Impoverished African children whose family members are HIV-positive often find themselves needed at home to do chores and caregiving. Boys and girls looking after parents can end up neglecting their schoolwork or leaving school.
Eighteen-year-old Elizabeth Matambanadzo of Nyanga, in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province, decided to do something about it. Although she is HIV-positive herself, she joined Family Caring Trust, a youth group that eases the burdens of home-based caregivers by helping them with daily tasks like cooking, laundry and gathering firewood.
As Elizabeth told IRIN’s PlusNews, she didn’t originally think she could do this work.
“My mother passed away when I was five and my father when I was 10,” she said. “I have been staying with my grandmother since then. I tested HIV positive in 2008 when I was 16 after being sick for a long time. I developed sores all over my body that wouldn’t heal even after taking medicine. My grandmother and I were always in and out of hospital. I missed a lot of school.”
Elizabeth had never had sex; the doctor told her she may have been born HIV-positive. At first she was angry and blamed her parents for getting her sick. After taking antiretroviral drugs, her sores healed. Now strong, she wants to continue helping other people affected by HIV/AIDS—and that includes making it easier for children to go to school.
AIDS Orphans Put Heavy Stress on Grandparents
Through her work, Elizabeth has seen firsthand the enormous toll that taking care of AIDS orphans takes on grandparents.
“[The grandparents] know their children died of HIV and are very open about it,” she said. “The orphan problem here in Nyanga is huge. There are some grandmothers taking care of more than eight orphans and in their old age, this can be strenuous, so we help out as much as we can. The grandparents appreciate a simple action like helping their grandchildren get ready for school in the morning.”
Like Elizabeth, SOS Children’s Villages works to provide relief to HIV-affected families. The main mission of SOS is to protect children. Poor households with an ill family member are at risk of being unable to care for their offspring.
To help keep families intact, SOS runs family strengthening programs that offer food and financial subsidies and teach small business skills. These programs are often attached to SOS Children’s Villages, where orphaned and abandoned children find loving homes, education, and a supportive community that prepares them for a productive adulthood.
To learn more, see www.sos-usa.org.
Photo Credit: SOS Children's Villages
By Kyna Rubin, SOS Children’s Villages