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Feeding program through World Hunger Fund provides food for HIV-positive orphan comment (0)

November 29, 2012

Feeding program through World Hunger Fund provides food for HIV-positive orphan

The boy carefully climbs out of the desk and makes his way to the large chalkboard at the front of the classroom. After eyeing his teacher, the 10-year-old boy, Clive, picks up the piece of chalk and fills in the subtraction problem. It may seem small, but Clive’s headmaster and teacher agree he is making remarkable improvements. Just a few months prior, this same boy was spending more time in the clinic than he was in the classroom.

Like many others in the Zimbabwe village of Zvavahera, Clive is HIV positive. But Clive’s battle with HIV began long before he was diagnosed. Before the disease began to consume his own body — stunting his growth and making him smaller than other boys his age — it already was shaping his life. In 2007 AIDS took the lives of both Clive’s mother and father, recasting the roles of his family and forcing his 16-year-old sister, Mercy, into the role of primary caregiver.

“When my parents were still alive, everything was better,” Mercy said. “They used to assist us and play their role. When they passed away things became very difficult for us.”

While other children their age come home from school to fully prepared meals, Clive and Mercy begin the race to complete chores before sunset. The balancing act of cleaning the dishes, sweeping the home, finding firewood, fetching water, searching for food, preparing the meal, finishing homework and other tasks often kept them out of school.

In 2011, Clive received the news he was HIV positive. Mercy said he really had no idea what it meant.

What began as a few missed days of school soon spiraled into months of illness. His decline in health made it impossible to make the four-mile walk from home to school. 

“Clive used to be in the clinic every week or every month,” said Evans Thonolana, Zvavahera Clinic nurse.

On the rare occasions Clive could attend school, his teacher noted that the most he could do was sleep at his desk, unable to even copy notes from the chalkboard onto his paper. Clive’s headmaster, Shadreck Makaganise, wondered if the boy would ever recover. 

“We once went to see him,” Makaganise said. “It was terrible, because we never thought he was going to survive.”

Though Clive had medicine, he lacked the one simple thing needed to sustain his life — food. Nurse Thonolana said many of the symptoms Clive suffered were caused by his not having enough food for his medicine to be effective.

Finding food was nearly impossible for the two children. Extended family could not help, and drought made it difficult to grow crops. The combination forced Mercy and Clive into a desperate situation.  

Mercy often skipped school in order to work a neighbor’s gardens, in hopes of providing a little extra food for her brother.

“At times when he got sick, I used to cry because I didn’t know what to do,” Mercy said, her eyes filling with tears. “When he got sick he used to lose a lot of weight within a few days or so. … I felt like I was hopeless. I could not improve the situation of my brother.”

After a visit to the village of Zvavahera, and seeing many in situations like Clive and Mercy, Aaron Mutingwende, orphan care program director for the Baptist Union of Zimbabwe, decided something had to be done. Mutingwende applied for a grant through Baptist Global Response to fund a feeding program in the area. Through that effort, hundreds of families impacted by HIV and AIDS have been provided with food.

The lifesaving food was provided by the World Hunger Fund.

Every month around 350 people come to the faded blue clinic in Zvavahera to receive their food. After weighing in and recording their progress, they fill their plastic sacks with rice, peanut butter, sugar, oil, soap and various goods handed out by volunteers from the local Baptist church. The recipients leave with more than a full bag of food. At every distribution, Nurse Thonolana educates the crowd on HIV care and prevention and Mutingwende encourages them to live the full and abundant life promised by Jesus.

“We have to take care of the needy. We have to take care of the sick,” Mutingwende said. “We can’t allow people to think just because they are sick we no longer value them. … They are part of our family, still part of society.”

Mutingwende has seen the restoration in both individuals and the community as a result of this food distribution. From once-bedridden patients now walking to several HIV support groups developing, he said he could have never imagined this type of progress when the first distribution was made in January 2011.

“We have seen wonders being caused by the program,” Mutingwende said.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1. For resources to help your church observe World AIDS Day, visit www.baptistglobalresponse.com.


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