Lesotho

Honourable senators, I’m going to talk about the country of Lesotho. I say “lesutu” because the people of Lesotho say “lesutu.” The American version is pronounced “lasoto” but it’s not that, it’s “lesutu.” That comes from the Cambridge dictionary.

Honourable senators, Lesotho is a small, mountainous country landlocked within the borders of the Republic of South Africa, and 42 per cent of its 2.2 million people live far below the international poverty line; 24 per cent are infected with HIV. The country has the second highest level of AIDS in the world. More than 180,000 children in Lesotho are orphans. A generation has been sliced out of the family cycle, with helpless children alone or being raised by their parents’ parents — typically, their poor, rural grandmothers.

I had the opportunity to visit Lesotho recently with the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, and I can tell you that in some places in Lesotho, the picture is grim. Fortunately, though, life in Lesotho is not a picture. It is a reality in constant motion, and thanks to the involvement of an Ottawa-based NGO called Help Lesotho, the direction of that motion is forward.

Founded more than a decade by former University of Ottawa professor Peg Herbert, Help Lesotho is present in the rural areas of this struggling country, implementing programs to educate, build self-reliance and foster leadership among people whose troubles would otherwise outweigh hope. Every year, support is delivered to 10,000 orphaned and vulnerable children, youth, teachers, young mothers and grandmothers. Seventy-five per cent of them are girls and women.

It is the voices of these beneficiaries that shape Help Lesotho’s programs. That is the crux of the organization’s success in addressing key issues in a meaningful and sustainable way: listening. Help Lesotho is creating a critical mass of people committed to preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, to recognizing the rights of girls and women and to taking action for the benefit of others. I’m inspired — I’m sure you are, too — by what development dollars can do when they are well spent.

This organization also has a remarkable capacity for building partnerships and a community of giving right here in the capital. Help Lesotho rallies schools, children, family foundations and, as Peg says, “human hearts.”

I know we can’t use props. Nobody can see this, because we’re not on television, but I have this beautiful calendar. You all have this beautiful calendar. They are in your offices now. This group was kind enough to offer a calendar for each honourable senator. This tenth anniversary edition features the cover photos from past years and offers a glimpse of life in the country.

I encourage you to use this calendar for the rest of the year and discover more about the tremendous work of Help Lesotho.