In Lesotho, we SUPPORTING A COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME.
We are working with the Diocese of Lesotho to support a community development and well-being programme entitled 'Hands on Health'.
The programme is enabling local churches, communities and health professionals to work together to improve living conditions using skills and resources available locally.
Launched in 2012, the programme is supporting the communities that surround St James’ Hospital, in the region of Mantsonyane, high in the mountains. The following reports are from residents in Ha Leronti village.
Mampho tells her story
My husband passed away ten years ago. I am the mother of one child, a boy with a severe learning disability.
I used to get by doing domestic jobs and subsistence farming to meet our needs. But life improved greatly after our village was visited by the Hands on Health team.
At first, I thought Hands on Health was all about handing out donations, which was why I was interested! But then I realised Hands on Health is a learning process that encourages people in the community to look at our strengths and use them to tackle those things that challenge us.
There is now a Hands on Health group in my village. We are mostly young and middle-aged women, though I think more men will start to join.
Before Hands on Health, I thought I knew my community well. I knew my neighbours by their names and appearances, but I did not know about their strengths or about the challenges they face. Indeed, I realised I did not even know myself and the potential I have! All of this I have learned since joining the group.
These days, I am able to face any challenge that comes my way, which means I have less stress. And sharing with other people means that, when things get tough, we can assist one another to come up with a solution.
For example, the issue of food scarcity is a challenge for many of us. Our community lives below the poverty line, and some of us depend on hand-outs from the World Food Programme, which are not reliable.
Through Hands on Health people started to find solutions, such as planting kitchen gardens and using natural manure, while others have started small-scale poultry farms to generate an income and improve household nutrition.
Through Hands on Health, I have learned that having conversations and being organised means people can understand, support and connect with each other.
The Hands on Health initiative works by training local people as community facilitators who then work closely with the church and hospital. Their role is to bring people together in ways that help them to identify their skills and resources, so that they can take action for positive change, including better health.
John Mahoona, Hospital Administrator at St James’ Hospital, said: ‘Communities in the past have always been sidelined. But focusing more on the community is critical if we are to see transformation.
‘We hope that bringing people together will increase motivation and change behaviour. And this process includes the spiritual aspect of our lives.
‘Everyone is involved in making Mantšonyane a better place.’
Here is how the community programme works.
The first stage is to visit people from local communities in their homes. Seeing first-hand how people live has proved a revelation to medical personnel who take part in the community visits.
The aim is for villagers to identify strengths in the community, rather than focus on problems. There is an emphasis on exploring forms of income-generation and learning how to promote healthy living through prevention rather than cure.
In addition, the hospital and local church learn about local challenges and can adjust their programmes and services accordingly.
Community empowerment: Mamokete's story
Mamokete Makana, now aged 80, lost 10 of her 11 children to sicknesses of different kinds. Not surprisingly, there was a time when she had lost hope.
But she persevered. With no employment opportunities, Mamokete (pictured) started brewing liquor and selling it from her shebeen, a type of ‘home pub’ and a cottage industry in Lesotho.
Through hard work, she was able to pay for her one surviving child, a son, to study. He is now a primary school teacher, and Mamokete spends a lot of time with the grandchildren he has given her.
She said: ‘There is a good level of community co-operation here. If people are in need, then the community will share.’
One of her customers explains: ‘I survive by doing any small job I can, like collecting firewood. But I think that I could do better if there was more opportunity to join up with others. One day, I would like to have a proper job and to own a cow.’
The work of USPG in Mantšonyane is tapping into this community spirit. Our aim is to unlock local potential for tackling life’s challenges, and we are working in partnership with local churches, the Anglican-run St James’ Hospital, and Hope Africa, which is a social development programme set up by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.