Free Eyecare & Medical Aid for Orphans & Their Caregivers in Swaziland at Bulembu Orphanage
"Good works are the links that form a chain of love."
Trip Report - 2015
World Missions Possible is proud to report a new partnership with Bulembu Medical Director, Dr. Carl Shirk and Lesley Shirk working in Bulembu (northwest) Swaziland. Since 2011, WMP and Bulembu clinic have worked together to bring more effective medical care to the orphanage, staff, workers, and its care providers. We welcome this new venture & all it means for improved health services in Bulembu!
(L to R): Lesley Shirk, EMT, Dr. Carl Shirk, Rev. Tony Vinson, Dr. Roxane Richter & Dr. Thomas Flowers
Trip Report - 2012
Our role this year was to see to their needs for vision screening, eye care (corneal ulcers, infections, conjunctivitis, etc…) and eyeglasses. We basically took over the Bulembu clinic leaving only one nurse practitioner to see the usual clinic patients and working with the rest and some other volunteers to form an incredibly efficient team of about 10 people. We offered free eye exams on510 children, aunties, teachers and local people. Some of the teens didn't need glasses, but we ended up distributing hundreds of pairs of reading glasses & eyeglasses for the young ones. Some of the Aunties and men over 50 cried because they could now read their Bibles again– Men & women would run up to us & say “Thank You! Thank You! I can read again” or “I can sew for my family again!”
Bulembu is a remote, isolated little piece of heaven in the mountains with only 1 road in from South Africa and 1 road out into Swaziland. Bulembu is a very unique place because it is an entire old mining town now owned by a Swazi-based NGO that is dedicated to being self-sufficient while it takes care of AIDS orphans. There is a timber and logging business complete with a lumber mill, plus a large dairy, a honey production facility, and an old hospital that is now a clinic, etc. Bulembu was originally a mining town for asbestos. There are a multitude (200+) of abandoned homes, some of which have now been renovated for use for the children and workers and volunteers who are there full-time.
All of this is owned by the NGO that is primarily there to take care of children whose parents have died of AIDS, about 25 % have AIDS themselves (over 300 of them).The expected life span for young people in Swaziland is to live into the mid-30s,as about80% of the adultshave AIDS. Their hope of being self-sufficient is still years off in the future so they are in desperate need of help.
Bulembu has schools for all ages of children and have been operating for 6 years. The children live in homes 6 children per auntie, who takes on the “mother” and caregiver role, and is their caregiver until 18 years of age. Boys and girls live in separate houses, although they will have brothers and sisters live in neighboring houses. There is a Christian environment throughout. We met the Medical Director, Dr Carl Shirk, who is a retired emergency physician from Texas. He and his wife Lesley have been there for about 2 years. There are 2 nurse practitioner/midwives from Zimbabwe who staff the clinic with nurses, as Dr Shirk is 80 years old and is there in a supervisory role. There is an x-ray machine but it is not working and any x-rays needed must be sent to Piggs Peak which is an 18-km drive on a very bad dirt road.
It was a very busy enterprise and we were exhausted at the end of each day. I have to tell you about my favorite patient…Lindo. She is a 19 year old female who is considered severely mentally retarded – she is unable to speak or communicate, is deaf, and when they 1st brought her into me, I thought, “What am I going to do?” But thank GOD for the autorefractor, which requires no communication…so we got a spherical equivalent of what she most likely needed & worked from there. When we put her glasses on, she just hugged (well, really TACKLED) me. I got tackle-hugged again when she saw me at church. Her caregiver said she cried when they tried to take her glasses off at bedtime…but they finally made a “bed” for her glasses and she understood they both would only be separated for a night’s rest. On our last day, I brought her by some puppet dolls and she was delighted.
The only day off was Sunday which was right in the middle and allowed us much-needed rest. We did go to their church where they had a praise band that sang in English & SiSwati. It was all in all a very wonderful, exhausting trip. The reason we ever found this little hamlet was due to the generous donation of W.T. Cutts & American Tank & Vessel who funded $4,000 for the renovation of Bulembu’s “Toddler Home” last year and also paid $5,000 for the children’s specially made pediatric eyeglasses and our trip expenses. Our thanks to you!! The home is wonderful, clean, and well maintained and the kids were fighting over who got to be held!
But Bulembu is a beautiful place, nestled into the mountains, temperate climate, no malaria-carrying mosquitoes (they don't live at that altitude), we certainly fell in love with the place. The lodge where we stayed was originally built by the British. We stayed in a cozy cottage with comfortable bed, hot water for showers with plenty of spray instead of the usual bucket or trickle, and very nice braai (BBQ) food!! Wowee!! The lodge is a business run by the NGO, supporting the work of Bulembu.
Trip Report - 2011
In April of 2011, World Missions Possible donated $4,000 to the Bulembu Babies Home in Swaziland for the repair and renovation of MOTH Hall to accomodate new babies and toddlers. Due to the increasing number of abandoned and orphaned babies in Swaziland, this year Bulembu expanded its infant care program by integrating the established ABC Ministries Orphanage/Partners In Action into the Bulembu Child Care Program. Swaziland continues to have one of the highest HIV rates of infection in the world - Jumping from under 4% to almost 40% from 1992 to 2002.
The current Bulembu Babies Home cares for 45 children under 2 years of age, but due to the expansion of 100 children, funds were needed to expand their current faciities and World Missions Possible was pleased to be able to help in that expansion of service.