Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas in Mokhotlong

Being away from home over the holidays is always strange and that, coupled with my first December summer, made the approaching Christmas season feel a bit surreal. However, we started off our holiday weekend with the staff Christmas party on Thursday and all of the singing, dancing, gift-giving, and feasting infused me with ample Christmas cheer. Add a Christmas Eve bonfire, some holiday baking, and a wonderful Christmas meal at the Lephoto’s and it turned out to be a great holiday.

It is interesting to celebrate a major holiday in another country, and impossible to refrain from noting the similarities and differences to the customs and celebrations I am familiar with in the U.S. I’ll share with you some of my observations:


- Since Electricity is still somewhat of a novelty in Mokhotlong, you do not find the streets lined with lit trees or colorful electric displays of Santa and reindeer in people’s front yards. In fact, the lead up to the holiday seems almost nonexistent (from my isolated foreigner's perspective, anyway). Though opulent Christmas displays do usually get one in the Christmas spirit, I think America might place more importance on all that Christmas hype than the day itself so in some ways it is refreshing to experience a refined holiday - Christmas just as Christmas.

- Christmas Dinner.

See full size image
<-- In the United States

In Lesotho -->


- Basotho and Americans alike tend to leave Christmas shopping until the last minute. Rachel and I went to Pep (a store in Mokhotlong that sells… everything?) an hour before it closed on Christmas Eve to buy marshmallows for the aforementioned bonfire and had to stand in line for nearly a half an hour to get to the register! It was kind of a madhouse in there.

- Families in Lesotho love Christmas celebrations like the rest of us, and they splurge on Christmas also. They don’t have credit cards to max out at the mall though. Instead, they "dip into their savings" by using most of their food rations, namely maize meal, for Christmas celebrations. I have been told that this celebration makes January a particularly hungry month for many families here. TTL, thanks to generous donations made by local organizations, is giving families more food than is in their usual monthly package this December in hopes that giving food to use for Christmas celebrations will limit food shortages in January.

Like so much of my experience at TTL, the holiday reminded me yet again how fortunate we are in North America to have so much - so much family, so much food, so much of everything really.

Merry Christmas to all of our TTL supporters! Thank you for your generosity and attention to our cause. We are so blessed to have such a strong network of support. We wish you the happiest of holidays.

Cooking mutton for the staff Christmas braai.

Gift exchange at the Christmas party - involved a lot of singing and dancing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Taxi Fare

People who are just learning about TTL frequently ask about our role in the lives of children after they leave the safehome. All of our safehome babies become outreach clients when they are reunified with their families, meaning that TTL still supports them with monthly food packages and monitors them to make sure they are continuing to make strides in their growth and development. When we are confident that these children have the care and resources to continue progressing without TTL's assistance, they are "graduated" from these services. However, even when they no longer require our check-ups and nutritional support, TTL does its best to ensure that the health needs of these children are met.

To illustrate TTL's efforts to be an ongoing source of support to the children we reach, below are Leboneng and Nako.
Leboneng, now 6 years old, was in the safehome from 2006-2007. Nako, 3, stayed with us in 2009 and 2010. These boys are no longer part of our outreach program, but they stop by TTL once a month to get the taxi fair TTL gives them to come to Mokhotlong Hospital to pick up their ARVs. The boys live in the same area and arrive together with their caregivers, who cannot afford the cost of transportation. How much money does TTL spend on making sure Leboneng and Nako get these important drugs every month? Just over $2. The adage "a little goes a long way" comes to mind.

Although the availability of ARVs in Lesotho has vastly improved in the past couple of years, access to the clinics and hospitals that provide them can still be a challenge to those living in rural villages. I can't say for certain what would happen if TTL did not provide this assistance to Leboneng and Nako, but it is a real possibility that they would not get their ARVs, depriving them of the chance to live healthy lives in spite of HIV.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Karabo leaves, Khatatso arrives

Today, Karabo was reunited with her mother and grandmother after a 3 month stay in the safehome. Referred to TTL by a rural health clinic, at 1 and ½ she weighed only 8 kg and was unable to stand without support. In her letter to TTL, the nurse reported that “the child was weaned too early having been advised to do so by a traditional doctor. Now the child is malnourished since the mother cannot sustain supplementary feeds.” During her time in the safehome, Karabo has made great progress with gaining weight (now at a healthy 9.15 kg), starting to say words and taking her first hesitant steps by herself. No doubt she will be running around all by herself soon enough and we're happy that she was healthy enough to return to her family in time for Christmas.

