Friday, February 20, 2009

Week 3: Bulembu

Farewell to Bulembu

It is our last night in Bulembu. The weather has been great for our last few days. A couple of nights ago we got to see a pretty fascinating lightning storm. The sky and stars seem so clear hear as we are far from any form of city life. I have most definitely gained a new appreciation for nature while being here. I have seen so many bugs and creatures unknown to us at home.

I have had a bit of mixed emotions in our closings days here. I am looking forward to my new home in Cape Town and the relationships that await me there, but I am also a bit sad as we bring closure to the relationships developed here. Sunday we went to the BMS houses again for our usual hang out with the kids there. They cooked corn, or “maize” as they say, over the fire for us again as we sat and talked. A few of the boys did yet another choreographed dance for us. After the dancing, four of the boys took the initiative to simply sit in front of the camera and tell us a bit about themselves. Each of them talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up. One boy in particular really captured my heart as he told me he wanted to be a professional soccer player in order to make lots of money. He told me he would use the money to take care of the poor, widows, and orphans. I am sure the reality of life around him has given him much perspective on what is important in life, as he is just fifteen years old.

We couldn’t bare to say goodbye to them yet, so we promised to return the next day. We went back on Monday with gifts. We wanted to give them something before we parted, but all we had to give were some stuffed animals and candy. We took it to the houses, and I know both Amy and I felt a bit stupid about how insignificant our gifts were. We handed them out, and of course the kids were so excited and thankful. We felt a little better, until it was time to say goodbye. This was so hard; mostly because I know that many of these kids already have issues with people leaving, as many of them were left, in some way, by their parents. I also had no idea when I would be able to see them again. That, combined with the disappointed looks on their faces as we said goodbye was enough to put knots in my stomach. Sometimes I wonder if short visits like ours does more harm than good when it comes to befriending orphans. As Amy and I walked up the hill away from the orphan houses we asked ourselves what else we could do that would make a significant difference in their lives. We came to one conclusion- we could stay.

After these heavy thoughts, I had to remind myself of a few things. First, these kids are being taken care of incredibly well and getting the best education available in Swaziland. Also, they have a place they call home and friends that are like brothers and sisters. They are in good hands! This makes parting a tiny bit easier.

We leave early tomorrow morning for Matsapa airport. I cannot help but wonder if my feet will ever tread again on Swazi soil. I have no idea, but I would like to think so.

Week 2: Bulembu

A Surprise Around Every Corner

In the 1920’s Bulembu was a thriving mining town. At that time it was also inhabited by the English. There was a fully functioning hospital, golf course, and theatre. I cannot help but wonder what Bulembu looked like in the 1920’s when every building was inhabited by people. Bulembu is far from being a ghost town at this point, yet one can easily see remnants of a once thriving 1920’s town, right here in Swaziland. The neighboring town of Jamieson Village, however, is completely abandoned, and I must say it is the essence of a true ghost town. To this day, the underground mining tunnels can be found and tracked throughout both of the villages. It is somewhat eerie.

I had the opportunity to visit with the workers of the Bulembu clinic last week. They, of course, are using one of the buildings that used to be part of the hospital run by the English back in the 1920’s. This hospital was also used recently, up until about 2001. My tour of the buildings was fascinating as old machinery, utensils, and other medical supplies were literally left in the place they were last used. It literally seems as if everyone vanished in the midst of working.

To say I was impressed with the running of the clinic is an understatement. Right now there are three Swazi nurses who take care of all the patients here in Bulembu. They take turns being on call 24/7. The clinic mostly deals with issues of dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and broken bones. But, I think, most importantly, they are able to help mothers who are infected with HIV by administering ARV’s (anti-retroviral’s) that help keep not only the mother healthy, but the baby as well. The ARV’s have the potential to take someone who has HIV and is in a very unhealthy state and bring them back to good health. The clinic does not have to purchase these as the ARV’s are given freely by the government. Although I am confident that the clinic is well equipped to deal with basic emergencies, if anything comes up that the nurses are not able to handle, there is an ambulance ready to bring the patient to the neighboring town of Pigg’s Peak where there is a hospital.

