Sunday, December 19, 2004

You need to read this.

I know it's long, but it's worth it.

The more we take, the less we become...
- Sarah McLachlan


Following is a message board post by a woman who has worked with the Grobanites for Charity team to fund a South African AIDS orphanage this Christmas.

Hello, all…

I am pleased to let you know more about where some of the money you have contributed to the Josh Groban Foundation is going. It's going to be a long posting, but I want to give you all the details!

As some of you may know, I am an American, living in South Africa for three years with my husband, a U.S. Foreign Service Regional Medical Officer. As a member of the US Embassy community here, I was able to learn about a project that was doing such good work and was desperately in need of funding. Lindy Groban was very moved by the project, and has approved funding for the project from the Josh Groban Foundation.

Zamimpilo AIDS Orphanage

It is estimated that over 14% of the entire population of South Africa is HIV+; in some provinces, the rate is much higher than that, and KwaZulu Natal in eastern South Africa has the highest. In some areas, communities are being devastated by AIDS, leaving no family members to care for children whose parents have died of the disease. There are over a million AIDS orphans in SA, and many of these children are HIV+ themselves. In some cases, people from these very poor communities have begun to take on the task of caring for the children, and these small 'orphanages' are the only means of survival that these children have. These people are doing heroic work, since it is enough of a struggle to put food on their own families' tables.

It is estimated that over 14% of the entire population of South Africa is HIV+; in some provinces, the rate is much higher than that, and KwaZulu Natal in eastern South Africa, has the highest. In some areas of this province (which is largely Zulu people) communities are being devastated by AIDS, leaving no family members to care for children whose parents have died of the disease, many of whom are HIV+ themselves. In some cases, people from these very poor communities have taken on the task of caring for the children, and these small 'orphanages' are the only means of survival that these children have.

The Zamimpilo Orphanage in KwaMashu Township is such a facility. It was started by a remarkable woman named Faith Mathethwa, who operates a training facility for home-based AIDS care workers (who work as volunteers who often provide the only care people with AIDS receive in villages and townships. As the volunteers' patients came closer to death, some urged them to care for their children, since there was no one else. Faith began to take the children in to stay at the training center building, and two year later, the same building now houses 86 children ranging in age from 9 months to 15 years. The children cannot be tested for fear they will be ostracized, but it is assumed that many are HIV+. The Center has already lost 20 children over its 2-year existence.

The facility operates in the one building, which is where the children eat, sleep, play, and in the case of the younger children, go to school (the older children go next door to a township school). The orphanage is lucky to have electricity and running water, but the facilites are VERY basic. There are no beds- the children sleep on the floor. There is the tiniest of kitchens, with only a hot plate and no refrigerator. There is one bathtub...with a broken faucet.

In addition to Faith, there are 20 amazing volunteers, many of whom are also AIDS home-care workers, who do everything from working in the garden, which is a primary source of food for the children, to feeding, bathing, and working with the children.

The most amazing and inspiring thing is that, despite the harsh conditions, the children are very well cared for. I went to visit the orphanage a little over a month ago, and I was truly amazed and extremely moved by the effort these women are putting forth, working with virtually no funding and such basic facilities. The food is donated by the local community in bits at a time, and an occasional individual will donate a bag of used clothing, but that is it.

It is a project which has run well on so little, and it is for that reason that the Foundation wants to provide more to make the lives of these children and their care-givers alittle easier, and to help them to flourish and grow.

The Foundation has made a very generous donation to enable the children of Zamimpilo to have a Christmas, which they otherwise would not have. I have been busy shopping for 86 kids! Each child will have a stuffed animal to cuddle (except for the teen boys, who will get model cars...the wheel thing with guys is universal!), a new outfit of clothing, and a bag of sweets. In addition, YOU are providing new cooking and serving equipment, outdoor playthings, art materials, a cd player and music (GUESS who's playing!), blocks, puzzles, and other educational toys, cleaning supplies, baby needs, bulk grocery items,etc, etc.

There also will be a Christmas lunch provided to all, and little gifts for the volunteers. I could never do all this alone...I have gotten great support form the US Embassy here in Pretoria and the US Consulate in Durban. Chalone Savant, a former Texan who is the Consulate's Self-Help Coordinator has been my right arm, and we have a caravan of Embassy folks who will be helping to cart all this out to the Orphange on Wednesday, December 22, and be the necessary 'elves'.

The Foundation also has plans to make some much-needed improvements to the orphanage facility, including purchasing sleeping mats, kitchen equipment and outdoor play equipment.

I can't tell you how gratifying it has been for me to be involved in this effort...and to have this so deserving group of South African children receive help through YOUR generosity and the incredibly generous spirits of Josh and his family...makes it very special, indeed.

And, oh yes...pictures! Go here to view the Zamimpilo album so far:

Zamimpilo AIDS Orphanage

Needless to say, there'll be LOTS more pics after next week!

Thank you again for your incredible generosity....together, this group can do ANYTHING!!

-Andrea

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