Last week, Khathatso arrived at the safehome after being referred through our Village Health Worker Network. He had recently been admitted to hospital for kwashiorkor, a form of acute malnutrition due to a lack of protein. Khathatso's mother passed away over a year ago due to TB and his aunt had taken on the role as caregiver. With 4 other children in the house under the age of 5 and no stable source of income, TTL was concerned that Khathatso's aunt might be stretched too thin to provide him with all the support he needs to recover and get his development back on track. At almost three years old, Khathatso has adapted to the safehome the fastest out of any of the children I have seen here so far. Most children, particularly the older ones, take a few days to adjust to the safehome sticking close to the Bo’me and avoiding the other kids. Khathatso on the other hand was laughing and playing by the end of day 1.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

more visitors

With three kids leaving the safehome and meetings and errands in Maseru, last week was busy. Friday capped it all of with three groups of visitors coming to TTL!

First, our partners at Sentebale arrived with their supporter Ein Herz Fur Kinder in a helicopter on TTL's front door step. It was an opportunity for Ein Herz Fur Kinder and Sentebale's UK staff to learn more about TTL and the types of challenges faced by OVCs in the mountains of Lesotho.

This was followed in the afternoon with a meeting with TTL's Board so that the TTL could staff meet the new members and provide them with a brief orientation. It was great to hear how committed everyone is to supporting vulnerable children in Mokhotlong and we're looking forward to working together in the new year.

And then at the end of the day, TTL received a visit from the local branch of Standard Lesotho Bank. They have generously donated maize meal that TTL will be able to distribute to our clients to improve families' food stability while they are waiting for the crops to come in. With the continuing drought this year, the crops are already very far behind and so this food is badly needed by families in the region.

Thank you to Standard Lesotho Bank for their generous donation!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

1 in 4

1 in 4 people in Lesotho are infected with HIV/AIDS. This is the third highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world and the consequences of this epidemic are apparent across the entirety of this small nation.

1 in 4 children in Lesotho are orphaned. This means that over 130,000 children – and roughly 9% of the total population of Lesotho – is missing one or both parents.

These statistics cannot be seen as unrelated. It is estimated that 65% of Basotho children have been orphaned because of AIDS and no family, or child, in Lesotho is immune from the devastating impacts HIV/AIDS has had –and continues to have -on this small mountain kingdom.

Today, December 1, is World Aids Day. TTL has been able to commemorate this day in the best way possible: a graduation from the safehome.

Lerato and I arrived at TTL at about the same time and her story has always stuck in my mind as the exact reason TTL is needed in the area. Here’s her story:

Lerato arrived at the safehome in mid-August. She was malnourished, showed poor developmental growth, and had tested positive for HIV just weeks before. Her mother had passed away from HIV related causes and she was being cared for by her aunt who suffers from the after-effects of a stroke. Immediately after arriving at the safehome Lerato started to show signs of improvement. She was started on ARVs and went from being very lethargic and barely able to walk to walking, dancing and even running around the playroom. She also loved to have her picture taken and would put on a very serious face until a second after the flash when she would dissolve into a fit of giggles.

However, while Lerato’s nutrition and health has greatly improved, she is still developmentally delayed. She celebrated her 4th birthday in October but her behaviour has often been hard to distinguish from children in the safehome who are 1-2 years younger. The safehome caregivers have worked hard with her, encouraging her to say words and feed herself, but it’s difficult to assess how much of an impact her HIV status – and long bouts of malnourishment and illness – has had on her development. But Lerato has also always seemed to be very influenced by the other children around her. During her stay at the safehome, when there were older children who were walking and feeding themselves, she was often more motivated to do these things as well.

