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As explained in last month’s issue, The Africa Project is a grass roots organization made up of community members who feel compelled to do something to address the AIDS orphan crisis in Africa.

Our group took the first of many trips to Nkandla, located in the Kwa Zulu Natal region of South Africa last month. Although, through the course of our travels our group lost a few members as a result of various traveling difficulties, five representatives from our team made it to Nkandla. The purpose of the first visit was to learn more about our village and their needs. The following are highlights from the trip and potential plans to help the village of Nkandla.

During the trip the team stayed with The Nardini Sisters who are a group that already provide a great deal of social and medical services in the community. Upon arrival, they presented a check for $4,903 to support the children in the community. These funds were raised through the help of our Ukuqala Campaign. Again, great thanks to all of our Ukuqala sponsors!

The team’s first day in Nkandla included a site visit to the Nkandla Hospital where they met with hospital staff and visited the wards. The hospital provides the majority of medical services in the region and the staff is committed to serving the needs of the people. They face many challenges and the most pressing needs seems to be a lack of housing for medical staff who would be willing to come to Nkandla to work. The result of this are shortages of doctors willing to attend to the medical needs of the community.

The Nkandla hospital is also a teaching site for future nurses. Their nursing school’s greatest needs also seems to be housing for both students attending the school and staff needed to teach the program.

During the week, they visited several families. A few of these families are the ones featured in The Orphans of Nkandla documentary where producer and narrator Brian Woods tells the story of three families devastated by AIDS in Africa.

In one instance, they visited a family consisting of three young men who are literally alone in the world. The Nardini Sisters are committed to keeping them in school, so they are providing food and other support for the boys on a regular basis. Their housing is inadequate and as a group, we have determined that a portion of the funds we took over would go to building them a concrete home. The new brick house will be modest, yet stable and will last the family for many years to come. It will consist of three rooms and is roughly 300 square feet. The cost to build the modest home will be about $2,000 (which will include paying a local village mason worker to build it – an added plus since he will be able to use his skill to earn money for his family.)

A third family they met is comprised of four young children and their older sister. Their story is particularly upsetting, but the work being done for them is hopeful. Over a year ago, Sister Hedwig was visiting the family on a regular basis. The mother was dying of AIDS and the older sister had dropped out of school to work in the forest to earn money for the family. The nuns were providing food and support to the family each week. One Wednesday, the sisters visited the home and brought food as well as emotional support to the mother. That Friday, the mother passed away in her home. Because the home was situated far out on the other side of the forest, the sisters only visited once a week. When the mother died, the younger children did not know what to do and as a result, they lived with their mother’s body in the house for four days. At one point, the two older children walked (a very long way) to Nkandla to find the sisters who visited them each week. When they arrived at the hospital, they were taken to Sister Hedwig who was able to assist. The mother was properly buried and the children were placed at Sizanani Centre, the orphanage run by the convent. They stayed there for several months and received counseling and enrolled in school. Sister Hedwig later found a suitable home for the girls who now live with their older sister. They all currently attend school, relying on the support of the nuns.

Towards the end of their trip the group visited Velangaye High School, which is one of several schools in Nkandla in desperate need of help. The school serves 505 students each day in grades 8 to 12. The principal, Mr. N.E. Mahaye is an impressive leader and is committed to guarantee that each of his students has an opportunity to reach their highest potential. He and his staff are doing amazing things with very few resources. As a group, we have determined that assisting the high school should be one of our top priorities.

The group learned that when going to school most of the students arrive on an empty stomach with little hope of food even when they return home. In addition to the obvious suffering that these children face everyday is the negative effect poor nutrition has on these children’s ability to process and store information. Providing at least one meal per day at the school would improve their quality of life and help them succeed in school. Renovation of structural facilities of the schools including the buildings and classrooms, electricity, toilets, and water supply are also matters essential to the success of the community.

When talking to the students, the group also learned that more often than not,
the students who are qualified to go on to the University or to a trade school
are often too poor to do so. So setting up a fund for higher/continued education
would be very worthwhile.

Together there are so many lives we can change. With one trip we have already changed the lives of dozens of these children – to think that this is only the beginning is incredible. With your help we can continue to change the lives of the hundreds of AIDS orphans in Nkandla. Please continue to help and support our project. Your involvement and generosity is greatly appreciated and has already made a difference in these children’s lives.

Again, if you haven’t already, please don’t hesitate to get involved. Contact us at
www.theafricaproject.com. There are many different ways to get involved. Even by yourself you can develop and host a fundraiser to support The Africa Project. Host a dinner for friends and have everyone donate a set amount. Host a car wash and accept donations. Even bake sales and lemonade stands are activities that even the youngest of supporters can host.

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