Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Here’s a curious news story from a small community in Arizona, USA, which casts a light on what some people overseas think of Swaziland.

It concerns a couple from Ahwatukee who are leaving their home to set up an orphanage in Swaziland.

So far not so unusual. But the couple Kay and John West have absolutely no experience in running orphanages or working with children.

And the Wests have no real experience of Swaziland either: they spent three weeks in the kingdom in 2008.

Their local newspaper in Ahwatukee reports John saying, ‘Being there three weeks gives you a true perspective. We have so much here while there are people in Swaziland who have absolutely nothing, and yet they're grateful,’ he said.

So what’s going on? Here’s a clue – they say they have been told by ‘God’ they should do this.

I don’t know Kay and John West and maybe they’re a couple with good hearts, but they are not alone among people from developing countries who turn up in Swaziland with no relevant skills and think they can make a difference in the kingdom just by being there.

The impression the developed world gives is that Swaziland and its people are helpless and needy and all it takes to change this is an intervention from any ordinary Joe from America or wherever.

I wrote before that the news media play a crucial part in this. Newspapers in the developed countries rarely report what’s going on in Swaziland, instead they write about what local people in the area the newspapers serve are doing to help Swaziland and the kingdom is being portrayed as helpless and unable to take care of itself.

The impression given from these types of newspaper reports is that the ‘heroes’ of the story are whites of European descent lifting up the helpless Swazis - an image that is false.

The Wests have set up their own website to share ‘the love of the Lord with the people of Swaziland’.

Oh, and they’re asking for people to send them money to make it all happen.

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