films that make a difference
Mbali is eleven, but she takes her responsibilities very seriously. Whether looking after her seven-year-old brother, caring for her desperately ill father, or preparing to go to school, she rarely smiles. Since her mother died of AIDS four months ago, she has been in charge but the strain is showing on her young face.
Mbali’s greatest fear is what will become of them if her father does indeed die.The extended family has already taken in all the AIDS orphans it can cope with, and at 11, there is a feeling that she should be able to cope.But at night she lies awake, terrified that ‘bad men’ will try to come into their hut. She is well aware of the superstition that having sex with a virgin girl cures AIDS.That superstition has taken a terrible toll in terms of rape and child abuse.
Several million children have already been orphaned by South Africa’s AIDS epidemic. In most cases, extended families intervene and take responsibility for raising the orphans. But in areas like Kwa-Zulu Natal, there just aren’t enough living adult relatives left to cope. Two of Mbali’s aunts have already died from AIDS, a third visits them every now and again. But the only consistent adult presence in their lives is Sister Hedwick.
Sister Hedwig visits Mbali and Sne whenever she can – her smiling eyes set behind large round spectacles on a jet black face, which in turn is framed by the pure white nun’s habit.She does all she can, although in actual fact this is very little – even replacing Sne's ragged t-shirt stretches her resources. The little money her order gets from abroad goes on “Pap”, a vitamin enriched mealie meal that she gives Mbali to feed to her father, in the hope that it will give him a little strength to fight the AIDS virus that saps him even of the strength to get out of bed.
As an AIDS counselor, Sister Hedwig visit villages all around the Nkandla area offering free AIDS tests. Up to half of those they test are HIV positive. Women, particularly young mothers, often want to be tested so that they can make plans for their children. If they test positive, Sister Hedwig will do all she can for them: bitter experience has taught her that if a mother dies, the children might as well have lost both parents because all too often, fathers just disappear. If she is to avoid another Mbali lying awake at night, she must keep the mothers alive. As well as exploring the individual plight of South Africa’s AIDS orphans, this moving film tackles the global injustices that make up the AIDS story.
Thank you to all those who have helped the children of Nkandla since the documentary was first shown in 2003. Here is a report that has been compiled by Sister Ellen and Sister Hedwig. Sister Hedwig is now Head of Sizanani Child and Youth Care Centre, and the Nardini Sisters Welfare Outreach’s senior social worker.
Mbali Mbatha, Sne Mbatha & Nobuhle Linda:
Mbali remains focused and determined to pursue a career in social work. She has started her own vegetable garden to improve nutrition and food security. Mbali is supporting her brother Sne and her infant son Luthando. Sne is now at Velangaye High School. In order to attend daily school, weekend classes and classes after school he has to lodge with a family close to the Manyala Primary school which he attends. Sizanani is taking care of this cost.
Nobuhle Linda is at Mthiyaqhwa High. She still lives with her mother and their extended family. Sadly four family members have been diagnosed HIV. The house Sizanani had built for the family and the furniture it provided have greatly improved their situation.
Ntombi and Noxolo: both left school, had babies and unfortunately have become out of hand. Noxolo's baby died and it has become extremely difficult to follow the girls. Zozo their cousin has been diagnosed HIV positive, and his health is variable.
Psychosocial support and documentation for grants:
This service includes comprehensive support to those living in remote settlements. We help to obtain legal documents which enables children and their families to access government social grants. The documents are ID books, birth, death and marriage certificates. The service comprises educating beneficiaries on the relevant rules and regulations and on their rights to various forms of social grants and on the processes involved. Some 200 people were helped to access legal documents with the assistance of Sizanani.
Support groups: Trauma and illness: Sister Hedwig runs two HIV/AIDS support groups comprising 60 children each. One group comes through Thalaneni Clinic which is one of Nkandla’s 11 satellite clinics attached to Nkandla District Hospital. The second group of 60 includes 12 children from Sizanani Child & Youth Care Centre who are on ARV treatment. Last year Sr Hedwig attended a special workshop at the University of the Free State on gathering and preparing valid forensic evidence that would stand in a court hearing.
Education support: Donations were spent on school uniforms and learning materials for two learning-disabled Sizanani children who attend special school.
Nutrition support: This service is critical for the holistic development of the children under the care of Sizanani. The support includes: Food parcels for eight children when they went home to families and those accommodating them; payments for provisions for SYCC children; and groceries for learners like Sne who lodge with other families but have to cook for themselves. Fortunately the school now provides one meal a day which supplements their food.
Sizanani Child and Youth Care Centre has 40 children who must be fed, clothed and helped with their education, and provided with medical care. Several children such as Zinhle, who is blind, have special needs.
Altogether, through its support for distressed families, OVCs, child-headed families and children under its immediate care, Sizanani spends R500 000 (£35,714.29) a year on food, nutrition and special supplements such as E-pap (fortified porridge) for beneficiaries on ARV treatment.
If you want to help the Nardini Sister's convent by making a donation then please contact True Vision
Organisations involved in helping AIDS Orphans in South Africa
The Elton John AIDS Foundation is a UK registered, not-for-profit organisation with an international charitable remit. Since our inception in 1993, over 900 HIV/AIDS projects have been funded in 55 countries worldwide.
The AIDS Foundation of South Africa is a registered non-profit organisation based in Durban , South Africa . Its mission is to mobilise and manage resources for HIV/AIDS work in the country. It was founded in 1988 by a group of concerned individuals who saw their friends living with HIV/AIDS, with neither government nor community support.
UNAIDS in South Africa works through the UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS, consisting exclusively of the UN Country Team (Cosponsors and non-Cosponsors of UNAIDS), with the UNAIDS Country Coordinator's office as a secretariat.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is a grassroot movement for HIV treatment literacy,
and campaigns for greater access to treatment for all South Africans