When we took Lerato home to her aunt today, her brother and cousin were there to greet her. There were also about a dozen other children who had gathered to see what was happening. Hopefully with the influence of older siblings and playmates around, Lerato will continue to make improvements in her development – wanting to talk, and feed herself, and do all the other things the older children (and sometimes children of the same age) are doing. Combined with the nutritional and medical support that the Outreach team will continue to provide, hopefully for once the odds will be stacked in Lerato’s favour.

My one wish for this World Aids Day is that next year at this time, when Lerato will have turned 5 and the school year about to start again in January, she will be healthy, successfully taking her ARVs, and ready to start primary school with all the other children.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

christmas comes early

On Friday, TTL got a great start to the Christmas season thanks to the generosity of the Lesotho Institute of Accounts (LIA), working in partnership with the Lesotho Revenue Authority and STANLIB. TTL was thrilled to host the event organised by the LIA and share the generous donations from these three institutions with local women's support groups in the region.

Thank you to Lesotho Institute of Accounts, Lesotho Revenue Authority and STANLIB! Their kind gifts of blankets, clothing, and especially food items, will be of great benefit to TTL’s babies and all the families we support.

With the sun shining brightly and lots of singing and ululating it was a great way to the end the week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Full House

The TTL safehome is staying busy and crowded! Two babies leave, four more arrive. We now have 13! Let me introduce you to the new babies in the playroom.

MAMELLO – Mamello has been at the safehome for almost two weeks. Her mother passed away and her grandmother, who is now her primary caregiver, is paralyzed and unable to care for her right now. Mamello is HIV+ and on antiretroviral therapy. She is a happy kid, eating well and walking on her own.

PUSO – Puso was brought to the TTL safehome at the end of last week. He is five months old and small for his age. He tested positive for HIV and will begin antiretroviral therapy this week. He is a curious baby, constantly checking out any action going on around him.

PELAELO - Pelaelo is our newest safehome member, arriving just in time for dinner last night. He was brought to the outreach workers who were picking up Thatohatsi's mother to bring her to the hospital yesterday. Pelaelo lives in a neighboring village to Thatohatsi (a 3 1/2 hour drive from Mokhotlong). 3 years old, Pelaelo is malnourished and has been sick much of his short life. He tested positive for HIV this month and TTL will help him get started on ART as soon as possible.

THATOHATSI – Thatohatsi is the baby girl who Rachel wrote about picking up in her last post. She spent one night in the safehome before she was admitted to the hospital because of her cough, fever, and respiratory problems. She was also vomiting after eating. She is a tiny 3 month-old, weighing only 2.1 kg (about 4.6 lbs.). Sadly, Thatohatsi’s twin was also sick and died last week. Thatohatsi's mother joined her at the hospital last night where she is receiving IV antibiotics and being closely monitored. When she is discharged from the hospital she will return to the safehome.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States! Being at TTL makes me realize just how much I have to be grateful for, and how often I take it all for granted. Thank you for all of your support and have a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

building a legacy

On Monday, the two TTLF fellows – myself and Meghan – and two members of the TTL Outreach Team – Kokonyana and Nthabeleng Lehela – went off to see a set of baby twins that TTL had heard about through our Village Health Worker Network. Both babies were underweight and the mother had been struggling with breastfeeding and so we were off to see how TTL might be able to assist the family. I knew that the twins lived far away but it was Monday and I had been distracted in the morning answering emails so when Kokonyana came to tell me it was time to go at 8:30am, I quickly ran to the kitchen to grab an apple and hopped in the truck. I had no idea that we wouldn’t be returning to TTL until 7pm. Although, I’m not sure anyone in the truck realised it was going to be such a long day.

