The second week of our study abroad trip was spent in Bulembu, which is a small town located in Swaziland. Although it was previously a mining town, Bulembu has been completely renovated and converted into an orphan village. Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Swaziland, there is a major orphan crisis. As a non-profit organization, the vision at Bulembu is to raise leaders & restore a town for a sustainable kingdom transformation. They plan to do this through enterprise & community care. Community care includes providing child care, health care, and education for the children of the town. Community enterprise includes sustainable business through the town's enterprises: Bakery, Creativity Center, Dairy, Honey, Timber, Water. These two entities work hand in hand with the hopes of creating a sustainable business for the community. Bulembu also accomodates guests who are interested in volunteering or simply visiting the town for a couple of days. We were fortunate enough to stay in this town for a week. I can honestly say that it was one of the best weeks of my life. It was a true "vacation". I was able to relax and completely renew my soul. Without cell service, I got the chance to develop & build relationships with those around me. It was amazing to witness this town & to see the vision that Bulembu has for the children of Swaziland. We were surrounded by beauty the whole week.
I had so many major "moments" during my stay in Bulembu. Moments of pure bliss, moments of joy, moments of sadness, moments of clarity, moments of pure gratitude, moments of guilt, moments of misunderstanding and many more indescribable moments. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to visit such a special place. I am even more grateful for the bonds that I formed on the trip.
Since we were at an orphanage, I often times found myself feeling guilty. Guilty about what? My privilege. The privilege of being able to sit in my apartment on my computer and talk about my trip to another country. This is all such a luxury and I definitely realize that. Its hard to truly grasp why some people are born into better/worse circumstances than others. Life isn't fair & we all know that. However, I also realized that feeling guilty doesn't do anyone justice. The best thing that we can do is use our resources, privilege, and opportunity to help create a better quality of life for others. That's what I took away from this trip and I honestly say that it was life changing.
I'm grateful that I had a week to practice "being present". Since I had zero cell service this entire week, I got the chance to appreciate each & every moment. I'd look out into the mountains and be like, "Wow! I'm really here". Those moments are necessary. At night, we'd go into an abandoned building with a few guys from Bulembu to just sing and dance. It sounds so odd, but it was so much fun! We'd be in a old,dark building with a flashlight harmonizing, salsa-dancing, and trying to pick up popular African Dances from our new friend Andrew. Just pure, simple fun. Its kind of interesting how we have all of these "things" in the US and we still manage to feel "bored". So this trip shined light on a lot of things and brought a lot of issues to my attention.
Oh & If you're wondering why there are no pictures of the children, it's because we weren't allowed to post any photographs of them for the sake of their safety/privacy.
If you're interested in learning more about Bulembu or getting involved in some way, visit http://www.bulembu.org/. You can choose to support an enterprise, which will flow into their sustainability fund. You can also choose to donate/sponsor a child. Bulembu brings in volunteers or interns as well. After spending one week in this mining town turned orphanage, I was able to witness first-hand the heart that is put into this place and the hearts that are impacted in return.