Our series of Friday blogs focus on examples of living out works of mercy during Lent. In this blog, Susan Kambalu, who accompanied four Step into the Gap volunteers to visit CAFOD partners in Zimbabwe last month, talks about hope for the future in the HIV and AIDS projects she visited.
One of my favourite Bible verses is Jeremiah 29:11: ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to give you hope and a future.”’ When I’ve faced challenges in my own life, this verse has given me hope and encouraged me to keep going. But there has been one area of life where it has been hard to find hope at times. Members of my extended family have lived with the impact of HIV and AIDS, and the story I have seen over the past 15 years or so has not been a positive one. So it was with some trepidation that I prepared to visit Zimbabwe, to see first-hand the work of CAFOD partners Mavambo, Mashambanzou and St Albert’s Mission Hospital in supporting people living with HIV.
These three partners, situated in very different contexts, work together on the programme, Putting Children First. This is a complex programme, covering areas such as child protection, birth certificates, income generating projects, school fees, and health care. The staff members I met were all passionate about their work, and were full of compassion and tenderness.
On World AIDS Day, Montserrat Fernández, Programme Officer for Central America, tells us how our partners in Guatemala are supporting women, men and children living with HIV.
The first time I met a person with HIV was in 1990, 25 years ago, in Canada. Since then, through my work with CAFOD in Central America, I have met dozens of girls, boys, women and men living with HIV, all of whom have enriched my understanding of how to live with dignity and with strength. On World AIDS Day, I want to share with you just one of the many stories from these individuals who have inspired me so much.
Gimena and David’s story
Gimena and her husband David are both living with HIV. When their baby boy was born, Gimena was breastfeeding him, unaware of the risks of transmitting the virus through her milk. They were not sure at that stage whether or not he was HIV positive because all newborns have antibodies from their mother, which means an HIV test shows positive, even if the baby is not infected himself.
Gimena said: “The doctor told me: ‘Don’t breastfeed him any more.’ I started praying, asking God to save my baby.
“A year and a half later I said to God: ‘It’s going to be your will, not my desire.’ They tested my son, and after a time they told me: ‘Congratulations Mrs Gimena! Thank God! Although you breastfed him for four months, his HIV test result is negative.’ The doctors shouted and hugged each other, saying: ‘The child is well!’ I wept for pure joy.” Continue reading “World AIDS Day 2015”
CAFOD’s gap year volunteers in Zimbabwe have been learning about our work supporting people with HIV and AIDS:
HIV and AIDS is something we’re all aware of and have heard about, but until we were immersed in the reality of Zimbabwe, we could not truly appreciate the impact it has on the individuals affected, their livelihoods, families and communities. However, within a situation which can sometimes seem hopeless and desperate, we have been truly inspired by the work of the Mashambanzou Care Trust.
Mashambanzou is a CAFOD partner which ultimately aims to see HIV-free communities through empowerment, care and support. They work mainly in poor, overcrowded areas of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Over the past week we have witnessed many incredible projects, such as a children’s day care centre, child protection clubs in schools, and home visits to people living with HIV. Continue reading “Step into the Gap – Our week at Mashambanzou”