No more than 2 kilometres from where we live there nestles, just off Old Main Road, a place of hope. I’ve driven passed for years with no more than a passing thought. Two months ago a friend of mine “rescued” a very old and tattered homeless man off the street, and not knowing what to do with him took him there. Her many questions prompted the invitation “come back tomorrow and I’ll show you around”. This is how Tanya and I came to see love unfolding at the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (HACT).
As part of experiential working and learning in Child and Youth Development work, Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (HACT) offers rich deposits of skills. I am very grateful for the experience and lessons I gained within a short space of time. I am so impressed and motivated by the work of Ncami and Sbu, the committed Life Skills and Peer Educators at HACT. What impressed me the most about these educators is that they are bold, energetic and take their work as part of their daily prayer.
From the moment the bell rang at Ukusakwabasha Primary School, deep in the Valley of 1000 Hills, the students were singing and dancing to the tune of Ncami and Sbu’s clapping. Effortlessly laying a positive foundation for the students’ future, both facilitators covered topics of adolescent body change, sexual health and interpersonal relationships, drawing each student into the conversation. As a student of the health sciences and community studies, I was as captivated as the young learners at the way such valuable information was being imparted.
It’s been 6 weeks since I’ve been in South Africa, and 5 weeks working at Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust (HACT) as part of the Monash University/Oxfam Partner Internship Program. Having absolutely no expectations or any idea what I was heading into, the experience has been life-changing and unforgettable to say the least. From my second week, the feeling of “volunteer outsider” was organically shrugged off, and I quickly felt like a member of the HACT team (one that just happened not to get paid).
My time as a volunteer at HACT, which was from the 3rd October to the 11th December 2013, has been incredible. From day one everyone embraced me as if I had been part of the team for years. I was stationed in the Marketing and Fundraising Department, and Laurel (the Marketing and Fundraising Co-ordinator) had a to-do list ready upon my arrival. This was perfect – as a postgraduate student I was after valuable experience and only had two and a half months to get it.
The following poem was composed by the managing director of one of our funding partners, Paddy Morris from Key Trucks New Germany, following a presentation at their workplace by some of our staff. Paddy wrote, "After the recent ceremony and from the input of your presentation and the poem received from one of your members - it touched me so much I thought I would reciprocate by composing a poem from what I had learnt."
Enough, Enough we have had it rough
Now - we challenge with abstinence - we have got to be tough
There are 3.9 million people living with HIV globally and over 5 million South Africans are HIV positive. Regrettably, only 15,000 of the 5 million are on ARV's on the government schemes. The average cost of ARVs is R560 per month for the masses that are infected. Many of these faces (who have become names to me) do not have or cannot afford to part with R560. SA is on the death grip of HIV/AIDS and a generation of African children’s lives (especially girls) is on the line.
Exactly one month ago, we admitted a 15 year old boy to our Respite Unit. Today, after spending over four incredible and impacting weeks with him, I find myself sitting at his bedside, holding his hand as he takes what are likely some of his last breaths. I know that Njabulo has been in a lot of pain lately, and that his passing will bring him peace and freedom, but I can also feel my heart growing heavy with grief, and so I think about how I came to love this boy so much.
Good afternoon everybody, I am very happy to see all of you here and am delighted to share this day with you. My name is Andrew, and I am currently staying down in the Respite Unit here at Hillcrest AIDS Centre. I don’t want to speak for too long, because I know there are many other people who also have important message regarding today, but I’d like to just quickly share with you a little bit of what life in the Respite Unit is like.
Zama spent a little more than 16 months staying in our Respite Unit, making her by far and away the longest-term patient we’ve ever had. When she came to us she had TB of the spine, which subsequently paralyzed her from the waist down and confined her to a wheelchair. She also battled uterine cancer and suffered from terrible and painful bedsores.