At the end of November, our team traveled to Eswatini to check in and understand the effect of COVID-19 on our initiatives. During their travels, our team took every safety precaution, prioritizing the health of those around them, as well as their own. Jami Porzl (President), Sophia Caputo (Media Director), and Alessandra Billi (Chairwoman), travelled to Sharing Hope Farm—formerly Lubombo Valley Farms—in Eswatini to visit our staff and assess the farm’s operations. Our team had the opportunity to see the concrete results of your generosity at work. Thanks to our donors and supporters, we were able to purchase a new drip irrigation system for the farm, which saves enormous amounts of precious time and resources.
During the trip, Jami, Sophia, and Allie spent time with our team in Africa to prepare for our upcoming transition into the new year, as a new 501(c)(3) certified charity under the name Sharing Hope Africa. The name was chosen in honor of Mr. Joseph Bhila, a native Mozambican who has served communities in Eswatini for the past thirty years, and his original mission. The transition will help us better educate, equip, and empower the communities we serve in Southern Africa.
Sophia Caputo kept us updated via Instagram throughout her thirty-hour travel day, where she journeyed from LAX to Heathrow Airport in London (most trips to Southern Africa take 30+ hours). From LHR, Sophia traveled to OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. Jami and Sophia arrived in Eswatini on Tuesday, November 17th.
Day Two: Jami and Sophia spent Thursday morning at the Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Located in Eswatini’s oldest conservation area, it is the Ezulwini Valley of central Eswatini. The sanctuary is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including zebras, antelope, white and black rhinoceros, and over five-hundred species of birds. That afternoon, Jami and Sophia turned their attention to preparations for Giving Tuesday.
Day Three & Four: Jami and Sophia spent Friday and Saturday at Sharing Hope Farm in Lubombo Valley. They visited Linda, our farm manager, who has worked tirelessly to ensure operations on the farm run smoothly. Currently, we’re focused on growing maize at the farm, and it looks incredible!
Our team had the incredible opportunity to hear Linda speak about his expertise and passion for farming and his vision for Sharing Hope Farm.
Allie arrived on Saturday and went with Jami and Sophia straight to Sharing Hope Farms. Jami, Allie and Sophia assisted in the installation of the new drip irrigation system. With the help of our donors, we were able to purchase the necessary pipes to finish growing our maize crop. The system will prevent water waste and save hours of work, allowing Linda to start selling our crops to vendors and generate revenue for the community. Your generosity and support made this possible, and we are unceasingly grateful for the support of the Sharing Hope Family!
The sprinkler system was funded through our Water Relief Campaign in August of this year. Currently, we are working on raising $2,000 to fund the purchase of two new water storage tanks for Sharing Hope Farm. The new water tanks will help to store more water as we turn our eyes to doubling the fields for maize & beans, our major cash crops as well as opening the tree plot for mangos. If you’d like to help us reach our goal, we are accepting donations via: https://gf.me/u/zav9pj.
Day Five: Our team spent the day at the church in Madudula, to teach arts and crafts during Sunday School. “Spending time with the kids never fails to be an incredible experience that lifts our spirits,” Sophia posted, along with pictures from the day’s events. In a time of distancing and separation, it is extremely important to show the communities we serve that we are still here to support them and love them in a COVID-conscious way.
Day Six: Our team attended an Eswatini Sign Language lesson, taught by the amazing ESL instructor, Fanelo, before visiting the Deaf Hands Workshop. The Deaf Hands Workshop is a group of individuals who work together to make beautiful handicraft items. We look forward to expanding a partnership with them in the near future.
Sophia and Jami also had the opportunity to visit an orphan care point to deliver relief packages of food to feed eighty-two kiddos and distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste, and coloring books. Since the schools are closed due to COVID-19, children are not getting fed the one meal a day provided as school. For some families, they rely on the children to be fed at school because it would be their only meal that day. The orphan care points are facing the brunt of this disconnect. They are now seeing an influx of children that need to be fed, however their budgets are still the same as pre-COVID thereby restricting the ability to keep up with demand. Our team looks forward to being able to provide additional assistance as we look to expand our reach and supporter base in the new year.
Day Seven: Our team tagged along with Comfort For Africa and Fanelo, the Eswatini Sign Language instructor, to pick up food to be distributed at the deaf church in St. Philip’s. Comfort For Africa is a faith-based organization working closely with communities in Eswatini and the Republic of South Africa. In 106° heat, the Sharing Hope team helped Fanelo and the Comfort for Africa team load twelve parcels of food into a pickup truck and deliver it to St. Phillips. One parcel, which costs $25, is enough to feed a family for two months.
In the afternoon, the Sharing Hope team purchased the additional, new pipes necessary to complete the new drip irrigation system. We couldn’t have funded this crucial project without your help!
Day Eight: Our team spent the day helping out at Sharing Hope Farm. Our team also visited Máke Theresa’s care point in Nyambo. Due to COVID-19, it has been difficult to get food parcels delivered to the kiddos. Linda helps out at the care point whenever possible and helps with the small vegetable garden at the care point originally established by the founders of One Heart Africa to help relieve the effects of the food shortage.
Day Nine: The Sharing Hope Team got a COVID-19 test in preparation for departure. While they waited for the results, they spent the morning in their second ESL class with Fanelo. In the afternoon, they shopped for the Zondle Girl’s Home and continued with Giving Tuesday preparations. Our team even celebrated a small, socially distanced Thanksgiving celebration.
Day Ten: Our team visited Ngwenya Glass out near the north-west border with South Africa. Ngwenya Glass’s art and glassware is crafted ethically by emaSwatini men and women from 100% recycled glass. Then the girls got their negative COVID-19 test results. Lastly, the team partook in Black Friday shopping to finalize the care packages for the Zondle Girl’s Home.
Day Eleven: The Sharing Hope team spent their last day in Eswatini delivering care packages to Zondle’s Girls Home. Each contained: one outfit, a pair of shoes, a PPE mask, feminine care products, and bags handmade by the Deaf Hands Workshop that were custom embroidered with each girl’s name.
After, our team visited Swazi Candles, a candle-making company based in Eswatini. Swazi Candles makes handmade, traditional paraffin wax candles and 100% organic soya candle tea lights. Swazi Candles, along with Ngwenya Glass, are certified fair trade companies based in Eswatini, and the Sharing Hope Team is working on partnering with sustainable and fair trade businesses, such as these two, for exciting fundraising opportunities in the new year.
To wrap up the trip, the Sharing Hope Team attended a farewell dinner at Nando’s to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people who made this trip possible, including our Africa-based team and our good friends in the community. We are grateful for the opportunity to visit our wonderful friends, supporters, and staff. Additionally, we are very appreciative of our friends at Comfort For Africa for hosting us at their house for the entire trip; Mick and Cathy were such a treat to stay with and we look forward to seeing them again soon. The Sharing Hope Team had the opportunity to oversee the installation of crucial water scarcity and COVID-19 relief projects that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our donors and volunteers. As we move into the new year, we are preparing for our transition and excited for what the future holds.