We left Mokhotlong and drove further and further out into the mountains –and as per usual, the further we went, the worst the road got. About three hours into the drive, we started to periodically stop along the way asking whatever Mosotho we could find if we were still on the right track. Each time there was a quick exchange in Sesotho and a hand that gestured off to the mountains in the distance – we had to just keep going. Across a river and over a few more precarious mountain sides, we arrived in another small village and what looked like the end of the road. The Outreach Staff asked a man sitting outside his rondavel about the family we were searching for and again there was a hand pointing off to the mountains in the distance. We weren’t there just yet but this was as far as the truck would be going – we would be walking the rest of the way. Along with directions, the villager also gave us some bad news: one of the babies had passed away earlier in the week.

So off we went by foot, even more uncertain about what we would find at the end of the road. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at a set of four rondavels on the side of the mountain but after a few calls of ‘Ko Ko’ it didn’t seem like anyone was home. Eventually, we spotted a woman off in the fields and called her over – it turns out she was the sister in-law of the mother of the twins. She confirmed that one of the babies had died and the mother had taken the other baby to the local traditional healer. She suggested that we speak to her mother in-law and brought us over to the fourth rondavel where we found three more family members. The grandmother was thrilled at the sight of Meghan and I, exclaiming that we were the first white people to be in her home. I honestly wasn’t surprised, her home felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. After the Outreach Workers explained to the family about TTL we were off with the sister-in law as our guide to find the mother of the twins.

Down and up another mountainside, we arrived at another cluster of houses and managed to find the father of the twins. We were one step closer to finding the mother and baby. But while the father agreed to find the mother for us, he seemed reluctant to accept TTL’s support. So while he went off to get his wife and baby, we set out to find the chief, hoping that he might persuade the father to accept TTL’s support.

By the time we were meeting with the village chief it was already after 3pm. After a long conversation with him, and another discussion with the father, it was agreed the baby would come with us to the safehome. I think what really helped convince the father was his sister-in law. Before her marriage she had lived in a different village, one where TTL had been, and she explained to him that she knew of babies that we had helped and the difference TTL could make.

As we headed back across the fields and mountainsides towards the TTL truck, this time mother and baby in tow, I was relieved that the baby would be coming back to the safehome with us – particularly because this village seemed so far away from any type of help. Driving the long 4 hour trip back to TTL, I held on tightly to this tiny baby who was supposed to be 3 months old, but looked much much younger, trying to protect her as much as possible from the bumps on the road. As I thought about the day everything was a mix of emotions. I was hungry and tired, happy and hopeful that we would be able to help this little girl, sad and frustrated that TTL hadn’t been able to get there sooner to help her twin, and comforted by the fact that the sister-in law stepped in on TTL’s behalf and knew who we were. It is a sign that TTL is truly building a legacy for itself across the region, and the more people who know of TTL means the more vulnerable babies TTL will be able to help.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

a day on outreach

Yesterday we planned to visit 4 clients in the Mapholeneng area (about 35 km from TTL) to do monthly outreach health assessments and to distribute food and formula. The clients all lived in different villages so we traversed many hills and bumpy roads meet them.

Our first visit was to Boikarabelo, a small baby girl we found bundled in her rondavel with her dad and sister – her mother had gone down to the river to get water. Aside from a little diaper rash, she looked healthy and is growing well. The mother has been unable to breastfeed so TTL has supplied the family with formula to ensure that Boikarabelo does not become malnourished – a big risk to babies in Lesotho whose mothers cannot breastfeed and whose families cannot afford formula. Before we left we weighed and measured Boikarabelo and replenished the family’s formula supply.

The rest of our day did not go as smoothly. We found our next two clients at home, but their caregivers were absent. Their mothers and grandmothers had gone to Malaphaneng town to receive rations from the World Food Program. We weighed and measured the kids – Tsepiso and Moleleki, and then left to try to track their caregivers down. We arrived at the Red Cross in Mapholeneng, where the WFP was distributing food and found hundreds of people and an assembly of donkeys, waiting to receive food support. We asked around but could not find Tsepiso’s mom or Moleleki’s grandmother in the crowd. We will have to return to their households to discuss their children’s health and development – especially Moleleki, whose malnourishment does not appear to be improving even with TTL’s food support.

