Jill: My time as a volunteer at HACT

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).

Their services reach deep into the poor communities living on our doorsteps – testing and counselling, educating and gardening, distributing food parcels and helping access social grants, running income generating projects and supporting 1,500 Gogos looking after orphaned grandchildren. Five years ago they built a 24-bed Respite Centre. Some patients are there for a couple of days, some for weeks and some for months Tanya wanted to volunteer to visit folk in the Respite Unit but there was a big notice: “only family and close friends allowed”.

The practical side of my nature came to the fore and I suggested we offer to run a movement group in the Respite Unit, having a few months ago read a very interesting article about Physio and HIV/AIDS. I’ve since discovered Tanya was a South African Gymnast! So we got started - staff and patients somewhat puzzled by our sudden appearance. And, to be honest, we were a little daunted. I’ll you what happened. We gathered a small group, turned up the music and started to move – some more rhythmically than others!

Those who couldn’t suddenly could - “this man who can’t see”, “this woman who can’t walk”, “this young girl who sits quietly in the corner” and “this old woman who is too confused”. Then some of the staff joined in and patients in the adjoining ward sent a message to say they didn’t want to be left out.A miracle is unfolding. As we toss bean bags and balls connections grow like a strong web, worried faces begin to smile and even tease. These are desperately ill people who live in fear and hope. The outreach brings huge dignity to the living and to the dying.