The Welcome Place
I left after the service to go to Mhlosheni Welcome Place for a Welcome Place Committee meeting. There is a team of about fifteen working there, most of them volunteers. Seven volunteer cooks, two teachers, five Committee members. We are building a safer traditional kitchen outdoors. Poor ventilation on the one being used. This is the only place the gogos (elderly “grandmothers”) would cook. This one would have three huge pots set in cement so that vegetables could be added along with porridge or rice and beans. Lorraine did some housekeeping at the meeting, then we discussed a request for some of the older community members to get literacy training at the Center. It was approved as long as there is no conflict with the children’ programs.
The temperature in Mhlosheni is usually colder than in Manzini where I stayed. Like Joberg. Perhaps forty-five degrees. I could not believe there were children running around bare foot, some of them in summer weight clothing. We measured feet with sheets of paper for shoes. I pulled the teacher aside and asked why the children were not more warmly dressed. She begged Lorraine and I to bring some coats for the children which they could wear during school times and leave at the Welcome Place. That made no sense. Would the kids not need the warm coats for the long walk home?
Then the story came out. Relatives at the homestead would take the clothing from the orphans and give to children in greater favor. So, if we kept the coats at school, at least they would be more likely to have them.
The children were trying to play out in the cold, to have some kind of normalcy in their lives. They were getting a meal at the Welcome Place and somebody was showing an interest in them. Life was good.