No one was around at the last home we visited. A lot of driving to accomplish nothing. The outreach staff tells me that this is unusual – families are usually at home when we visit, but the inability to communicate easily with our clients’ families is one of the obstacles TTL has to work around. It is also one of the reasons why TTL’s work is so important in this region of Lesotho because we are supporting families who are isolated and hard to reach, living far away from access to most aid services. Failing to meet with these clients and caregivers was disappointing, but it was good to see first hand some of the challenges the TTL faces in its outreach to rural mountain villages.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

a new arrival of a different kind

TTL is happy to introduce the newest addition to its team in Mokhotlong: Meghan Harrington. 

Over the next four months, Meghan and I will share this blog space and try to keep everyone updated on all the happy and sad, fun and mundane, events that make up life at TTL. And with that, I'll let Meghan continue her introduction herself...

Hello from Touching Tiny Lives!  I’m Meghan Harrington, a new TTLF Fellow, here in Mokhotlong for just four months. My time here is flying by – I arrived about three weeks ago and thanks to the friendly hospitality that everyone at TTL has shown me, I am feeling right at home. Having heard so many wonderful things about TTL from Bridget, Reid, and Kevin’s time here (my sister, brother-in-law, and brother-in-law’s brother respectively), I’m happy to report that my experience thus far has exceeded even the high expectations I had coming over. Lesotho is a beautiful country, full of friendly people, and I am humbled to be working for an organization that is successfully tackling some of the biggest challenges facing this country. 

The impact TTL has on tiny lives in Lesotho is evident the moment you arrive on TTL’s campus. Eleven little ones greeted me, most already on their way to becoming healthy, growing kids thanks to the nutrition and medical support provided in the safe home. One 2 ½ year old little boy, Ralithakang, had arrived at TTL a few days before me, severely malnourished, HIV+, and infected with tuberculosis. While the other children played, he preferred to lie down, too sick to smile or move around. Witnessing Ralithakang’s progress in the last 3 weeks has been the most inspiring part of my time at TTL. He is laughing at everything, trying to talk, and walking with support. Seeing his transformation confirms how important this work is  – TTL is giving these kids the opportunity to survive.

Yesterday Tsepang and Retsepile, two of the kids in the safe home, were picked up by their moms and taken home. I was sad to see their familiar faces leave us, but it was also a reminder of the great function that TTL’s safe home serves when these now healthy, happy babies are reunited with their families.

So grateful for the opportunity to be here, witnessing all of the wonderful things happening at Touching Tiny Lives.

Monday, October 17, 2011

new arrival

It's lunchtime at TTL and I poked my head into the safehome to find only two babies sitting on the mat ready for lunch. Everyone else was curled up fast asleep, including our newest arrival: Lebohang.

Lebohang is 6 weeks old and his parent's first child. His mother has just passed away due to complications during childbirth that were most likely negatively impacted by her positive HIV status. As his chubby cheeks show, Lebohang's current health is pretty good compared to most of the children who come to the safehome. However, the misdiagnosis of his mother's HIV status during pregnancy means that Lebohang was exposed to HIV. Doctors at the  hospital thought it would be best for Lebohang to come to TTL so that he can receive all the care he needs while his family deals with the loss of his mother. This will also allow us to test Lebohang's HIV status so that a proper care plan can be identified as early as possible.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

treading the forgotten sky

Touching Tiny Lives is very grateful to Theresa Adams and everyone working for, and supporting, Treading the Forgotten Sky.

Theresa embarked on an amazing journey across Lesotho to raise funds and awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic that impacts every corner of this small, beautiful nation.

From all the families we work with and TTL staff, thank you so much including us in this amazing project. Treading the Forgotten Sky's generous donation will have a significant impact on TTL's efforts to mitigate the effects of HIV/AIDS on Lesotho's children.

Some of TTL's babies also wanted to say thanks! All these children are part of TTL's Outreach program and will benefit from the amazing efforts and generosity of Theresa and all those involved with Treading the Forgotten Sky.

