While many of you deal with unusual amounts of snow and cold, it is gloriously sunny here about 25-28 degrees C with occasional, fierce storms. The rain in the past three or four weeks has replenished the soul and encouraged the farmers that their crops may have a chance to ripen.
Our Quarterly Staff Meeting this week had much to celebrate. Six received Loyalty Plaques. It was lovely to recall their time with us, their growth and enormous contributions.
Left to right: Beside me is Ntate Peter, the security guard from the Pitseng Centre, who received his 10-Year Plaque. He welcomes all our visitors, and protects our property, children and staff with the biggest smile you have ever seen. Beside him, ‘M’e Mampaka received her 10-Year Plaque. ‘M’e managed our Child Sponsorship Program for many years and is now managing the Grandmother Program and the sponsored children in Thaba Tseka.
The rest received their Five-Year Plaques. First is our Hlotse gardener, Ntate Thabo, who keeps our Centre a beautiful sanctuary with love and care. Next is ‘M’e Shasha, who runs our programs for young mothers and adolescent girls. Those girls are so lucky to have her. Ntate Sello lovingly and so effectively supervises the Herd Boy Program, Leadership in Training, Camps and other programs. Beside him is ‘M’e Thato, who does a fabulous job supervising both our Centres, the Professional Internship Program, programs for girls and women and the Computer and Life Skills Program. And finally, Ntate Shadrack Mutembei, who has guided, encouraged and cared deeply for our staff and programs for nearly eight years. He is a wonderful leader and we are blessed to have him.
Then it was time to celebrate Help Lesotho’s 15th Anniversary. You may remember our celebration for the 5th Anniversary in huge style with a five-day visit to Canada from King Letsie III and a wonderful celebration in Lesotho. We celebrated our 10th Anniversary with a very special five-day visit to Canada by Queen Masenate and Princess Senate. This 15th Anniversary is modest due to cost constraints but celebrate it we did none-the-less and we will continue to do so throughout the year. It was fun to reminisce over the past years. In the past 15 years, 180,000 people have benefitted and 40,000 have graduated from our intensive programs. Hundreds of volunteers have helped us and thousands of donors have believed enough in our work to be faithful partners in its sustainability.
The staff did a beautiful song and dance for me and made a VERY special book. Each staff wrote a page – the whole occasion was emotional for us all. I was brought to tears several times. I feel overwhelmed at the love and passion our staff and beneficiaries have for Help Lesotho – it is a gift beyond my wildest dreams.
We had a huge cake and lots of hugs.
On my flight here from Johannesburg, I sat beside the Deputy Minister of Health, ‘M’e Pholheli. We had a marvelous visit and she promised to come to the Centre. As those who follow me on Twitter know, she came on Friday and brought the head of health for Adolescent Girls, ‘M’e Nkuatsana. High rates of early and forced child marriage, gender-based violence, infant and maternal mortality and HIV transmission among this population are at critical proportions. They have huge responsibilities. They were both truly interested and supportive in learning more about our Young Mothers Program.
After touring the Centre, we drove north about 90 minutes on rugged dirt roads to visit one of our young mother groups. These girls are remote and vulnerable.
They are so young! It was lovely to see how clean the babies were and how attentive these young mothers were to them. I counted about 42 girls in the tiny room loaned to the program by the local council.
One young girl was so motivated by the program that she reached beyond her painfully shy personality to start a netball team of other young girls as a forum to share information she learned at Help Lesotho trainings, as a way to empower others who are not lucky enough to be in the program to face their challenges and make healthy decisions. Her team has had several competitions and benefit from the exercise. She was clear that the sexual reproductive health information enabled her to seek services and make informed decisions.
On Saturday mornings, there are mostly boys at the Centre – scores of them. This Saturday was a good example. I counted 40-45 boys, which is the norm. There were exciting games and Valentine Crafts. The little girls are home working: cleaning, washing, sweeping since dawn, so few girls can come. After lunch, the girls start arriving, clearly tired from their chores and so hoping they have not missed everything while the boys played.
Please stay warm and know that you are making a huge difference in the lives of so many people.
Peg Herbert, Founder and Executive Director