The artist Mary Engelbreit once wrote “Open your heart. Open it wide. Someone is standing outside”.
There are few places in this world where Mary’s words ring truer than the 32 rural and remote communities in the mountains of Swaziland where Possible Dreams International focuses its work.In a country where 70% of people live in conditions of extreme poverty, a country which continues to have the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, you don’t have to look very hard to find an outsider.
They take the shape of young men and women afflicted with AIDS, orphaned children leading households bereft of any adult presence and grandmothers bravely taking up to 20 orphans at a time into their tiny houses in a valiant attempt to stem the ceaseless tide of suffering.In the context of such visceral despair, Possible Dreams International is vibrantly present. 365 days of the year our team visits families and communities in the most remote and disease ridden areas of the Lubombo Mountains of Swaziland.
This year we have provided 238 critically ill rural people with lifesaving transport to hospital and medications without which they would almost certainly have died.
A further 122 people were given further interventions such as hospital admissions or urgent medical investigations.
47 families identified as living in extreme conditions of poverty and/or disease were given special needs assistance such as provision of bedding and comfort packs for terminal illness.
This year saw PDI build four new houses for destitute families. We have worked with our builders to create a ‘PDI standard’ for every house we build so that our houses are both highly durable and functional. Our builders are derived from the community and every house is built with community involvement and approval at every step of the process.
Our Mealie Meal project to provide nutritional support for Gogos (grandmothers) with multiple orphan children (up to 22 in some cases) continues to grow. We currently provide monthly energy rich nutritional supplementation to 178 people (on average 145 of these are orphan children under the age of 15). This emergency relief aid occurs for a fixed time period during which we commence families on an income generation project and help them grow a vegetable garden so they can support themselves.
As part of our commitment towards true empowerment and the creation of sustainable change, PDI has commenced income generating projects for families living in extreme poverty. 13 families were given indigenous chicken farming training and 14 families were given training focussed in agriculture and vegetable production. 8 indigenous chicken projects were commenced with PDI being involved in every stage from designing and building chicken coops to assisting in creation of business plans and marketing strategies so that families would be able to receive the highest income from their projects. 5 new large vegetable garden projects were started for families in need with an aim to sell vegetables for income whilst 11 pre-existing gardens were cultivated and optimised with assistance from PDI.
As part of our commitment to create and nurture relationships with families in need, rural makeover projects were commenced for families with many orphaned children who are living in dire conditions. Many families who live in conditions of extreme poverty not only have very few material items, but those they have are sometimes in disarray; dirty and unhygienic. The PDI team enlists the support of the community and family members and spends a full day with a family, helping them with house cleaning, clothes washing, and educating the children and young adults about how they can do these things on a daily basis. These makeover days cost very little but are a great way of re-connecting with the families we serve and showing them that we care about every aspect of their well-being.The PDI water project in the rural community of Mambane which provides water to up to 3000 individuals has been re-vamped and a recently broken pump has been replaced so that it continues to serve the community with clean, fresh water.
The Possible Dreams International Choir is a choir of young people from the rural areas of the Lubombo region of Swaziland. Their compassionate hearts and beautiful voices have touched people around the world. When PDI builds a house, the choir is there to usher in the new chapter in the family’s life. When we have a very sick patient in the community, the choir will visit and sing to that patient, songs of hope in the darkness. 2011 saw the choir’s first international release – ‘Voices for the Voiceless’. It features two songs donated by Brendan Graham and Rolf Løvland , composers of the worldwide smash ‘You Raise Me Up’.
We are so grateful to our ambassadors who donated generously and held fundraisers throughout the world in support of our projects. The ‘It’s not just a truck, its life’ campaign raised enough funds for the purchase of a truck for our important work in the field. Without this generous support we would not be able to continue our lifesaving work in the field. Our ambassadors are truly diverse in their backgrounds and ways of living. We are united by compassion in working towards empowering those in need.
In 2012 we hope to consolidate and expand each of our projects in the field and grow our ‘pay it forward’ program so that every family who is assisted in turn helps another family within their community in their own creative way. Our mission is true empowerment in the setting of poverty and disease, and we will continue to strive 365 days of the year to live out that purpose.
Our Co-ordinator of projects, Cyprian Ngozo, told me last year “Doc, we are no longer simply partnering with the community. Possible Dreams International is part of the community.”
We thank you for the part you continue to play in making the dream possible.
Together we can,