On Thursday, May 24, the Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI) departed Washington, D.C. with a U.S. Congressional Staff Delegation to eSwatini (Swaziland). HDI partnered with the Amitofo Charity Center, a 501C3 NGO based in Los Angeles, which is focused on the care and education of African children in Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. This program followed the ongoing series of international Congressional delegations with the aim to enhance and foster greater understanding on the part of the U.S. Congress of various countries around the world through direct dialogue and an exchange of ideas with government officials and other thought leaders.
This bipartisan delegation was composed of four Congressional Staffers: Ms. Rachel Burkett, Scheduler, Senator James E. Risch, Mr. Arthur Sidney, Chief of Staff, Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr., Ms. Sophia Lafargue, Chief of Staff, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, and Dr. Janette Yarwood, Staff Director, House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, Office of Rep. Karen Bass.
The participants arrived in eSwatini (Swaziland) on Saturday afternoon, May 26, and were received by the Venerable Hui Li, Founder of the Amitofo Charity Center (ACC) and several local staff members. There the delegation met with the management of the organization and received a guided tour of the ACC Swaziland facilities in Nhlangano to show the level of infrastructure achieved with existing funding and discuss potential improvements. ACC Swaziland is a fully operational orphanage facility which houses nearly 260 students and staff on a full-time basis. The evening was taken up with student presentations. Student presentations served two purposes, the first was to show the artistic curriculum being provided to orphans at ACC which is built into the model of raising a well-rounded individual. The second purpose was for the children to showcase their cultural and traditional expressions through artistic presentation which allowed for the participants to learn and reflect on Swazi culture. This also allowed for the children to be able to share their work with an American audience, which was a proud moment for them.
On Sunday morning, May 27, Congressional Staff had a chance to interact with Swazi youth who are also orphans. They were able to share their personal stories and present the young students with a positive role model experience. ACC Staff facilitated the conversations and were able to express their personal stories as well as discuss their experience at ACC center in Nhlangano. ACC students and staff reflected on their future plans and possibilities. Students discussed what their aspirations are after graduating. In the afternoon, the participants were welcomed by the local village chief and participated in a distribution of aid to Neighborhood Care Points to assist villages in providing food aid for pre-school children. A guided tour of the surrounding rural areas was given to present the delegation with an overview of daily life in an average Swazi village, to show available infrastructure and give historical as well as cultural context to understand challenges and progress in perspective.
On Monday, May 28, the delegation visited the capital city of Mbabane and visited a PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) worksite to observe their work in the textile industry. This was followed by a lunch hosted by the Ambassador of the Republic of China to Swaziland, Thomas Chen during which the Ambassador shared his observations with the delegation about Swazi life and culture during his four years as Ambassador. The Delegation was then received by the Deputy Prime Minister to discuss issues such as children’s rights and the upcoming elections. US Ambassador to Swaziland Lisa Peterson, hosted a reception and conversation on children’s rights with US Embassy staff, NGO representatives, judicial and law enforcement of Swaziland representatives in the evening, followed by a dinner with former Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Philani Maswati “Queen Mother” charity, Mr. Lufto Dlamini.
On Tuesday, May 29, the delegation received a briefing from the U.S. Embassy team in Mbabane. The participants heard about U.S. foreign policy priorities in eSwatini and the region as well as the political and social development of the country. Ambassador Lisa Peterson, gave a background on the political situation and discussed the various developments in eSwatini. Other topics discussed included equal opportunities in education and access to affordable healthcare as well as women’s participation in the political process. The delegation was also briefed on consular, security, public information, and Peace Corps activities in Swaziland. After the five-hour drive to Johannesburg, the delegation departed that evening for the United States.