Despite the beauty, the past couple of weeks have been challenging. We have had no water for a good portion of it, no internet and often no power. As of yesterday, we have water and power.
Last Saturday, Feb 28, was the national election here in Lesotho.
The country has over 20 parties vying for power with three in the mainstream:
- the Democratic Congress led by former Prime Minister, Mosissili;
- the Lesotho congress for Democracy, led by former Deputy Prime Minister, Metsing;
- and the All Basotho Congress (ABC) Party, led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Thabane.
The results are so close that another coalition government is the only way forward. We await the distribution of the 40 proportional representation seats to know who will form the government. The last six months have been unkind to Lesotho’s reputation as a stable and moderate country with good governance. All hope that the resolution of these issues will be peaceful and democratic.
The Facet Foundation, a generous donor since 2009, sent a professional photographer from South Africa to capture our work over three days. Anna Lusty, a fabulous photographer who specializes in NGOs, was just lovely – so interested and captivated by our programs and beneficiaries. You will be seeing some of her photos soon but I am including two in this letter (of the granny and the deaf boy) to give you a notion of the insight and quality she brings to her photos.
As we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Help Lesotho on March 13 here, we also mark the 5th Anniversary of the opening of our Seotlong Centre in Hlotse with the Support Centre and the Graff Leadership Centre.
The opening back in 2010 was quite a day. The site was still rather like a construction site that we tried – by all means – to hide with decorations and distractions. We fed 800 people with no running water or kitchen.
The event was hosted by His Majesty, King Letsie III with wonderful traditional dancing, speeches and singing. I remember thinking to myself that it would be five years before I knew if it was all worth it. There were so many struggles and frustrations, so much perseverance and hard work, tears and exhaustion.
Now, after five years, I see that the Centre is in great shape and truly manifesting the original dream of being a place of sanctuary and learning, healing and laughter.Thousands of people stream in here every year to have their lives transformed and hopes renewed.
I can now say that it was worth it – totally!
This is a place where all are welcomed with kindness – those with AIDS, victims of abuse, the depressed and discouraged, the elderly and feeble. This is a place where their suffering is honoured and their future taken seriously. It is the centre of all we do here.
I was thinking this as I watched a group of young boys from the nearby school for the deaf flooding in the other day. When we originally invited them, these boys (there are very few girls) were ill-behaved, stigmatized, frightened and cloaked with the ‘tough’ guy attitude of wounded souls. It took time for them to really believe they were welcome.
With time, our staff learned sign language, we started special literacy classes, and we organized community engagement events to highlight the prejudice against and rights of the disabled. When I see these boys now, I find well mannered, quiet and happy children enjoying the play structures and interacting happily with the staff.
We are fervently preparing for our Ambassador guests, Canadians who are joining us to celebrate our 10th. They begin arriving today with the full complement here by Saturday, hosted by Mary Ann and Chris Turnbull.
- Mary Ann has been a board member for close to nine years and her school, Turnbull School, is twinned with a primary school here.
- John Graham, our board chair, comes with his wife Lynn;
- Jennifer Parr, on the board for nine years and chair for eight, arrives with guests Nancy and Brian Enns from Toronto.
- New board member Margie Hooper and her husband Jeff, owners of Keller Williams Realty Ottawa who provide our donated office space in Ottawa will be the last to arrive
It will be such an exciting time having them all here!
Although this is our first donor trip, it has been in our thoughts for years – waiting for the right time when this would not put too much of a burden on the local staff and when we could show our guests the natural countryside and the impact of our programs on our beneficiaries in a respectful manner.
I am convinced that it is impossible for someone to come and spend time with our staff and beneficiaries and not want to help – just impossible.
It was fun today showing a cleaning ‘M’e what a vacuum was; quite a startling contraption to her! Our staff have been working diligently getting everything organized and ship shape. It is no mean feat to put all these massive events on, but they do it with pleasure and pride.
I sometimes wonder if we mention HIV/AIDS enough in our communications. Lesotho has the world’s second highest rate of AIDS, inseparable from gender issues.
Our journalist intern this year, Stephanie Vizi, is doing a great job of chronicling both in her blog and GIRLS GLOBE articles. Click here to read her latest blog post on living with HIV in Lesotho, and click here to read more about the eye care program for grannies.
I wish you all could be here – that you could know how much your support is appreciated. Each one of you play an important role and it is only together that so many thousands of people can regain a chance for their future,
Stay tuned for the news of the celebrations ….
Khotsong (Peace to you)