Kids are Kids, No Matter Where You are.

Often times, when comparing two cultures, it is the differences that stand out. When I return from Africa and tell my friends about my experiences there, much of what I relay are the things that separate Swazi culture from my own here in the US. . . and there are plenty of these differences to report.

I have also found things that are very much the same between our two cultures. One of thing I’ve noticed while spending time at the orphanage, and am very glad to report, is that kids are kids! 

It seems that whether at home in Michigan, or on top of a mountain in Southern Africa, there are certain aspects of being a kid that are identical . . . and I suspect, universal.

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Kids are cool. Yes, even at El Shaddai where clothes are almost exclusively donated hand-me-downs, kids have no problem piecing together a Look. Factor in some tough poses and fashion-model-quality facial expressions, and the coolness of kids in eSwatini cannot be denied. They have even perfected the  I’m too cool for you eye roll that I thought American kids had exclusive rights to. Kids are kids and teens are teens, and I wouldn’t want it any other way 🙂

 

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Funny face making seems to be a skill that doesn’t need to be learned. . . I think it may be genetic. Our kids at the Orphanage have no shortage of funny face genes.

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It is the right of every child on the planet to be able to showoff a little. I was privileged to have witnessed this impressive display of muscle while hanging with the boys.

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Mischief! As adults, we sometimes wonder how much easier life would be if kids simply did what they are supposed to do and never broke the rules. But kids are kids, and getting into mischief is part of being a kid . . . even in Africa (they know they are not to be playing on the water tank). As frustrating as it can be, I would suspect something was very wrong at the orphanage if there weren’t some type of shenanigans going on from time to time.

You can learn more about El Shaddai Children’s Home and Compassionate Life at our website, Compassionate Life.

El Shaddai Children’s Home could use Your Help.

Pictured above is a “Jojo” or water tank that stores the water supply that the El Shaddai Children’s Home relies on. These Jojos are filled from water that is pumped from a bore hole located on the neighboring mountain.

Last week, heavy rains and wind caused an electric wire to short at the El Shaddai Orphanage resulting in a small fire and destroying the water pump and breaker panel that supplies the orphanage with water as well as two refrigerators. Repair costs are estimated to exceed $4000.

Please be in prayer for resolution to this problem as El Shaddai has been without water since the storm. Donations to help address this unexpected problem can be made at www.james127.org Or on the Compassionate Life Facebook Page and are greatly appreciated.

The El Shaddai Children’s Home is home to over sixty orphans left in the wake of Swaziland’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. This small country in southern Africa currently has the highest rate of HIV and AIDS in the world creating a staggering number of children left with no parents or family. Many of the children who have found a home at the orphanage were rescued from homelessness and near starvation.

 

Adjusting to My Life of Privilege.

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I could see it on some of the faces I met. It was that look of bewilderment or possibly even a mild disgust. The look conveyed an inability to understand my life of extravagance. It was a look that I knew all too well. . . . not from seeing it . . it was a look I had worn myself at times.

I’m not a rich person, not here in America. My income is well short of breaking into six digits. I’m like everyone else I know who looks at the Bill Gates of the world and can’t understand why anyone would need to accumulate that much wealth. I can reason that Bill Gates has earned his money and does, in fact, give away vast amounts of it. But despite my best efforts, I catch myself in moments of resentment over him having it. Sometimes I catch myself complaining that I don’t have enough. Now, as I stood in Swaziland, Africa, I found myself being viewed with that same look of not understanding my wealth . . . I had suddenly become Bill Gates.

I own seven pairs of shoes. There are two pairs of sneakers (One normal and one pair of Chuck Taylor’s), work boots, a pair of hiking boots, my funeral/wedding shiny shoes, my winter boots, and a pair of flip flops. I don’t think my shoe owning is excessive. By many people’s standards here in the US, my shoe collection is quite modest. Bill Gates probably owns a hundred pairs of shoes. Now I found myself standing before people who owned a single pair of shoes that left their toes visible through holes worn from years of use . . . or people who owned no shoes at all.

My house is small and crappy. We barely have places to keep all our stuff. Yet, when I compared my house to the one I was invited into in Manzini, my house seemed like a palace. I had running water in my house, and a flushing toilet, heat, air conditioning, kitchen appliances. I realized that I had been taking mundane things like carpet, socks, paper towel and my seven pairs of shoes for granted. Most people here have none of these luxuries.

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Houses here in Swaziland are simple concrete or block structures, often without windows . . . unless you are visiting a shanty town, and then they are made of garbage. Most don’t have running water, or electricity. Many don’t have a stove to cook on.

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As Americans, we’ve all said, or nodded in agreement, how fortunate we are to live where we live and have what we have. For me, I don’t think I really knew what that meant until I was in Africa. I was now looking at what these statements really mean, with my own eyes. I now had a new definition for the term “life of privilege”.

I’m not going to tell anyone they should change their opinions on the Bill Gates of the world. Like I’ve said, I’ve had those thoughts myself at times. What I am saying is that we should at least be consistent with our opinions of wealthy people. If you want to hold contempt for someone who owns a hundred pair of shoes instead of seven, please feel free, but don’t turn around and take offense to someone with no shoes finding the same lack of understanding for someone who owns seven pairs. If I’m going to suggest that there is something wrong with Mr. Gates net worth, I have to accept that through the eyes of others, there is something wrong with mine. I might not be a billionaire, but there are plenty of places in the world where I can go to be considered filthy rich.

 

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Compassionate Life Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides funding for the El Shaddai Orphanage, and CLF student center in Swaziland.

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