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Lessons learned while trying to save the world (part 2)

Three years ago I was in a meeting with the King of Swaziland and a friend of mine who is a well-known Christian leader. I thought we were there to help address the issue of AIDS, but the guy I was with had other things on his mind that day. He had developed a strategy for planting gardens all ov…
By Seth Barnes

Three years ago I was in a meeting with the King of Swaziland and a friend of mine who is a well-known Christian leader. I thought we were there to help address the issue of AIDS, but the guy I was with had other things on his mind that day. He had developed a strategy for planting gardens all over Swaziland in an effort to eradicate hunger.

Swazis suffer from hunger in large part because the Swazi adult population in rural areas is dying off from AIDS. The average life expectancy for a Swazi is now 28 years. By the time of our meeting with the King, we had planted thousands of these gardens. Americans were coming over by the plane-load to plant them.

“Do you think it is possible to eradicate hunger in Swaziland?” My friend asked the King.

“How would we do that?” The King asked.

“By planting small family gardens, we can wipe out hunger in Swaziland in a few years!”

“I would like to see that,” the King said.

“Each garden continues to produce vegetables that provide many of the basic nutrients people need in their diet.”

“Sure.”

That was a confusing summer. We had planned and coordinated 192 separate short-term projects at almost every high school in the country, getting a majority of the students to commit to abstinence, yet burning out in the process.

One American worker is still around from the follow-up effort. I recently visited the Moyeni school where we’d worked so hard to plant those gardens. None remain. I’m told that is true for most of the gardens we planted across the country.

Hunger in Swaziland grinds on. AIDS has afflicted 45% of the population. And AIM is back for another stab at the problem. Of course people are cynical.

Our goals are more modest. Love and feed a few orphans. Try to disciple them. Work with a few partners we trust. Try to foster a little hope here and there. Try not to disappoint.

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