Lesotho: Improving the quality of life for communities

David Jamali, Lesotho Portfolio Advisor

As I boarded a plane to Lesotho from Melbourne my mind was trying to picture what Lesotho was like, this was my first trip to see World Vision’s work in some of the sponsorship projects where you sponsor a child.

Lesotho is a country rich in culture but with a small economy. Around 75 percent of Lesotho’s population live in rural areas and almost 50 percent of the population earn some income through small scale crop cultivation and raising animals.

Driving two hours towards to the World Vision Thabiseng project, the views are just spectacular; the country is just mountain after mountain.

A common sight is the rather staggering amount of billboards and signs along the roadside advertising AIDS prevention services and, even more distressingly, funeral services. Adult prevalence of AIDS in Lesotho is 28.9 percent according to the UN; the third-highest rate in the world.

As I drove further, to visit the Thabiseng project, I was reflecting on the impact of World Vision’s work in communities. I really wanted to see if our work had made any difference; so many questions came to my mind. Has the quality of life changed for Thabiseng people?

Visiting communities is overwhelming at times with so much poverty. My experience in the last eight years with World Vision has been filled with so much joy when witnessing so many positive changes that have taken place.

After I arrived at the World Vision office, the staff insisted I go straight to the field to hear stories from the community members themselves. We went straight to a household to meet Matheko, one of the women who had taken a leadership role in ensuring that the World Vision activities reflect the needs of the community. Matheko had put together a display to showcase how her household had become self-sufficient. I saw part of her maize (corn) and pumpkin harvest, pickled fruit and vegetables and samples of maize flour – all crops she harvested successfully as a result of the training and initial crops provided by the project.

 

 

She welcomed us to her house and couldn’t hide her joy of receiving visitors to share her success and the work she is doing with the community. “Show all the people in Australia, my household has enough food and surplus to last us to the next harvest period” she said. “I want to thank the people of Australia for supporting my community to become self-sufficient” she added.

World Vision has been working with this community for the last 14 years and has helped them to become resilient by focusing on promoting kitchen veggie gardens that use organic manure, teaching the community on the best farming techniques and methods and how to preserve food for later use. World Vision also worked with the community to grow and develop high yielding seed varieties suited for the Lesotho environment and weather patterns.

The community was also provided with relevant leadership training, and awareness about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and prevention methods. The Thabiseng project is also working with the Ministries of Education and Health by providing training opportunities to both education and health service providers to ensure they learn about best practices. In addition, World Vision assisted the communities to build early learning, primary and secondary schools and health facilities to ensure children and their families have access to quality education and health services.

Visiting Matheko left me very content, satisfied, inspired and in high spirits. While the poverty levels are quite depressing at times, it is moments like these that I find the reason for continuing the work I do with World Vision. It is satisfying to see and know that people like Matheko will continue to impart their knowledge to other community members and the generations to come.

Matheko lives with her seven children and two grand-children. She harvested 20 x 50kg bags of maize, while her household only needs 10 bags to last until the next harvest. She now has the opportunity to sell the surplus. Talking to her made me realise that so many more people in her community have harvested equal or more in the last harvest period.

As if she does not have enough to do, she talked about how she has joined with other women from her community to form a support group for people affected and/or infected by HIV/AIDS. At 55 she looks healthy even though she had contracted HIV in the 1990s.

Together with her group, they raise awareness on HIV/AIDS throughout her community and provide support to those who have developed AIDS. They help people by doing chores at their households and provide food assistance from their own gardens. World Vision assists support groups with the right training and information to ensure the message of HIV/AIDS reaches all community members in the Thabiseng project.

As I said good bye, I felt so happy to be associated with communities like Thabiseng and especially with inspiring individuals like Matheko. My spirit is at peace knowing when we transition from this community, as we do with all projects after 15 years, so much good will continue. I’m reminded of the “Ubuntu” concept in South Africa which basically means “We are who we are because of others.” Thank you to the sponsors in Australia for your continued support to help others in need.

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