Monday, October 3, 2011

october 1st

Saturday, October 1st marked the International Day of Older People. While sometimes it feels like there are so many days of ‘international recognition’, this one is pretty poignant for TTL and its clients. Like so many countries deeply impacted by the HIV epidemic, grandparents in Lesotho are raising their children’s children.

I spent Saturday with TTL’s Outreach team, driving to a village about 3 hours outside of Mokhotlong to visit a ‘grandmother-headed household’. Tlotlo had been referred to us through TTL’s village health worker network. Tlotlo's mother passed away a few weeks after her birth, leaving Tlotlo and 4 siblings to be cared for by their 71 year old grandmother. At just 1 month old, and with so many children in the house, the outreach staff was concerned about the family's ability to access and purchase formula to feed Tlotlo. After talking with the grandmother, it was decided that it would be best for Tlotlo to come and stay at the safehome for awhile where he can have access to all the food and support he needs during this period of critical early growth.

Tlotlo is now at TTL, bringing the number of babies in the safehome up to 7 – twice as many as we had only a week ago.

Monday, September 26, 2011

lesotho sun

There are days when the constant sun/wind combination in Lesotho starts to feel like too much.

This weekend I travelled with Nthabeleng just south of Maseru to Roma: the home of the National University of Lesotho. It was the annual graduation day at the university, and while I skipped both of my own university graduations, I was pretty excited to attend this one. A close friend of Nthabeleng’s was graduating and plus it was all anyone on the radio was talking about so it seemed safe to assume it was going to be a pretty big event. And it’s really no wonder - in a country where attendance rates in secondary school are only 16% for men and 27% for women, the fact that 2,700 people would be receiving university diplomas was a big deal.

We arrived at around 9:30 and the day progressed with lots of speeches, processions of graduates and the never-ending dancing and ululating of all the proud family members and friends in the crowd. It was great to see everyone dressed up in their finest for the celebration - which amongst the women was a mix of ‘western’ clothes, dresses made from traditional fabrics, and a smattering of classic bridesmaid dresses. The speeches all talked about the important opportunity these graduates have to support the development of their country, be entrepreneurs, and create job opportunities that will help bring their fellow Basotho out of poverty. While I have no idea how many graduates stay in Lesotho, and how many may choose to try their luck in South Africa or elsewhere, I am sure none of them lose their ties with their home. It is exciting to think that this group just might be the generation that will help to bring about some of the country’s much needed change, and at the very least they are a sign of progress.

But by about 2pm my excitement with the day was starting to wear thin. My water was long gone, I was covered with a thin layer of dust from spending the day in the middle of a field, and the hot sun was feeling pretty relentless. Luckily, the graduation came to an end about an hour later, but as we waited in the long-line of cars leaving the graduation, the sun continuing to beat down on the car, I had had about enough of the sun for the day.

And then there are days like today – when I remember at 4pm that I thought it would be a good idea to do a load of laundry over lunch time. And as I quickly pin up my washing on the line at the back of TTL’s property I know that even the last few hours of Lesotho sun accompanied by the wind off the mountains will be enough to give me clean dry sheets tonight. And that’s pretty amazing.

Friday, September 16, 2011


The three little ladies in the safehome have been having a pretty good day..

first there were cookies...

then some dancing..


and everyone was having a great time until I made them line up for a photo

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Yesterday I spent most of the day travelling to and from Thaba-Tseka with Nthabaleng and one of TTL's board members. The purpose of the trip was to meet with the District Administrator in Thaba-Tseka as part of TTL’s ongoing efforts to purchase a piece of land where a new Thaba-Tseka outreach office can be built. TTL began working in Thaba-Tseka in 2007 after we started receiving referrals from some of the clinics in the area that borders the Mokhotlong district. Since then, Outreach has been working actively across the Mashai district in Thaba-Tseka and TTL has been hoping to expand across the entire region. To do this, TTL needs to build a new outreach office in Thaba Tseka.

