On September 18, 2009 The Roscommon People covered Ciara Cunningham's story in the article The sad plight of an AIDS orphan. Ciara is one of the winners of EIL Travel Awards 2009. She have travelled to South Africa for nine weeks as part of EIL’s Global Awareness Programme, to volunteer with people living with HIV and AIDS.
Cape Town Diary
by Ciara Cunningham
Amid the saga of numerous leaders continually failing their nation (Mandela, Mbeki and PROBABLY Zuma) and allowing such a huge epidemic to afflict half of the population, comes such care and love for and from the babies. That they are a completely innocent product of government denial, a severe lack of education and extreme poverty (massive economic inequality) breaks my heart.
I came home from 9 weeks in South Africa on Saturday morning. 9 weeks that felt more like 6 months. I started back at work (www.homelinkbray.ie) today, Tuesday. And now it feels like I never left Ireland. Except for the fact that my heart is still sitting on a chair in the playroom in ThembaCare, Athlone.
I will never forget I and L's tears when I was saying goodbye to them.
Oisin Brogan from Tralee Co. Kerry spent 6 months volunteering in Nigeria and shares his story with us.
While my time working here has been exhausting, challenging, heartbreaking, and incredibly difficult, it has also been amazing. enlightening, mind opening, and incredibly enriching, an experience I am so happy to have had, and I look forward to having similar again. By being here, I am not 'making a difference' (I reaaaally dislike that phrase!), but working WITH people on the ground and seeing the changes that we can make for the better every single day. I cannot imagine not having come here and meeting those incredibly brave and heartwarming children.
I’m not a twin so I don’t know the connection they share. However, I am a sister and if it is anything like the relationship between siblings, then it is a very special bond. This is what makes Toban’s* situation so unfortunate.
One thing I never mentioned about the babies here at ThembaCare; while most might come in underweight and malnourished, K, the 11 year old who passed away during my first week is the only child I have seen, since I came here, that actually looked sick. As I write this blog, I (one of the two babies that I wish I could take home with me) is sitting on my lap, laughing and giggling, making funny noises, chewing my jumper and making a mess of the desk I am sitting at, just like any other baby.
I am spending quite a lot of time with a twin here in South Africa, but it is not my twin/twolet, Julie, :( !! B is a boy and he is 2 years & 4 months old. He is the older twin (born first), and while B is HIV+, K, his twin brother is not.
While K, the healthy twin is thriving and living at home (in a shack in one of SA's townships) with his mother and grandfather, B is living at ThembaCare.
He was admitted to ThembaCare for three reasons:
In Africa there are 13 million AIDS orphans. "A generation of human beings who have never known a mother's loving cuddle or a father's guiding hand. These children will learn life skills in institutions rather than imbibe them from their parents." Richard Dowden - AFRICA: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles.
I will never understand how it feels for a child to be abandoned by his family, not knowing when he will see a familiar face again, if ever.
Without any medication, a HIV+ child will most certainly die by their 5th birthday...
The babies are woken up every morning at 06.30 where they receive three 'soft' oral syringes of fruit flavoured syrup (which disguises the horrid taste of the ARVs) and again at 18.30. They must take their medication at the exact same time every single day, something they will have to do for the rest of their lives...and if they do not adhere to this, resistance to the drugs can occur...