On Sunday I met again with the children at the BMS houses where many of the be:good foundation’s sponsored children live. Once again, it was a very exciting time. Sure enough, the boys who promised us a choreographed dance were ready when we arrived. Tables and couches were moved out of the living area and a mixed CD was put in. The first dance was done to T.I. and Rihanna’s song Live Your Life. There were two brothers who danced in unison throughout the entire song. These guys were incredible! They were popping and locking like I have never seen before. Their bodies were moving in ways that seemed physically impossible to me. Many of the movements were very robotic. It was incredible to watch. After that, they did another dance that involved mostly footwork. I don’t know how to describe it except to say it was like watching Usher, Michael Jackson, and Justin Timberlake all in one. After that, everyone wanted to show off their moves. It was an incredible time, and to top it all off, they have promised another show this Sunday with a choreographed dance with all of the kids from the two neighboring houses! I have no doubt they will put on a fantastic show.

When the dance party was over, we spent some time just hanging out with the kids. All of the kids have chores to help around the houses. We were outside by a fire that was made by the kids so they could cook corn on the cob as a snack before dinner. Maybe I was hungry, but that was the best corn on the cob I have had. I sat and talked with some of the older boys about America, soccer, and future aspirations. I am confident that many of them will accomplish the dreams they have in their hearts. In talking with one of the main administrators here in Bulembu the other day, he made a fascinating point that has stuck with me: Many of these children were discarded, rejected, abused, and left to be on their own. Now, they are getting one of the best education’s offered to Swazi children and are living in a town that is being rebuilt with the sole purpose of raising up the future leaders of Swaziland. Now, when I talk with these young children, I cannot help but see a future government official of Swaziland, a doctor, a teacher, or even a king. How amazing that the once dishonored are being lifted up to places of honor. This concept both blows my mind and excites me for the future of Swaziland. I am so happy and blessed to share a small part in this wonderfully counter-culture village of Bulembu.

Needless to say, my time thus far has been both fascinating and full of surprises. I can’t wait to see what other surprises Bulembu holds for our last week here…

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Week 1 : Bulembu

A Storm is Brewing!

The last few days in Bulembu have been rainy and cloudy, but I will take the rain over the heat any day! The rain has brought some much needed relief. Although, I am told that it rains a lot in the summers in Bulembu. I say bring the rain!

Bulembu really is an amazing community unlike any other I have experienced. It is a very small village where everyone knows one another, and everyone works together. It is interesting to compare the type of lifestyle exemplified here in Bulembu to what I am used to back home, where I hardly know my neighbors. I think there is something to learn from this type of true community living. Being good to one another seems to come so natural in a small village such as this.

Despite the rain, life has moved on. So much seems to happen in just a day here. Last week was spent mostly being introduced to Bulembu and to the many people who help to make Bulembu function. I have spent a lot of time with the students in the schools. The elementary, middle, and secondary schools are all right next to each other. This is incredibly helpful in a very hilly, mountainous village. I have really enjoyed getting acquainted with the children of the village. They are very sweet and humble, but they also have no problem heckling my cultural idiosyncrasies. All in good fun, of course.

As many of you may know, the be:good foundation is sponsoring twelve of the orphans here in Bulembu that are currently staying in what is called the Bulembu Houses. Each house has a house mom and an auntie to look after the children. On Saturday, we were introduced to each of these women; we were then allowed to spend some time with the orphans be:good is sponsoring. It was very exciting to finally connect the faces and pictures.

Many of the children are in one house, but not all. We were at the house that held nine of our children, most of which are older boys. We got to spend about two hours with them, most of which was spent just talking and watching WWF on the television. They don’t get many channels here in Bulembu, but regardless, the teenage boys absolutely love WWF wrestling. Kind of funny! The boys have promised to do a choreographed dance for us; they are so extremely excited about this as they know it will be filmed, and they are very confident in their dancing skills! We are also going to play soccer with them on Sunday. I have seen the boys twice since Saturday, and they are very excited for our next rendezvous, as am I.

As I sat there talking to each of the kids, I was overwhelmed with the thought that without people being willing to sponsor these kids, they would be completely and totally alone on the world. They would have no place to live, no schooling, no food, and most importantly no one to love and care for them as the house moms and aunties do. It was so relieving to look at each boy and know he was going to school, living in a comfortable and healthy house, and he had someone looking after him. The reality of what this sponsorship means became very evident as I wondered where each boy would be without it. The thought is very daunting.

