This week, we're delighted to bring some of those tales to life for Anne and all our other Swaziland supporters. Here, we share news, photos and an interview with an SOS mother so you can really immerse yourself in this wonderful country.
Teaching inspired Pat to become an SOS mother
Pat Ntombi Kondowe is one of Swaziland's longest-serving SOS mothers. This year, she celebrates her 60th birthday, and 24 years caring for young people at the Children's Village in Mbabane, Swaziland's capital city.
It was during her time as a preschool teacher that she was inspired to become an SOS mother: “While experiencing some difficulties in class with some children, I discovered that most were lacking in parental care and their academic achievement was affected. I wanted to instil love into the lives of children and also provide them with security to overcome their painful past.”
“A home should be a place where there is fun and laughter”
For Pat, making a house a home is an SOS mother's biggest goal. “As a mother, I strive to develop the house into a warm, loving and secure home for my children. The home should be a place where the atmosphere is relaxed, where there is fun and laughter, a place where the SOS mother and her children can bring their friends.”
Pat always strives to make her household just like any other family home. “SOS mothers decorate and add personal touches to the house. Observing this actually taking place has been very fulfilling for me over the past 24 years.”
As any mother will tell you, dealing with teenagers is no walk in the park – and things are no different in Mbabane! “The transition from childhood to teenage can be very tricky for some children,” Pat says. She is grateful for the support network between the Village's SOS mothers. “The good relationship that exists between the mothers makes it possible to share challenges met in the family houses.”
And how does Pat unwind? Well, she's a keen dancer and founder of the Village's African dance group, and most of her free afternoons are spent practicing. This is not only Pat's passion; she firmly believes it's an important means of expression for the Village's children. “Dance has done a lot for the children as most of them have discovered their talents.”
Finally, what does Pat love most about being an SOS mother? “What is [most] fulfilling is to see such children who absolutely had no future and no hope growing up under the care of a family set up where there is a home, mother, brothers and sisters.”
Returning home with a little help from SOS
Simphiwe and Ciniso Khumalo suffered incredible hardship when they were left alone after their parents died in quick succession.
In their mid-teens, they were left in charge of their homestead near Mbabane. Not only did they find themselves griefstricken and under the burden of maintaining a household, they also fell victim to persecution from landgrabbers, who tried to turf them from their home and seize their property.
Attacked and terrorised
Eventually, the two teens fled to their neighbour, Joyce. “Their situation was very, very bad,” she recalls. Desperate to alleviate their hardship and preserve their childhood, Joyce contacted Thokozani Maphalala, SOS Children's social worker in Mbabane. “I approached Thokozani and told him the children were being attacked and terrorised.”
The Khumalo siblings were given a new home at the Children's Village in Mbabane. Though the two siblings lost so much in such a short space of time, Simphiwe feels that she and her brother gained a family.
“I am now grown up”
Nevertheless, they missed home and the memories it held for them, and after several years at the Village, Ciniso approached Thokozani. “Ciniso really affected me,” Thokozani remembers. “From what he told me in our sessions, he was very close to his father. A few years ago, he came to me and said ‘I am now grown up. I want to go back home.’”
Thokozani felt Ciniso's longing for the place most dear to him. When Ciniso and his sister came of age, Thokozani saw to it that plans were afoot to rebuild a home and a livelihood for them at the homestead. Work is underway and the two siblings return at weekends to get things ready. “[We] come here over weekends to work on the house and garden,” says Simphiwe. With a little more time and effort, their home will be ready, and Simphiwe and Ciniso will be able to return to the place from which they were forced.
Making business work
33-year-old Nomsa founded investment company Shisa Bhe (Siswati for “We're on fire”) when she and her friends left the SOS Village. Her aim is to create better employment opportunities for SOS leavers and other young people in Mbabane.
Setting up Shisa Bhe wasn't easy. “At first no one had any money. Our first contract was as a security provider but we still had no security guards or equipment! This is a difficult market to penetrate in Swaziland, but since we started in May 2012, we now have three contracts.”
Though things are still tough, Nomsa has a clear vision for the future. “We have a ten-year strategy. We have committed to give 10% of our annual profit to SOS Children's Villages Swaziland as a way of giving back to our SOS brothers and sister who are still in the Villages.
“We provide security services, catering, landscaping and forest-clearing services and are planning to expand into agriculture,” she says.
A bright future
Ultimately, Nomsa hopes the venture will create work for former SOS children. So far, about 50 young people are working through Shisa Bhe, ranging all the way from their early 20s to their late 30s.
She thanks her SOS upbringing for the success she is enjoying today. “Without SOS, my education would not have been possible, and my future wouldn't look the way it does now.”
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