Happy New Year- Profile of a Child: Hlekisile

We want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year, and offer a story of hope and new life for the New Year about one child we care for.

This is Hlekisile. Hlekisile has one of the most tragic backgrounds of any of the children. Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about the children’s stories, but we believe it is important because it shows how a child can bounce back, and that there is a lot of hope for these children for brighter futures.

While her father was dying of AIDS, her mother was murdered, supposedly by the father’s family- she was accused of “bewitching” her sister-in-law. Her father died 6 months later of AIDS. After that, the eight children in Hlekisile’s family shuffled around between homelessness and the homesteads of extended relatives, starving and being severely mistreated.

We discovered the children homeless in 2006 on our home-visits. Hlekisile is the youngest, and she has some siblings in the hostel with her. She is 11 years old, and she is finally going to school. She is well-behaved and enjoys playing with her friends at the hostel. She is part of a dance group and a choir group.

Hlekisile needs extra love, care, and kindness, but you can see from the photos how she beams out a genuine light. We consider her a small success story because these kids are facing so much opposition in their lives- and just to have them go to a primary school is such a huge achievement.

Blessings and thanks to our wonderful community around the world for the New Year!
It’s been said many times- but we see it directly- hope for the future is found in the light and love of the children of today.

Srs. Barbara and Diane

Christmas Gifts for the Children

Photo from a Christmas party past

Last weekend we held our annual Christmas party celebration for the children at the hostel. The children are off visiting their homesteads now for their long break (6 weeks), and we check in with them often. (Read more about school breaks by clicking on this previous post: School Break Time.) Among some of the gifts we were able to give them at the Christmas party were bikes, soccer shoes, and watches.

Photo of a staff member trying out one of the bikes

Four of the older children in the hostel received bicycles that greatly help with transportation. These young people are getting older and beginning to transition to working full-time jobs and living on their own. (Read about one older boy’s transition in another previous post: Siyabonga! Giving Thanks for Friends & Family.) Bikes reduce the time spent traveling from work to homestead, etc, which can be hours when you’re on foot.

At the shoe store- one of our staff members shopping.

All of the boys received a brand new pair of soccer shoes. The grant that provided these gifts was from a private Italian donor who visited Cabrini Ministries, and the story is that he was talking to some of the children that play soccer, and one of them confided in him that the boys felt embarrassed that they didn’t have proper soccer shoes when they would play soccer games with other teams that did.

So both the staff and the boys were thrilled this year that OUR kids could have something beyond what’s just essential for basic living, and that is essential for fun and social life and making them feel non-distinct from kids on other soccer teams that we play. Every day, we try to keep life as normal as possible for these kids and for the 1000 patients we serve—and we are so grateful to our supporters who help us to keep doing that.

We were also able to purchase watches and skirts for all the girls. (Money for gifts goes pretty far in Swaziland, thankfully.) Our staff has really enjoyed being able to make the children happy, and at times like this, the children can feel like normal kids, and not just forgotten orphans. Such actions of love and generosity change these kids’ lives forever.

Many blessings to everyone during this joyous Advent and Christmas season.

Sr. Barbara & Sr. Diane

Today is World AIDS Day- We Remember Thabsile

December 1 every year is designated as World AIDS Day, and around the world, people take a moment to remember those who were lost to the disease, and also join together and advocate for progress in the fight against AIDS. The theme this year is “Leadership.”

We’d like to take a moment to honor the life of Thabsile, a young woman who was one of our HIV/TB patients, who passed away recently.

Thabsile had a real desire to live. She fought for life every day. Her TB was so bad (one of the consequences of AIDS is high susceptibility to tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic infections”) that she had to have daily injections of antibiotics. Our staff also fought to keep her alive- our nurses, with great generosity and without any extra pay, worked on Saturdays and Sundays, to go every day to her home and give her treatment.

When we first met her, she was living under a tree. She had no running water, or electricity (needless to say). ShelterBox provided her with a tent, and the Red Cross and World Vision were in the process of helping to build her a cement block structure. Also the medicines were helping her to rebound a bit, and the future looked brighter for her.

Our friend Menzi helped to shoot some video of one of our nurses, Simon, going out to visit her to provide her medicine. Before we were even able to share this video with the world, she has passed away. This is how we feel in regards to the fight against AIDS and TB sometimes- that the disease seems to still be one step ahead of us. That it takes even more effort to get one step ahead of it and save people’s lives. World AIDS Day is an important reminder that there remains a real urgency for treatment, awareness, and prevention, and that we need to join together to lead and inspire other leaders in the fight against AIDS. We need to take bigger steps to get ahead of the disease and to stop losing precious young people prematurely, like Thabsile.

Click on the arrow to view the first video, of her homestead, and the second video, of her telling her story. (Her story is in Siswati- she tells of how she started to get sick in 2005, found out with tests that she had TB & HIV, and has been on ARVs and TB treatment since and is beginning to get better.)

Sr. Barbara Staley & Sr. Diane Dalle Molle