Dear friends of Zimkids,
A year and a half ago, 10-year old Brian Dube showed up at Zimkids coughing and weak. We took him to the doctor, who diagnosed him with both HIV and active tuberculosis and put him on medications for both. It was too late for his tiny body; he died in the middle of his night while sleeping with his grandmother.
Six months later, we lost 17-year-old Simsethu. HIV positive and on antiretroviral treatment, she’d run out of medication and informed no one. After two strokes, she succumbed in the summer of 2009.
Their deaths were a wake-up call, and I realized that food wasn’t enough; we had to make health care for the children a priority. Since then, we have tested all of them for HIV, and those who proved positive are now on medication. And we regularly take kids in for treatment for scabies and worms, tuberculosis and myriad other infections. We have had no deaths among the children since then.
But our caregivers have not fared so well.
Sizi Moyo, mother of Musa and Mthabisi, died this February at the age of 42 of HIV-related illnesses, having refused antiretroviral treatment. Three weeks earlier, she’d given birth to a 4-pound baby boy. Esther Mashaba’s mother Sekai, died later that month at the age of 35, also of an HIV-related illness. She had refused to be tested.
At the beginning of June, we buried Sidumisile Ngwenya’s mother, Sithibile, following what appeared to be a diabetic coma. We’ll never know for sure since the hospital did nothing to figure out what was wrong with this funny, energetic woman who’d seemed in perfect health.
Then, Busisizwe Fuyani’s mother, Sibongile, suddenly fell ill. She’d had a rough time after her husband, Vigour, died in 2008. His family had taken everything they’d owned, and she’d been forced to move in with her sister. But she’d raised an amazing son, who’d just been elected to our Council of Elders. Sibongile languished in the hospital without treatment or diagnosis. Her nieces had to feed and bathe her. She died two weeks later.
We at Zimkids made a decision long ago that we would rather provide ever-deeper care to the children we serve than to increase our numbers, and we now provide them with food, medical, educational and social resources. After this year’s disasters, we realized that we also need to protect our caregivers’ health and provide them with the tools to support the children. When a caregiver dies, the children left behind are too often sent to live in rural areas, where there is no schooling, no healthcare and no support. Thus far, we have managed to keep Busisizwe, Sidumisile, Musa and Mthabisi and Esther in the community, where we can continue to provide for them. But we cannot risk adding to their numbers by neglecting their grandparents and aunts.
We’ve updated our website with more thorough biographies of both the individual children and their caregivers. In the caregivers bios we included their wish for the tools that would bring in income.
I’m back in the States fundraising until November and while I’m gone, all Zimkids programs continue under Tinashe’s guidance. I’m hoping to be able to take back a stack of educational DVDs and used laptops when I return. If you have either that you no longer need, please think of us. This year, we’re really hoping to bolster our educational programs.
Thank you for your continued kindness, support and concern.
Sithabile Ngwenya and Sidumisile Ngwenya