Swaziland was a fascinating two-week experience and made special by two wonderful but separate experiences – one with a local NGO called Operation Hope and the other with my Swazi friend, Anson, and his family.
My first week in Swaziland was an interesting one spending time with Anson, a colleague from the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program, at his home in Manzini. For my first week in Swaziland I noticed the quality infrastructure of roads, water (you can drink the tap water!), education and health, electricity reaching majority of places and constant and a general way of life that seemed to be above the basics in life and above the surrounding countries.
It was a lovely week with Anson’s family where I learnt a lot about the history, lifestyle and customs of a Swazi family living in comfort in the largest town in Swaziland.
In my second week I then made my way to the smaller town of Siteki not far from the Mozambique border. There I met with Fi, my former colleague from the Global Poverty Project in Melbourne, and her husband Chris.
Fi and Chris are on the third or fourth trip to Swaziland and have greatly entrenched their NGO – Operation Hope in the community of Siteki and surrounding region.
On the exterior Swaziland seems to be a very peaceful, progressive and positive country, particularly when compared with its surround neighbours of South Africa and the crime that exists there and Mozambique which has seen so much conflict in the past.
However internally Swaziland isn’t completely the wonderful place it seems for those who just pass through the main towns and its wonderful game parks. I certainly wouldn’t say all is bad for the rural populations of Swaziland but certainly extreme poverty is the reality for a good number of those trying to get by on subsistent farming or any means to provide for themselves and their families.
Some statistics for you, taken from the NGO guba website:
Swaziland is a small, landlocked country where:
- over 70% of the population live in rural areas
- 40% are estimated to be unemployed
- 26% of the population aged between 15 & 49 years are HIV+
- 69% live on less than $1 per day
- 70% of adult females living in rural areas are illiterate
- while 24% rely on food aid to survive.
This is the situation and unfortunately people need some extra support from outside Swaziland as the well to do in Swaziland have only just found their feet and are servicing their own families without having the wealth for it to greatly extend to other communities just yet.
Luckily Fi, Chris and Operation Hope had the expertise, empathy, commitment and energy to learn and work with impoverished communities to give them hope and an opportunity to get themselves out of poverty.
After my week in Manzini with Anson I arrived in Siteki and on my first afternoon I visited some rural homes with the Operation Hope team. I saw not only the level of extreme poverty you will see in east Africa or the world’s poorest regions but also the critical emotional, financial and community support that Operation Hope offers.
To see the active role they are playing in the solution for Swaziland please see my next post soon – Solution Swaziland…
So in my brief time in Swaziland these were my contrasting experiences, both rich learning opportunities and both very privileged to have seen some real insights into the country and the people.
Please take a look at the work Operation Hope does in my blog following this one, Solution Swaziland and visit their website: http://operationhopeinc.org.au/ and I particularly love their Operation Sister Act program to see more girls go confidently and happily into high school… http://operationhopeinc.org.au/sisteract/