(Apologies for the delay in communications… email and phone service in the bush have been sparse lately.)
We would like to update you on a few things in the next few weeks.
First, we wanted to take a longer-term look at several children’s lives.
In May of 2006, New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof visited us in Swaziland to do a feature about AIDS. His work ended up in the form of a short New York Times video, available for Times Select subscribers at: The World Hasn’t Moved On. Click here to watch:
In the video, Kristof focuses on children orphaned by AIDS, and profiles three groups of children orphaned by AIDS in our community. It is interesting to look at each of these groups of children and see how they are faring since the video was shot over a year and half ago.
Nomzamo, a 12-year-old orphan, is struggling to take care of her two younger sisters at the time of the video. She must feed, clothe, and otherwise raise her sisters. At the time of the video, Nomzamo and her sisters lived in a mud and stick hut with a poor roof. They did have a living grandmother, but the grandmother worked on a farm several towns away and was gone all week only to visit with them on the weekends.
Nomzamo and her sisters are doing somewhat better now, by happy fault. For one, the grandmother retired, so though she is very old, she is an adult presence in the home. Cabrini Ministries visited the homestead and talked with the grandmother about boarding the children at the hostel, but the grandmother refused, because she said she needed Nomzamo to cook for her and to keep the house safe so no one would steal from her. They are having a difficult time affording and otherwise obtaining food. They did receive donations from the World Food Programme, but run out, so Cabrini checks in regularly and helps with corn-soya and mealie-meal. The land around them is very dry from the drought and they are unable to grow crops. (Read more about the food crisis or the drought here or here.)
One positive, unexpected turn of events was that their house was fully rebuilt by SWADE (Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise). SWADE is building a dam nearby and many residents, including Nomzamo’s household, were forced to relocate. Their amount of land was preserved, however, and a house was built with better structure and materials as a replacement. The family now lives in a very solid, concrete house, painted, with windows.
Cabrini Ministries also supports Nomzamo and her sisters with extra school expenses. The government covers school tuition for all registered orphans, but there are other expenses such as uniforms, shoes, supplies, etc. that are necessary but not covered. (Read more about school fees for orphans here.)Through a foundation grant and sponsorships from private donors, we are able to pay for about 100 children’s extra school expenses and ensure they are able to go to school.
Wandile and Temdoline, portrayed as brother and sister in the video, are not actually related but are two orphans that have stayed with each other. They lived with Wandile’s aunt at the time, who was shown very sick with AIDS, unable to provide food for the family and close to death.
Wandile’s aunt became a patient of Cabrini Ministries, and was put on anti-retroviral medication. She responded very well to the treatment and got some of her health back, but food was still difficult to secure. The homestead was run as a part-time shebeen, which is an illegal home-brewing drinking hut. Shebeens tend to leave children extra vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The aunt eventually abandoned the children and took the last of the food.
The children followed another child home from school one day hungry and having no place to go. The child’s mother, which was Wandile and Temdoline’s neighbor, though barely having enough to feed her own children, could not turn Wandile and Temdoline away. This kind of woman reminds us of our unity as a worldwide family and our duties as “neighbors” to each other. The children are currently living with this neighbor.
This is a common situation in Swaziland of a family being overstretched taking on extra members, with the orphaned children being at the end of the receiving line and last to get their needs met. Cabrini Ministries checks in with this homestead regularly and tries to provide help where needed.
Siphiso says in the video he thought about suicide after he had watched both parents die, but that he didn’t want to abandon his two younger brothers. We thank God for Siphiso today, because we have been happy to have had an opportunity to see him grow, and he and his brothers are doing much better under Cabrini’s care. Siphiso and his brothers were living on their own as a child-headed homestead.
We were able to have Siphiso and his brothers move into the Cabrini hostel in late 2006. Another important thing we helped Siphiso and his brothers with was figuring out his extended family relationships in the area, which were complicated, so now they are reintegrating into their family and staying with adult relatives over school breaks.
One amazing thing is how much Siphiso has grown! He is now taller than many of the adults around here. We think this is one of the visible consequences of good nutrition that we are beginning to see over time with many of the children in the hostel. Siphiso is 17 but as a result of his past, only in grade 6. Because he is so tall, he sometimes gets made fun of by the younger students. We will probably pull him out of the school system after his grade 7 exams and support him to go to trade school, which tends to make older students like him feel much more confident and successful.
The other brothers, Mcolisi and Sipho, are doing well, physically healthy and growing tall too.
Thanks to Nick Kristof for his original reportage, and thanks to all our supporters that help us improve the lives of such children over the long-term.
Love and blessings,
Srs. Barbara and Diane