“What you’ve given us is education.  And no one can take that from us.”

Chris’ words, as representative of the graduating Form 5’s from Bulembu Christian Academy, were directed to more than those people sitting in the audience at last Saturday’s ceremony. His gratitude

included everyone who has volunteered, donated, prayed for and visited Bulembu; who has served as a board member, come on a mission team, purchased a Bulembu product – anyone who has believed in the vision of raising a generation of Swazi leaders and transforming this small nation.  With humour and confidence, Chris spoke on behalf of his brothers and sisters who are the ‘first fruits’ of Bulembu’s commitment to quality education. For many, including himself, they are the first in their family to reach this milestone.

It was an emotional occasion for the teachers, caregivers and staff who have watched these children grow to young men and women with so much promise ahead of them.  Vernon Puttkammer, Director of Child Care, assured the students that they will always be welcome in Bulembu, and that the prayers of their Bulembu family will go with them.

Those praying will include Nicholas Shabangu, the mentor for the Senior Boys homes. Three years ago Nicholas sat alongside a group of Aunties going through the Bulembu training; the first male caregiver being brought into Bulembu to live with the teenage boys as they approach independence. He admits to being scared of his prospective new position.

“The boys were not much younger than me,” he recalls. “And I did not have any children. How could I do this?”

The answer came straight from the Bible: with love.

“Now, I know I will be a much different Father than I would have been.” says Nicholas. “We are raising the children God’s way, always loving them. The biggest challenge is knowing that they

want to do something that is not good for them and having to give discipline.”

With the pride of a parent, Nicholas helped his group of ‘sons’ prepare for their Saturday night prom. In a few weeks, these young men will move out of these homes and on to further education, work in Bulembu, or perhaps pursuing opportunities elsewhere in Swaziland. A new group of boys, having been living with younger children in Bulembu’s family homes, will gain a little more independence by moving into the Senior Boys homes.

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Thus begins a new life for the graduates, and the turning of a page for Bulembu as well.  As a town and a ministry, Bulembu is one step closer to the vision of a transformed nation and a sustainable approach to caring for orphaned and vulnerable children. If you contributed – in any way – the entire Class of 2013 Graduates say ‘thank you’.

By Sue O’Connor