By Bishop José Luis IMC
As soon as the Christmas and new year’s holidays are over and people are back at work at “Caritas Swaziland” and the offices of the “Diocese of Manzini”, long queues are also seen outside our premises. The reason is always the same: they are looking for help to pay the school fees.
At the beginning of the year there is a day when myself, as the bishop of the diocese, welcome those asking for help. For the last three years, I do this in partnership with Caritas Swaziland. People have to come twice. The first time they are interviewed by the Caritas Swaziland team. The second time, only those to whom help has been granted, come again to collect it.
While this happens every year, what keeps on changing is the number of requests. While around 200 people came in January 2015, 600 came in 2016. Three times’ more!
Still, nothing prepared us for the more than one thousand that came this year. The total amount requested was E 1.400.000 (more than US$ 100.000 !!!).
Unfortunately our resources are limited and only 360 were selected by the Caritas Swaziland team to receive some help. We are never able to pay the full amount of their fees but we want to make sure these families are able to send their children to school at the beginning of the year.
I was able to allocate three days to welcome each one of them. Had I known the number I would have allocated the whole week…
For me it is always an opportunity to listen to their situation…
- most of them are orphans of one or both parents
- the parent or the relative who provided for them
- is now unemployed
- is sick and lost his / her job
- one of the parents or both are handicapped
- many children and unable to provide for all of them
- they live on the selling of vegetables which does not provide enough for school fees
- last year’s drought affected them badly
- they are supported by the grant the government gives the elderly which is about US$20 per month and is given every three months…
In some cases the request is presented by “caregivers”, people who feel compassion and look after these orphans in every possible way: their health, food and education.
In some others by their neighbors who feels for the family when they see both parents are unemployed and the family is struggling seriously.
Two situations touched me in a particular way:
- the cases of fathers who left the family and never went back…
- the orphans who try to work here and there to pay for their own school fees
Though the amount we helped them with was much smaller than last year because of the number of requests, they were all very grateful as in many cases they really did not have anything at all and children would have had to stay at home.
We are always grateful to all those who make this help possible. Part of the money is collected in our diocese but another part comes from friends and organizations who want to be part of this project towards our teenage brothers and sisters.
“Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father, is this:
coming to the help of orphans and widows in their hardships,
and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.”
(James 1: 27)