As I mentioned in the last blog, the be:good foundation is also helping to rebuild one of the run down houses and rebuild it into an orphanage. I have had the opportunity to see both the old houses, and the revamped housing. The difference is amazing, especially considering that just $9,000 US dollars can completely rebuild these houses to hold six orphans and give each a tremendous boost in his or her quality of life. The difference could really be that of life and death. Upon our return we will have video footage and pictures of the difference that $9,000 dollars can make in this housing situation. I think you will be very impressed. As more and more orphans are being sent to Bulembu as a place of safety, more and more housing is needed. I cannot imagine having the housing available to care for every orphan in Swaziland, but having to turn them away because the housing is completely unlivable. We cannot let this happen.

I could go on and on, but I must stop somewhere. All of that and it has only been one week. There is much more to come. Stay posted…

Monday, January 26, 2009

Off to Africa

Be:Good has just sent two representatives to Bulembu, Swaziland.  Christina and Amy are arriving today and are going to be working on a number of projects.  Stay tuned as they will be sending us updates on their trip and the work they are doing. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Caffeine and Goodness...Addicting!

If you 've been to a starbucks lately or have enjoyed a starbucks drink at some point over the past few weeks, you may have noticed this saying on the windows and on the cup holders...

"Do something good every day" ...we agree!

Our friends at (RED) and Starbucks have adopted a "good" thing.

be good to people strings attached!

Guest Blog: Jennifer

Six years ago my neighbor’s brother was killed by a drunk driver. Last December just before Christmas his mother died, at the age of 92. She had lived in the house for 50 years. Now my neighbor lives there by himself. He has one other sibling who lives in London and some family scattered in the suburbs of Chicago. When he first moved back into the house after his mother passed away, he was very quiet and would rarely speak to me. This past summer my son, who is two, and I would frequently take walks down the street. For some reason, every time my son saw this neighbor he would break out in a run and tackle the man’s leg and give him a big hug. Slowly I could see the walls around my neighbor begin to crumble. He became more talkative. He would wave if we passed each other driving. He always had a smile when he saw my son and me walking down the street.

Last Easter my son and I baked sugar cookies and frosted them, and put way too many sprinkles on them. We took some of the very sugary sugar cookies to our neighbor. He was speechless; he had tears in his eyes. He said thank you and went back in the house.

Every year for the holidays my family gather a very eclectic group of people for lunch. Some people are family, some employees with no family around, and some friends who have no where else to go. My parents have done this for as long as I can remember. As a child I have to say it was kind of irritating. I would end up sitting next to someone at the table I didn’t really know, or a friend of my parents who was ‘old’ and have to hold hands with them when we prayed for the meal. As an adult I am so thankful for the example my parents set for me. So this year before Thanksgiving, my son and I marched right over to the neighbor’s house and asked him what he was doing for Thanksgiving. He said he was going to be with his family in the suburbs, and then wanted to know why I was asking. I told him because I wanted to invite him to our house for Thanksgiving. He said thank you so much and that the invitation really meant a lot to him. I told him that is just what we do, and that I didn’t want him spending the holiday alone. He just kept saying thank you.

A week or so after Thanksgiving I was walking my niece down the street and the neighbor came out from his garage for a chat. He told me again how much the invitation for Thanksgiving meant to him and that he really appreciated being thought of. I told him that neighbors can be like family too and that he is welcome any time to our gatherings.

The following Monday I came home after work and my garbage cans had been brought in from the curb. I thought what a nice thing for someone to do for me and wondered who could have done it. Later that night, my mom called and told me she had driven by my house and seen the neighbor bringing the garbage cans in. We were both shocked and humbled. My invitation for Thanksgiving didn’t have any strings attached. I didn’t want anything back from this neighbor except my own peace of mind knowing he didn’t have to be alone. He decided to bless me and bring in my garbage cans. As a single mom, help with those kinds of things is a very big deal. In fact he will never really understand what that meant to me. And I will probably never really understand what my invitation meant to him.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Goodness is the only investment which never fails."
-Henry David Thoreau

Friday, November 7, 2008

Goodness Simplified

Sometimes being good to those closest to you is the hardest thing to do.  I suppose in one way or another its easy.  You know what the other person likes, or exactly what their needs might be. You have time with them and so on.  But I find that just because I'm privy to this necessary information and I am always around my dear ones doesn't always mean I do something about it.  

