With her last trip to her beloved southern Africa two years ago, Swaziserve co-founder and board president Kay Cassidy West is hoping she can get there again in September.
The Ahwatukee resident and her husband John West founded the nonprofit Swaziserve in 2009 and are closely monitoring reports of a third wave of COVID-19 cases and stricter lockdowns in Swaziland, now called Eswatini.
The Wests’ nonprofit built and funded a Chicken Project and the Zoe Pregnant Care Centre in that impoverished South African nation, which also has the world’s highest percentage of people living with HIV.
“We’re going day by day; everybody understands that now,” said Kay West. “Our plan is to go for about three weeks in September, visiting both Eswatini and South Africa. We’ll be traveling to about 18 cities and villages to oversee projects, encourage and equip, and see what’s needed.”
Joining them on their next trip will be Ahwatukee residents Ken and Lori Porter as well as Swaziserve board member Margaret Reis Guthrie, a longtime Ahwatukee resident now residing in Colorado with her new husband John.
West said the nonprofit has “received many blessings.”
“God did so many neat things last year in spite of COVID,” she exclaimed. “We now have sponsorships for 32 orphaned and vulnerable children; our orphanage is up and running and additions have been built; we managed to fully fund the building of the crisis pregnancy center/women’s ministry center in South Africa.
“Our second chicken project was launched there, too, which allows for the feeding of hundreds of kids while generating income for ministry partner’s work.”
She added the nonprofit is in its 15th month of assisting 30 households that were particularly hit hard by the pandemic.
All of these activities and accomplishments, she added, have come from “working hand-in-hand with our African ministry partners who are the real heroes, working tirelessly to serve their people amidst so much hardship.”
Swaziserve has founded or contributes to a plethora of projects in Eswatini and South Africa.
They include feeding children and the elderly, sponsoring education, providing emergency medical and housing funds and offering employment assistance for a rural clinic.
While building relationships across cultures, the nonprofit also holds Bible studies for women and girls and assists women in small sewing business startups.
It was 2010 when Ahwatukee residents John and Kay West “answered God’s calling,” selling their three-story home, their cars, and other possessions amassed over their then-24 years of marriage.
Together with their youngest son Jeremy West, the family flew to Eswatini to serve as missionaries for their new venture while eldest son Zack West moved to San Diego to live with Kay West’s elderly mother.
The Wests lived in what was then called Swaziland, sharing the gospel and establishing practical projects to help their new neighbors.
In 2014, they moved their ministry over the border to South Africa, where they established new projects while continuing to oversee those in Eswatini.
“South Africa borders on Eswatini, so not far at all,” West explained. “The rural area where we lived in Eswatini to the city where we lived in South Africa was approximately 100 miles. Two different countries, but the same Swazi tribe. Many of the national boundaries in Africa are arbitrary, not reflecting tribal boundaries at all.”
Then, as it is now, their ministry depended on the donations.
“John works full time to support us so that, unlike many other nonprofits, we do not take any salary,” she said. “Donations go directly to those we serve. We choose to live frugally so that I can focus full time on ministry.”
John works in business development for a major telecommunications provider.
The couple remain active in ministry with their local church, Bridgeway Community Church in Ahwatukee, where they were members prior to going to Africa.
“So we work a lot out of love,” she said. “Swaziserve is a small organization – really just John and me and a handful of very part-time helpers. So we do it all: fundraising, newsletters, finances, daily communication with African ministry partners, and overseeing all our projects.”
Besides her position as Swaziserve board president, West also oversees 14 southern African countries in her volunteer position as International Leadership Developer - Southern Africa/Global Prison Ministry Liaison with Moms in Prayer International.
“It’s been very interesting to keep up with the news. Each country was hit at different times, and responded in different ways, but there were also a lot of commonalities all over the world,” she said.
“Compounding the illness and death toll from the virus itself, the economic ramifications have been brutal there.”
“Many workers there are day laborers; they had no bank accounts, no reserve food in their homes. With lockdown conditions, many people immediately went hungry,” she said. “On many levels it remains a major issue.”
Swaziserve board member Margaret Reis Guthrie has seen first-hand the needs.
“It was always such a joy to spend time with women in various villages each time,” said Guthrie, who visited them in Africa six times in nine years.
Guthrie, who married her new husband Feb. 14 at Bridgeway Community Church, said, “John is a seasoned short-term missionary from Colorado. We met on a mission trip in Mexico. Both of us were widowed and we soon realized that God had plans for us together.”
“We plan to split our time between Colorado and Ahwatukee, with several mission trips each year around the world,” she added.
The Porters, Ahwatukee residents since 2002, will be first-time visitors to southern Africa.
“We met John and Kay West when we started attending Bridgeway Community Church in 2005,” said Ken. “Since God led John and Kay West to serve Him in Swaziland, we’ve had the privilege of watching, supporting, and praying for the work God has been doing through Swaziserve.
“We’re now looking forward to seeing firsthand how God is being glorified through Swaziserve, and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ with God’s love.”
West praised Ahwatukee residents for helping Swaziserve accomplish much during 2020.
She said she and John had never met and praised their “amazing generosity in response to our plea for help.”
“I’ve got to say that Ahwatukee is a wonderful, wonderful place full of great people who care not only for our own neighborhood, but also for people around the world,” West added.
With the wealth of projects served by Swaziserve, donations are always needed, and can be sent directly to the nonprofit at PMB #46, 4802 E. Ray Road, Suite 23, Phoenix, AZ 85044-6417.
Information: Swaziserve.com or Kay Cassidy West on Facebook.