So off we went to Thaba Tseka to plead our case and see what could be done. After a quick 20 minute meeting, we were on the road again heading back to Mokhotlong. The three of us laughed at the fact that we would drive for over 6 hours today­ -all for a 20 minute meeting- but we all knew there really was no other way. Infrastructure in Lesotho, particularly in the highlands, remains poor. The government office in Thaba Tseka does not have email/internet, and based on the long line-up at the DA’s door, I don’t think he is spending a lot of time on the phone. Besides face-to-face is almost always more persuasive. All-in-all the meeting was positive, but no concrete results yet.

As we drove home bumping along the dirt road, the sky slowly darkened and I found myself watching the clock. My mind wandered between my grumbling stomach and what I could possible eat for dinner tonight; debating whether there would be enough time this evening to put a few hours into the funding proposal I’ve been working on; and most importantly, when would we finally hit the paved road – the first sign that we were almost back at the town of Mokhotlong.

Just before 7pm, my mind was brought back to attention by the ring of Nthabeleng’s phone. Assuming it was her family calling to find out when she would be home, I was not expecting what would come next. A few quick sentences later, Nthabeleng hung up and turned to me to say that Reitumetse had died. I found my mind racing, wanting to ask why, what could have possibly happened since we had left that morning. But the truth was I knew there was no real answer and there was really nothing else left to be done. The reality of the situation was that Reitumetse was born premature, exposed to HIV, and had not been receiving adequate nutrition for the first two months of her life. She had simply come to TTL too late. Preemies face a lot of challenges regardless of where they are born and rural Lesotho is not the most forgiving environment. And so beside some sighs and ‘ach’s we continued to drive in silence, bumping along the dirt path on the way back home.

Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about what Nthabeleng said during the meeting in Thaba-Tseka: none of us can say the children in Thaba-Tseka don’t require, and deserve, the same type of critical support TTL provides children in Mokhotlong. However, it is logistically impossible for TTL to serve all of Thaba-Tseka and establish itself within the region without have a base there.

Reitumetse was one of our clients from Thaba-Tseka. I can’t help but think that if she had been born to a mother in Mokhotlong, there is a chance TTL may have reached her earlier. Maybe we would have been put in touch with her mother when she was pregnant and we could have minimised Reitumetse’s exposure to HIV. Maybe Reitumetse would have been referred immediately after being born premature and TTL could have provided nutritional support to the family, rather than the water and sugar solution that she lived off of for the first two months of her life. The truth is, I know the same scenarios can and do occur in Mokhotlong. Even if Reitumetse had been a TTL client earlier, her fate may have been the same - sometimes nothing else can be done.

But despite all the ifs and maybes, I can only hope that things start to come together so TTL can build a centre in Thaba-Tseka. By expanding its reach and establishing TTL’s presence in the district it would make a difference. Reitumetse’s life was far too short and I can’t help but feel that she deserved a better chance. There are so many vulnerable children in Lesotho who deserve a better chance at healthy and happy futures -and at least I know that TTL does make some of those chances possible.

Reitumetse, 09/07/2011 - 14/09/2011

Born premature to an HIV + mother, Reitumetse arrived at TTL’s safehome on August 29, 2011 at almost two months old. Her mother has passed away due to HIV-related causes and her father’s whereabouts are unknown. On September 14, Reitumetse started to develop difficulties breathing and was admitted to hospital where she passed away that evening.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

