Aid Poses New Challenges for Wales-Lesotho Link
01 February 2004

'While we want the link to be of real benefit to Lesotho... we also see the link as necessary for Wales.'

Dolen Cymru-the Wales Lesotho Link-grew out of a desire to see if Wales could make its own direct contribution to world understanding, in particular in bridging the North-South gap. Although a great deal of its activity is now in the fields of education and health, church links have always played an important part-not least because Dolen Cymru's first President was Gwilym O Williams, one of the last century's great Archbishops of Wales.

In an article in the link's first Newsletter in 1985, Dr Williams wrote, 'While we want the link to be of real benefit to Lesotho... we also see the link as necessary for Wales. We have a fine tradition of care for other small nations and need to build on this, so that, whatever our difficulties and differences among ourselves, we can make our proper contribution to the family of nations and further our own development within one interdependent world.'

In October 2003 three Welsh church leaders, representing seven denominations between them, returned from a ten-day visit to Lesotho full of enthusiasm for the warm reception they had been given. They were Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham (Roman Catholic), Bishop Carl Cooper of St Davids (Church in Wales) and the Rev Adrian Williams, President of the Free Church Council of Wales.

The church leaders said they were impressed by the way the Lesotho churches worked together ecumenically and by the liveliness of church worship. They also noted the important role played by the churches through their involvement in education, health and the feeding programme. The churches own, and are involved in managing, 90 per cent of the schools (the government pays teachers' salaries) and half of the country's hospitals.

Bishop Cooper emphasized the 'horrendous problems' of poverty, hunger and HIV/Aids-31 per cent of the entire population is estimated to be HIV positive, making it the fourth worst affected country in the world. We have brought back requests for the twinning of specific congregations which will be another way of further enlivening the link between our nations,' he reported.

Meanwhile links between schools are being strengthened by a series of two-way teacher exchanges. The latest, also in October, saw five teachers from north-west Wales spend two weeks in Lesotho, including a week teaching and observing at their sister school while they stayed in teachers' homes. Basotho teachers will arrive for a return visit in April. At the same time 12 health service volunteers were spending time in hospitals and clinics in Lesotho on short-term visits. Out of their experience further projects will be drawn up, particularly relating to the HIV/Aids crisis.

At present the Welsh Assembly is helping to fund the link's Director of Development in appreciation of its role in education.

Paul Williams