When i think of Bulembu and my 2 day experience there, i kind of have to take a deep breath and make a conscience decision on where I am allowing my thoughts to go, because otherwises it’s like most woman’s handbags… (:
After shooting my last wedding for this season, i traveled to Swaziland. This was a first and such a huge privilege. I’ve read up on Bulembu a bit beforehand, but didn’t really know what to expect. I slept over in Nelspruit and from there its about 90 minutes drive to get to the Swazi border, that opens at 8am. (Imagine mountains and more mountains.) There i was greeted by Nerine and Bianca with THE biggest smiles. I “know” Nerine since we’ve attended the same Shofar Church in Stellenbosch, before she started working at Bulembu.
Our 2 days were jam packed with places to shoot e.g. businesses, a hospital, schools etc. All of them designed so that this project, with 300 orphans in it’s care, can (or will later be) self sustainable. What struck me most was how these people that work at Bulembu, so selflessly give their lives to build up these children. I’ve been there only 2 days, but yet i came back changed. I think differently about all my many privileges, how i was raised, what i can be thankful for and the difference I can make in others lives.
Ive asked Bianca to tell as more about this town Bulembu, that was a ghost town as some stage… I am still stunned by this project/vision:
In 2001, the mining company that had built and operated Bulembu for more than 60 years, closed its doors and walked away. With no jobs the town was soon abandoned, even as Swaziland continues to be ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the resulting orphan crisis.
Today, Bulembu has a clear vision to become a vibrant, self-sustaining community. This vision for sustainability includes fostering the development of a new generation of emerging leaders through orphan care, education, health services and commerce.
Central to the Bulembu vision is providing total care for some of Swaziland’s 120,000 orphaned and vulnerable children. The Bulembu Child Care Programme is not focused on emergency response or simply providing basics needs, but rather the Bulembu Child Care Programme is working to raise a generation of leaders, providing the children in the programme with the love and resources they need to thrive. In this way Bulembu is working to equip young people who will make a positive contribution to society, and emerge as leaders in their homes, their community and their nation.
The Bulembu Child Care Programme is currently providing over 300 children with total care. One of the biggest ongoing challenges for the programme is transitioning a child from a life of destitute and neglect to a life of hope and care. For well over a year, the Bulembu Welcome Centre has been operating as place of transition for children entering the programme. Most of the children who come to Bulembu are unable to distinguish between colours and shapes and are often unable to write their names, even though they have been attending school. Many things which we take for granted are novelties for these children including flushing a toilet, sleeping on a bed and using something as simple as a knife and fork. The Welcome Centre has proved to be an essential component in our programme, successfully helping children make this transition.
Over the last year, Bulembu has designed an extensive training programme for our care givers or “aunties”. The aunties currently working in the programme have taken this training and have been equipped and educated in best practices of care-giving. Investing in these women has meant that their lives have also been transformed as they find employment and are empowered and encouraged in their work.
A number of enterprises have been launched which will not only contribute financially in the future to the Bulembu vision, but will provide fundamental services to the community, specifically in the area of food security. Current Bulembu Enterprises: Bulembu Bakery, Bulembu Carpentry, Bulembu Dairy, Bulembu Honey, Bulembu Country Lodge, Bulembu Mills, Bulembu Timber, Bulembu Water, Bulembu Store and Bulembu Transport.
Come and experience our unique town and witness transformation in action. Whether by visiting, partnering with us in spreading Bulembu’s vision, sponsoring a child or even working for us, you will not leave Bulembu untouched, but rather changed forever.
Bulembu High School
Preparing food for the 300 children:
Another face i knew from Stellenbosch! Hello Anje!!!
WOW Anje has a lot of patience with these little ones!
It’s still echoing in my head: Lloooooook. El…..the…..e….le….phant…..can…rrrrrun!”
During school break they all received a sandwich and an orange:
One of the projects where they make the most beautiful crafts:
Music lessons under a huge tree!
Some more dances:
These 2 amazing people I’ve known since i was about 12 years old. Someone told me they were living somewhere in Swaziland now, but since I only had 2 days in Swazi with no time for traveling, “i knew” I could not get to see them. Who will I walk into within my first few hours there? You guessed it! There were happy tears, sad tears and some “just because we are woman” tears flowing as we were catching up on the last couple of years. James and Michelle, it was so awesome seeing you and hearing your amazing testimonies. I know God will be faithful ’till the end! (PS: James, you are not included in the “woman tears” hehee”)
Dankie vir die lekker bederf-aandete!
To the left, are some of the houses where the children stay, each house with their “auntie.”
Bulembu Honey (I came home with about an litre creamed honey!!!) I now understand why honey is so expensive. It’s a hard, sticky job!!! …but in the end so worth it!
Nerine, always smiling! She was so patient, driving me around, making sure I have everything I need for the 2 days.
Dankie Nerine, was so lekker om jou bietjie beter te leer ken. Hoop daar le nog kuiers voor!
This little one LOVED the camera!
Coolest school bell I’ve ever seen!
…..aaaaa these little faces!!!!….
Bulembu Museum in the making!
Yes, you can stay over at Bulembu!
Huge conference hall, equipped with an industrial kitchen and huge stoep:
Bulembu, the town
Nerine and myself on top of a tall halve build building before sunrise, to get some shots of the town itself. It was freeeezing up there, but worth it!
On the way back to Nelspruit…