first goodbyes

With so many new and exciting things that happen when you move somewhere different or start a new project, this week seems surprisingly to be marked by a lot of things ending. Some of them good (I have finally gotten over my first bout of head cold/sickness in Lesotho) and some of them sad (the lovely team of volunteer nurses –Eric, Mary and Marshall- that have been keeping me company will be leaving at the end of the week). It’s been great having them around the past few weeks. I think Khutliso our one boy in the safehome has enjoyed having some male playmates for a while and it’s been wonderful to have people around who can help explain some of the more in-depth medical issues to me. Some of you may have seen Marshall's blog about their experiences in Mokhotlong here: http://traveltoafricawithme.com/blog/
Also by the end of this week, all but one of the kids who were in the safehome when I first arrived will be gone. Relekane – one of the most relaxed and sweet-natured toddlers I have ever met - returned to her family on Friday. Khutliso and Retsipile Lekhooa are also both due to be leaving by the end of the week. The departure of children from the safehome is a funny thing. I can’t help but a feel a bit (selfishly) sad that the babies will be leaving and I won’t be able to come and visit them in the playroom anymore. The medical volunteers and I also can’t help but speculate on how the other safehome kids must feel when one of their playmates leave. Lerato arrived at TTL only a week before me and so these three were also her first friends here. Lerato and Khutliso seem to have become particularly close, chasing each other around the playroom and sitting side by side at meal time. Acting like the big sister, Lerato has more than once returned a toy to Khutliso that one of the other kids had stolen (almost always that other kid being Retsipile). We all wonder how she will adjust once the others are gone.
However, above all else, these departures from the safehome are a time for celebration. The fact that another child – or in this case three- have become healthy and strong enough to return to their family are the critical achievements that make TTL such a successful model. Once home, they will continue to be supported by TTL’s Outreach team with frequent health checks as well as the provision of food and medical supplies. It’s by returning children to their families that TTL’s model remains a sustainable one. TTL brings resources out to communities, supporting families to raise healthy children while also providing that essential safety net, the safehome, for the most critical cases. And with each healthy child that leaves the safehome and later graduates from the Outreach program, TTL is able to shift resources in order to help that next child in a critical health situation. Because as Nthabeleng has been telling me from day one, we all know there are many more children out there that just haven’t been identified yet.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

introductions and new developments

First of all, let me introduce myself -my name is Rachel and I am the new fellow at TTL. Having only arrived in Lesotho a week ago I am still feeling a bit green and am quickly trying to learn some useful phrases in Sesotho and find my way around Mokhotlong (I know it’s small but anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a hopeless sense of direction).

But meanwhile, there has been a lot happening at the TTL campus that I would love to update you about.

Also new on the TTL campus is Lerato. She came to the safehome on August 11 following discharge from hospital. She is suffering from malnutrition and is HIV + but has recently been started on ARVs. Lerato is a very sweet and easy-going toddler and has started to show some improvements and gained weight since arriving at the safehome. Both Lerato’s parents have passed away but the hope is that once her health status improves and stabilises, she will go home to live with her aunt.

Tsekiso, whose friendly face you’ll recognise from his birthday celebration with TTL staff and volunteers in July, went home to live with his grandmother on August 7. Tsekiso was brought to TTL by his father after being treated and discharged at the hospital for severe dehydration and malnutrition. His mother passed away in 2009 and his caregiver situation has been unstable, contributing to his malnutrition. While at the safehome, Tsekiso was identified as HIV + and started ART. Now that his health has been stabilised he has been able to return to his grandmother’s care. TTL will continue to support Tsekiso and his brother, another TTL client, through the work of the Outreach team.

On August 12, TTL welcomed soldiers from the local military base to the TTL campus. Under the leadership of Second Lieutenant Lekanyane and Captain Ndlelene, a group of Mokhotlong based soldiers visited with the children and generously donated clothing to the safehome. This was the third time local army personnel have come to visit and donate items to TTL and it has been great to receive this ongoing support from TTL’s local community in Mokhotlong.

Changes have also been happening to the buildings at TTL. Thanks to the generosity of the Town of Gummersbach, TTL now has three functioning solar panels that supply solar heated water for the TTL campus.

We are looking forward to the completion of the second phase of the project: the installation of a complete photovoltaic system. This system will produce between 2000-3000 kWh of electricity each year – roughly half of the energy consumed in the safehome and kitchen.

Essentially all the water on site will be solar heated and half of our electrical needs for the safehome and kitchen will come from the sun. Many thanks to the town of Gummersbach for making sustainable changes at TTL possible!

That’s everything for now. I look forward to keeping you all updated with my thoughts and experiences and all the comings and goings and stories and successes at TTL over the next year.