closer to dusk, but options are limited.

Their mother works in the fields where maize, pumpkins, and other produce are grown, and their father works as a security guard. It is a good job, and he has been able to provide a little better for his family. That means some goats and chickens. They still don’t have good access to clean water.

World Vision sponsorship programs are partnering with the community, UNICEF, and the national government to do something about the lack of clean water. They are building a catchment system and sand filter. They will bring in a pump and required electricity, and build two reservoirs. The next step will be to use gravity in order to reach pipe to over 300 homes in the area, including the family I met this morning.

The most encouraging aspect of this project is the community participation. They are doing most of the labor, and through their work, they are teaching their kids how to improve their outlook. Their hard work is the asset, and it gets multiplied with some funding, engineering, and a hope for a better future for their kids.

Andrew Carpenter, Missions Pastor at Riverbend Church in Austin, Texas

(Also, check out Kathy Williams' guest contribution to the World Vision blog about her experience visiting this same family. As a store manager who helps promote child sponsorship at the Family Christian Store in Killeen, TX, this trip was particularly eye-opening.)

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Day 4: A group that does good

Eunice works at her business.

Eunice leads a group of women on a mission to better their lives and community.

This group has formed what is called an accumulated savings and credit association. They put in a set amount of funds each month, and then they dispense small loans to each other to fund their business ventures.

They are a diverse group of 11 women who know and trust each other with their limited funds. Some farm; others sew clothing, including school uniforms, curtains, and sofa covers; one sells vegetables in the market, and together, they are beginning to sell chickens.

They each contribute roughly $8 per month to the program. Knowing that the average income in Swaziland is less than $1.50 per day, this is a sacrifice for the women. They are allowed to procure a loan for 2-3 months at 10-percent interest, which is cheaper than the local bank. The interest that the group gains is held as a share and divided out at the end of the year. They buy uniforms for their kids and pay other school fees, or use the money as they see fit.

At the end of the first year, the club had grossed $2,625, and the next year, $2,895. During these first two years, they paid dividends back to the members and began to save for the poultry business.

The coolest part was what they did as an aside. They “sponsored” some orphans in their community. There is a small family with no mother, and the women are getting together to set them up with electricity, and make sure all of the children are cared for.

This project was implemented by a World Vision area development project, which is funded through child sponsorship programs. It is one of the reasons why one of our new friends say that “a sponsored child is a hero to the community.”

These women are making a better way for their families, and they are, in turn, caring for the ones who are most vulnerable.

—Andrew Carpenter, Missions Pastor at Riverbend Church in Austin, Texas

* * * * *

Caring for orphans through sponsorshipPhilile stands in the doorway of the house World Vision built for her and her cousins.

We visited a girl named Philile, age 11, who is the caregiver of her three young cousins. World Vision built a home for these children after their parents either left or died, and their grandmother passed away. The three cousins, all sponsored, are aged 4, 6, and 11 years.

Thanks to World Vision, these children who have been orphaned have a place to live, and a community that checks on them. Volunteers visit every few days, making sure they have at least one meal daily and attend school on a regular basis.

One of the few items in the home is Philile’s much-loved and well-worn Bible. Her favorite verse is Psalm 34:4, “ I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” This verse had even more meaning after we were told that the children had been abused and mistreated by an uncle.

Philile shows us her favorite Bible verse.Like most of the other families we visited, she and her cousins walk daily to find the needed water from any source that's available. All four of them take containers and carry as much as they can to provide for their drinking, washing, cleaning and cooking. World Vision is partnering with the community on a water project that will bring clean water closer to each house.

They wake up on their own, dress themselves, eat breakfast that Philile cooks, and walk to school where they get lunch every day. The 4-year-old stops off at a Neighborhood Care Point that World Vision supports. “I like going [to the Care Point] because I eat porridge and beans and cabbage,” he says. He also gets to learn and play until the other children are done with school for the day.

In this particular community, hundreds of orphans live with the assistance of a partnership between World Vision, the church, and the community.

Just not sure where all these little people would be without World Vision...

- Sue Boss, Victory Christian Center, Austin, Texas


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Day 5: Mfihlakalo’s gift

Sponsorship has changed the life of 3-year-old Mfihlakalo and her family.

Just a few years ago, her mother, Sanele, had a difficult time providing for the family. But through the generous gift of sponsorship, she has started a small business. Sanele is now able to feed and clothe her children, pay for their school fees, and provide a healthy environment for them to live.

Because the business is growing, her oldest daughter, Cebile, will be attending college this year.

“Sponsorship has opened eyes for us that we can do more,” Sanele says.

* * * * *

A center of hope for children in need

Our visit to the Hope Center was a stretch on my heart and the hearts of the whole group from Austin. We were blessed to be able to see what true community is. Sue made a friend at the Hope Center.

World Vision built the center where approximately 50 children come on a daily basis to receive a meal and schooling in early education.

On Saturdays the volunteers also have a Bible Club for the children so they can know how much God loves them and has a plan for them. What a joy to have the group of children, aged 2-12, recite the Lord's Prayer, John 3:16, and sing songs about Jesus.

In this group of children, 90% are sponsored through World Vision. Many of these children have been orphaned and come from very difficult home situations. All of the wonderful ladies serving there are volunteers and use the donations from the community and World Vision to feed the children their one meal a day.

Thank you World Vision for the care and love for the children of the world. We might not be able to save them all, but these children certainly have a future and a hope.

- Sue Boss, Victory Christian Center, Austin, TX

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Day 6: Community gardens

Feed my sheep….

Jesus’ admonition to Peter may not have been a literal exhortation, but Alexinah Dlamini has taken it to heart.  “God loves children.  So we MUST love them too!” she said emphatically as we stood outside of her house, admiring her garden.

This 2nd grade teacher and pastor’s wife hated seeing hungry children in her community, so she did something about it.  When World Vision offered a workshop on growing a vegetable garden in 2008, Alexinah didn’t hesitate.  She was already growing maize, why not expand what she was doing to grow vegetables as well?

And that’s just what she does.  This mother of five children tends her crops daily the old fashioned way – with a hoe and a watering can.

Every Sunday she cooks a meal of corn porridge, beans and spinach (or one of her other yummy veggies) and takes it to the children at her church.  For many of them it is their only meal.  Her left over food is given to those around her who are elderly or ill. 

Alexinah is a woman of great vision.  She truly wants all the sheep in her community to be fed – young, old, orphaned, families.  She has dreams of a larger garden so that she can feed more people, and more gardens being planted throughout the community.  

To see her vision become a reality, she is training the kids she feeds to care for the crops in the hope that they will have their own gardens one day. She is also looking for others in the community who want to learn gardening skills, with the goal of feeding even more people.

How can you pray?

  • Pray that Alexinah has strength to carry on in her task of working in the garden.
  • Pray that others will be interested in gardening and that she can help teach them!


- Dania Heffington, Austin Bridge Builders Alliance, Austin, Texas