The Lesotho Child Counseling Unit (LCCU) emergency orphan shelter had a major fire this past month—just as it was making preparations to celebrate its 10th anniversary. LCCU is located in Mazenod, on the road to the airport. This large shelter had been the dream of founder, Lydia Muso, since she opened LCCU in her own home in 2001 to care for some of Lesotho’s most vulnerable children. It was completed in 2008, thanks in large part to a significant donation from Standard Bank of Lesotho and many other U.S. and international donors.
We have not been able to reach Lydia by phone since receiving her e-mail about the fire. These pictures were taken by Rose Paradise, a former PCV and founder of Little Angels who has lived in Lesotho since 2003. Here is an excerpt from Rose’s e-mail to me. “From what Lydia told me it happened last Friday, the 11th. She said that she and the children were in the kitchen watching TV, when around 8pm a boy came running to the compound yelling ‘mollo’. The fire apparently started in the laundry room (her theory), which is on the other side of the building. It took the Fire Dept some time to get there from Maseru. When they arrived the building was pretty much destroyed. After that the fire engine from the airport showed up…with very little water…they’re practically across the street. Lydia thinks it started because of faulty wiring to the dryer, but nothing has been proven and the police haven’
t really investigated, nor do they have a Fire Marshal able to determine the real cause of the fire. The police have actually accused Lydia of starting the fire…based on the fact that she was not crying and ranting and raving…why would she start the fire?? For what good reason is what I want to know? There was no insurance on the property. Apparently she let it lapse. Thank God no one was hurt. As you can see, the building is gutted. All the furnishings are gone, clothing, toys, everything gone. To add insult to injury: the people who came to help stole all the blankets that were saved.
The house where LCCU used to be also burned down last Sunday. She had some of her nieces stay there and apparently they had some boys over. She thinks one of the boys is responsible for this fire. She suspects smoking. The police have the boy (about 20 years old) in custody. Now the children are living in her house, currently 21 of them.
When I talked to her she was totally out of it as if she was in shock..not surprising given the circumstances. She says that whenever she goes to town people are asking her why she set her house on fire?
The children at LCCU are not just orphans trying to fend for themselves in their home villages. They have suffered severe abuse inflicted by extended family members and others in their village. Many are victims of beatings, rape, forced marriages and child trafficking. Some are brought to LCCU by the police or social agencies in order to protect them and receive counseling to begin the process of healing.
Scott Rosenberg, FOL Board Member and Professor at Ohio’s Wittenberg University, has travelled to Lesotho with students for many years. This beautiful dorm was one of many projects undertaken by his students. Scott has already begun reaching out to the generous donors from his local rotary who have supported LCCU in the past. The Rotary president is travelling to Lesotho for another project but will meet with a trusted general contractor for an assessment of repair costs. BloomAfrica, a fundraising service group formed by some of Scott’s former students, will also be contacted for help.
FOL’s Donation’s Committee met this past Sunday and is recommending an initial contribution of $6,000 and has begun contacting a number of other non-profit groups working in Lesotho to enlist their support as well.
If you haven’t already made an end-of-year donation to FOL in response to our annual appeal letter, please consider doing so today on behalf of the children of Lesotho Child Counseling Unit.
If you would like more details about LCCU, you can go to our website and download the slideshow presentation prepared for FOL’s 25th anniversary reunion held in D.C. at the end of September. From the FOL website home page http://www.friendsoflesotho.org/, click on 25th Anniversary Reunion. Slideshow presentations can be found at the bottom of that page.
I was a volunteer with LCCU between 2003 and 2006. The picture of Lydia at the left with baby Keke was taken a few months after she came to LCCU malnourished and near death from alleged sexual abuse.
Thank you for your concern and generosity, on behalf of Lydia Muso, the children of LCCU and the Board of Friends of Lesotho.
Dyann Van Dusen, FOL Vice President (firstname.lastname@example.org)