Today as I was driving the kids to school I was thinking as I always try to do ("try" being the key word as loud noise makes this hard to do!).  In my mind I think I am being good to my family or dear ones by always planning and preparing.  Planning and preparing a new meal, which consists of recipe research, shopping for obscure items and "don't interrupt me" cooking time.  Planning and preparing a nice and comfortable home which consists of constant cleaning, shopping for things to organize with or "necessary" things to make the house more cozy and inviting.  Planning and preparing for a trip which consists of more shopping, organizing, packing,  gathering etc. etc.  And the list could on and on with all of the things that we are "getting ready" and preparing for.  It's a lot of business.  Your business might look different than mine but in one way or another it's all the same.  

And here is the point . . .  most of the time all of the preparation and planning and doing sucks the life out of the actual event or end result which is suppose to the be the "good" and quality thing.  To some end we complicate our own lives (I'm quite guilty of this).  It's the doing versus being.  Doing something for your family rather than just being with them.  I am a doer and I can do, do, do until I am no fun to be with.  

And today as I drove my kids to school, the sun was shining and the leaves were radiating beauty, and I thought what is the point of all of the doing if you are never going to stop and actually enjoy the end result.  One thing always leads to another and there is always doing to be done.  

So be good to those closet to you by just "being good" to each other in the most simplest of ways.  Slowing down, stopping for conversations and listening,  enjoying just being together and being enjoyable to be around.  Enjoy the the end result of all of your hard work. And better yet, enjoy each other while you do what you have to do!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Guest Blog : Tasha Ives

As of late, my family has been the recipient of random acts of kindness. A meal brought to my home…money given in a time of need…a hug…a call…a card. All given by people who were just being good.

The funny thing is, although our close friends and family took part in these acts of “being good”, most of these transactions of kindness were performed by strangers! Yes, complete and total strangers.

The general kindness began when my daughter was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor…and the kindness just continues to come our way…from the ice cream shop owner, doling out the free scoops, to the little old lady who handed over what could have been her grocery money…to the all-expanse-paid trip to Disney…all given with no strings attached.

At first, this outpouring of kindness didn’t settle well with me. I am one who never wants to make someone feel obligated…never wants to bother someone…much less, possibly take their last dollar.

But as the giving continued, I realized that although their main purpose was to help a family in need, there was a secondary reason for giving…it just really feels good to give. I saw the need to give on their faces…heard it in their voices…read it in their emails. They wanted to give, and wanted nothing in return.

Good thing, too, because we will never be able to repay all the goodness that has been shown to us. Honestly, I am not even aware of the sheer numbers of “do gooders” who’ve helped…how can I ever thank the anonymous giver?

By giving. I can give to others in need. I can reach beyond my own tragic circumstances and give. My heart has been changed. Because I have been given much, I want to give much…and I want nothing in return…just the joy of doing good.

Maybe a meal taken to a home…money, in a time of need…a hug…a call…a card. I can just be strings attached.

To learn more about Tasha and her daughter's journey click here!

{image from Tasha Ives}

Friday, October 17, 2008

Give a Little Love

All you need is love, right?  I think really, that is what everyone is looking for.  Everyone wants to be loved, heard, understood, cared for, noticed, and appreciated.  Some of of us are fortunate to have people in our lives that really do love us and sadly some have nothing of the sort.  Some people are starved for love.  So starved that something like a stranger smiling at them or asking them how they are doing could make a world of difference.

What is love (hopefully you don't have a certain song & picture of Will Ferrell & Chris Kattan bopping their heads running through your mind now, like I do!)?  Love can be described as many things but here are a few . . . 

Love is patient
Love is kind 
Love cares more for others than self
Love isn't always "me first"
Love looks for the best
Love doesn't fly off the handle
Love always looks for the best
Love keeps going to the end

And did you know that love can also mean charity and charity is defined as generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill or helpless.  The two can not be separated.

