Makaphutu - Hope in the Valley of Shadows

Trip Start Sep 09, 2013
Trip End Dec 16, 2013

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Flag of South Africa  , KwaZulu-Natal,
Saturday, November 16, 2013

Africa is under siege from HIV - the continent's rampant killer - and South Africa has not been spared the human devastation. There are over 1.5 million children orphaned by AIDS in this country and over 150 000 children living in children-led homes. The numbers just in the province of Kwazulu Natal (or Zulu-land) are staggering. 60% of the Zulu people are infected with HIV - communities and families are fractured - grief and death are common.

We came as short term volunteers to Makaphutu Children's Village with a desire to learn about this disturbing and difficult facet of life and death in South Africa. Makaphutu is home to 50 Zulu children ranging in age from 22 months to 18 years, all of them orphaned by AIDS. What they have lost cannot possibly be replaced, but the incredible staff at Makaphutu does give them a home and love.

Volunteers are expected to hit the ground running, to see what needs to be done and to do it. Within the first three days, I was developing a home school program for a boy who had been 'removed' from the local school, I was a taxi driver taking some other kids to and from the high school, I was editing a research proposal for one of the members of staff and I was the tutor at homework club. Sandi was organizing resources at the crèche, teaching the early childhood education staff how to make 'home made' play dough, stopping boys from hurtling themselves through wire fences on skateboards and coordinating games of 'Duck, Duck, Goose' - or at least the Zulu variation of same.

Coordinating the needs and lives of 50 children is - at the best of times chaotic - at the worst of times... well, just more chaotic! But through it all there is the faith and the hope and the love of the staff and somehow it all works out. The kids have good clothes, their own bed, healthy food and they also have each other, for better and for worse. Ultimately, Makaphutu is a family.

In an ideal world, of course all children would grow and learn and be nurtured by healthy parents in a healthy home in a healthy community. ( It is a sad reality that such is not the case, even in a country as privileged and rich as Canada). Instead, at Makaphutu, children are being raised, quite literally, on a hilltop overlooking a valley darkened by the shadow of death. But in the eyes of those children I see joy and contentment - and the seeds of the hope that will carry them through it.

If you would like to learn more about Makaphutu Children's Village:
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