Africa Wrap – UP: Swaziland

Welcome To The Kingdom of Swaziland
October 21: We left Botswana, flew into Joburg, and then flew on to the Kingdom of Swaziland! Turns out that Swaziland is ruled by a monarchy, one of the only remaining monarchy’s in the world. The King of Swaziland, wanting to put his country on the map and one supposes, strut his monarch stuff, built a brand spanking new airport that sits next to some of the only paved roads in the country. Rumor has it that he wants to be a major player for flights going through South Africa and other countries. The airport was beautiful but lightly used on the day that we swarped through. Thing is though that the airport is also two hours away from the capital city, which was where we were booked to stay for a few days.

We enjoyed our 2-hour trip to Mbabane.
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Along the way we found ourselves alone on the brand new road (also built by the King of Swaziland) to town except for large mammals walking along each side of the highway. They looked pretty content – you know…like “I’m taking my afternoon walk like I always do. No bi-peds allowed!”

We got settled in for the evening and the next day, met with the Swaziland BIPAI leadership.
This COE offers the full range of BIPAI services but what stood out for me was the attention to TB care. The physicians in charge of this and their small but very effective team are doing some amazing and transformational work for the region surrounding the COE. HIV and TB often go hand in hand sadly. Because of their effort at this COE, the incident of TB and further infection has gone down. This team proactively goes out into the community to provide the most comprehensive and complete approach to tackling this very infectious and devastating disease. They utilize a PAC system not only to communicate information in this COE but also to communicate with Texas Children’s Hospital expertise.

Another highlight of my time in this country was visiting Bulembu, an orphanage located higher up in the mountains of Swaziland ( ). Paved roads give out about half way there so take your vehicles designed for rough terrain to make it to the city itself!

Our guide there told us that it is often referred to as the Switzerland of Swaziland. I absolutely can see why. It is a beautiful setting and the children are definitely receiving loving care. As we walked through the beautiful grounds, we saw little ones playing, running, and smiling. We were introduced to a boisterous bunch of toddlers playing on swings and running about. They stole our hearts! Each of them ran up to us offering high fives, hugs and again those beautiful smiles. I cried! My colleagues cried. There is such beauty in them. My heart was full and I plan on contributing to Bulembu going forward. The organization is providing a tremendous service to these children. They have a bright future because of their time there I am certain.

The Swaziland COE provides healthcare to Bulembu so the picture of care is complete.

Bulembu is a complete self-sustainable community. They sell items made there (they make honey and have their own honey bee farm!) as well as amazing food in their restaurant. I enjoyed the best hamburger and fries that I have EVER eaten in my life. It now goes on my list at the top as the best thing I EVER ate! The bread was made there. The greens were grown there. The meat was processed there. It was magical!

One day I hope to return to Bulembu.

Once back at our hotel, my team prepared to return to Joburg. There we presented a workshop for all of the BIPAI EDs. Today was the last day of that workshop and we go home having made many new friends and with plans to help these folks raise more funds for the life-changing work that they are doing.

In about an hour TCH Team Africa will board our van to get to the Joburg airport and begin our long journey home. Big hugs everyone!

More to come….