So in one way or another we can all show a little love today.  Things like being patient with the checkout person at the store.  People can be so rude just because they are in a hurry.  Something as simple as slowing down and saying thank you with a smile could mean a lot.  Or how about just trying to be more patient with your kids.  Love is just being kind to everyone you come in contact with.  It's something that we can all try for.

So one way or another in small ways and of course, if you are able, in big ways... show some LOVE!  

{image via The Rug Company}

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Being good is easy...

Being good to people is easy...kind of.

I would love to come to you today with an amazing, heartfelt story of how my recent goodness moved someone to tears. But lets be honest for just one second; being good isn't always easy, and sometimes the stories of when we passed up an opportunity to be good stay in our hearts and heads far longer than we'd like.

I have this pair of shoes that I rarely wear. I was going on a hiking trip, and a friend told me I had to buy this specific pair of shoes, because they were so comfortable. Well, they gave me blisters. I happened to be in Spain at the time, and I had to pull over in the nearest town and buy a pair of knock-off FILA tennis shoes called EIFA's. Sweet relief!

Every once in a while, on a day where I will not be doing a ton of walking, I will wear the very pricey pair of shoes that gave me blisters. I must give the disclaimer that many people have these shoes, and they don't get blisters. Moving on. One day, a dear friend spotted me in these shoes. She scolded me when she found out I had them throughout our whole friendship and never wore them. She ranted and raved about how awesome she thought they were...And I had the fleeting thought of, "give them to her."

I was instantly excited at the thought, but then I thought I would wear them the rest of the day, and then hand them over. Well, you can guess where I am going with this. I never gave them up. Why? I can think of a plethora of reasons...none of them being good.

I didn't set out to depress you today. Wipe your tears. I wanted to encourage you. We all have memories like the one I have just described. I learned a lot from this situation, and now when I get a good idea, I just do it (no I am not endorsed by NIKE). And it is never too late. I left those shoes in a suitcase full of clothes in Africa (I didn't have room). I am in the midst of having them sent to me, so I can pass them on to my dear friend. It's not too late to rectify the opportunity you passed up. Just do it- be:good foundation.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Be Good to People Everywhere . . .

Be good to people everywhere.  That sounds so simple, like a nice passing thought.  But think about it.!  Being good to someone can mean a many number of things and there can be a vast difference in what people view as being or doing good.  Instead of looking at it as something we all should "do," I see it as something we all should "be."  A lifestyle, really.  A conscious effort to live outside of ourselves and see the world through other peoples eyes.

Everyone needs someone to be good them, even you and me.  But change can only start with ourselves first, so why not be the change?  I have to say that I know many people that have a VERY good life and yet they still are very unhappy and unfulfilled (I'm sure you know these people too, right?  Or, maybe you feel this way?).  When we think about others and how to help them and then actually do it, we get past ourselves and find a deep sense of fulfillment.  

The subject can be deep but the concept is simple.  We are all at different places in life and we are all able to help on different levels but the great thing is that doesn't really matter.  Being good to people everywhere is simple.  It doesn't take a master plan or a lot of money.  It just takes a desire to do good.

Being good to people everywhere looks like this:
  • Mowing the lawn for a neighbor that is sick
  • Picking up a few extra groceries for your elderly grandparent when you are at the store
  • Making a meal for a friend that just had a baby
  • Listening to someone that needs to talk
  • Volunteering at a soup kitchen or for a world crisis relief cause
  • Simply giving a smile to someone that needs to feel loved
  • Making yourself aware of world crisis issues
  • Letting someone know that things are going to be OK
  • Donating money or time to a local charity
  • Giving a gift to a child in need
  • Buying a warm coffee for someone on a cold day
Simple, right?  Life changing?  You think probably not, but you'll never really know.  Being good to people everywhere is just a lifestyle, a conscious effort to look out for others and help those in need in big and small ways.  And you'll find that once you start it's a bit contagious.  You'll look for new ways to help people.  What once seemed like a lot to give (whether time or money) just isn't enough.

I'm convinced this is the only way to live.  It's fulfilling and it's fun.  Every Friday we are going to have a Be Good Forum where we'd love to hear some of the good things you've been doing.  It's not to brag or say how great you are but rather a way to just create community to connect and share new ideas of how to be good to people everywhere.

How do you do good?

{image 1 & 3 from Flickr}