2017: Letters from Lesotho #1

Feb 14, 2017


I have been in Lesotho for over a week. It is wonderful to be back and to see all the progress which has been made and lives which continue to be changed thanks to all of you. All is well with me, although one of my suitcases took six days longer to arrive than I did!

The good news to report is there have been regular rain showers, for which we are grateful. In a country like Lesotho rain is synonymous with life.

We are also grateful for our outstanding Country Director, Shadrack Mutembei. It was six years ago now when I first interviewed him for the position with Help Lesotho. Shadrack leads a large staff here in Lesotho, all of whom work tirelessly towards accomplishing the mission of our organization. He has been such a blessing to the organization, and to the staff in Lesotho.

Last week we held three days of interactive staff meetings, two of which were quarterly meetings when all the staff come together from various locations to be inspired, informed and re-focused. The heads of each department heard about our impact, our actual results against targets and lessons learned of the previous quarter. We are always learning to be able to move forward with excellence.

We are thrilled to report that because of our amazing staff and your support, Help Lesotho’s 20 programs reached over 10,000 beneficiaries between July 1 and December 31, 2016!

I am often asked how we do so much with what we have.

Truly, it is because of our passionate, effective and compassionate staff in both Lesotho and Canada.

At these meetings last week was an inclusive group of 38, including our cook, full-time and part-time staff, farmer Peter the security guard at the Pitseng Centre, our drivers, our interns from Canada this year, Maddison Van Balkom and Emily Major-Girard, and three granny leads who do the village work. Everyone from the cleaners to department heads had a proper hard covered planner to take down their notes.

It takes many hands and hearts to support and train this many fragile people through our  long term, comprehensive programs. Our staff in both centres are so talented and dedicated.

We have thousands in and out of our centres annually, and many of our programs are offered way up in the mountains, and it takes our entire team to make the success of our programs possible.

As you can see in the picture each one was dressed smartly and professionally in their Sunday best, beaming with pride. They are dear people to me. All of them are local, and they are filled with confidence, self-respect, purpose and camaraderie. Our staff are also products of their culture and challenge that come growing up in Lesotho.

You may not know this, but all program officers must have completed our intensive leadership training course to be eligible for employment with Help Lesotho. Many are youth, men and women we have trained, some of them have been with us from the beginning. Two were sponsored children since grade 8 and for whom Help Lesotho has been the only family they know. One started in our Young Mothers program, others graduated from our Computer and Life-skills Course or our Leadership programs.

Their training enables them to personally and professionally deal effectively with the specific vulnerabilities and trauma facing our beneficiaries. It was a special time for me to share with the staff. It is important to celebrate that Help Lesotho not only assists our beneficiaries but provides jobs to local people.

All of them are local, and they are filled with confidence, self-respect, purpose and camaraderie.

This particular meeting opened with two songs especially written for this occasion and they sung them like a choir of angels. A poem was read , gifts were given and a beautiful handmade card was created  to welcome me. Their expressions of love brought me to tears, and rendered me speechless, which as those who know me is nigh on impossible!!!

When I recovered my ability to speak, I read notes and letters from several of you and reminded them  that they are known, cared for, and appreciated for their hard work and dedication in such difficult issues and circumstances. They were visibly moved to know that people so far away truly care about them, who pray for them, sharing what extra they have to support their work.

Several staff members were so touched, that it changed and inspired them to do more.

They were incredulous that grandmothers made things to sell to send funds over; that pensioners sacrificed to help; that little children would share.

The recent Facebook post of my six-year-old grandson, Grayson, donating $20 to buy a pair of shoes for a child in Lesotho seemed to strike a particular cord.  

The third day of staff meetings was a bi-annual team building retreat. We made the challenging climb in the heat to the top of Thaba Bosiu, the sacred place of the founding of the Basotho nation and the table-top vantage to view the mountain of the Mokorotlo, the famous Basotho Hat, one finds in fields and on the national flag. For many of the staff, this was their first time to have this opportunity. It was a fun day and so vital to allow our staff time to be together and to fill up when often their work can be so emotionally draining.

On another note, I want to mention how touched we are by your enthusiastic response to our legacy initiatives and the number of people who took advantage of the free estate planning service offered through our partnership with Advisors with Purpose (AWP). While we will always gratefully accept legacy gifts from donors, our partnership with AWP ends March 31, 2017. If you still want to benefit from their service, please contact 1-866-336-3315 or visit https://www.helplesotho.org/ways-to-give/future-gift/ for more information.

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Many of you ask how you can help:

Sponsor a child: We need more new sponsors for the children on our waiting list who cannot go to high school in 2017 without your help! Please contact kate@helplesotho.org to sign up, and visit helplesotho.org/ways-to-give/sponsorship/sponsor-a-child/ for more information.

Spread the word through social media: So many people tell me how much they love reading these letters because they get to truly see what is going on in Lesotho in real time. Please share these letters and our posts on Help Lesotho’s Facebook and Twitter channels to engage your families, colleagues and friends

  1. Facebook: facebook.com/helplesothopage
  2. Twitter: helplesotho
  3. My personal Twitter: pegherbert

My time is just beginning here and there is so much to tell you. Thank you for your interest and encouragement.

We are in this together!

Salang hantle,