SwaziCompanions of Iowa

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nutrition Wrap-up

This is intended as a bit of a wrap-up on the nutrition part of the healthcare mission – again from the perspective of the theoretical mathematician (and old man of the trip).

Mary Jane conducted a total of 12 mini-workshops (about two hours each) over a period of nine days (M-F of week one and M-Th of week two). Seven of these were oriented primarily to volunteers who feed orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), three were primarily for volunteers who do home-based care, and two were a combination of the two groups. My role was to take notes, take pictures, and occasionally ask if she intended to talk about some particular topic and to sometimes assist with making changes in the slides for the next presentation.

These workshops were sometimes for as few as three volunteers, more frequently for six to eight volunteers, and occasionally for quite a few more. Each day we were driven by either Rosemary or Andrew+ Symonds and accompanied by two members of the Diocesan HIV/AIDS staff. Philile, Thulie, and Lungile took turns translating for us – Mary Jane’s method of teaching them. By the second week they were frequently getting ahead of her. They particularly liked Mary Jane’s statement that working men need energy (calories) but their need for protein is not higher than that of children and young women of child-bearing age. They could push that statement in cultural ways that always got the women laughing at the thought that they now had a reason to pursue change at home.

It was hard for us to judge just how successful these sessions were, but the staff kept assuring us that the volunteers were grateful. Good questions were raised in several of the workshops. Most of the sessions were held in a church or school, but in Mpandesane (site of the second dental clinic), the workshop was held under a tree (and the computer was quickly put aside since the sun was too bright). After all, “when two or three are gathered (under a tree) Jesus will be there”, we were reminded.

In addition to the workshops, we observed children eating their meals and also made four home visits with volunteer care providers to have a better idea of what is involved. After one of those visits we left the volunteer at the clinic where she was to pick up medicine for one of the patients. While we headed to our next workshop, she would be walking the three kilometers back to his home along the dirt track, through the rain. At one parish the 15 care providers have 12 critically ill patients whom they visit both morning and afternoon.

Forty volunteers from across Swaziland were invited to participate in a Friday night, Saturday workshop at the Thokoza Centre at the end of our stay. Thirty-eight came along with ten Iowans, the three staff from the HIV/AIDS office, and Rosemary and Andrew Symonds. Friday night was probably a bit too long for everyone – the dental team got back about 1 pm so had little time to recuperate before 4 pm tea. The participants came from all over the country – mostly by “kombie” – so were also tired.However, interaction was good.

Saturday morning was the “teaching” portion of the workshop with presentations on Palliative Care (Kendra), Oral Health (Terry), and Nutrition (Mary Jane+). Iowans participated in table discussions as listeners and recorders and were impressed with the stories they heard about the work of these volunteers.

The power-point presentations were left with the staff. It is our hope that they will translate the slides into SiSwati to be more useful for them to continue teaching.

It was a tiring experience, a humbling experience, and a joyous experience as we saw the work these people do with so little resources.


  • Thank you David and Mary Jane for your respectful work with the Anglican caregivers in Swaziland!

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