We’ve just completed two days (about half) of the Lifelight distributions in support of vulnerable children and caregivers in the South Africa’s Nkomazi District which has a population of between 500-700,000 depending on what you read.  Neighbouring Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV rate and thousands of children have migrated to South Africa.  Although some are South African over many generations, we also spoke with Shangani-speaking families of refugees who fled across the border with Mozambique during the 20 year civil war that ended in 1992. The majority are Swazi and the local first language is Swazi (similar to Zulu) and even though English is taught in school I require an interpreter as only a handful of the children can understand or speak English. The ones that do, I interview one-on-one while the paperwork is being carried out.

Jeanette studying to a candle

This is 14-year old Jeanette who lives with her 6 cousins and Gogo (grandmother) & Mkulu (grandfather) whose 3 daughters passed away from ‘illness’. The likelihood of it being HIV/Aids is high since prevalence of the disease in this area is an estimated 45-50%. All 7 pupils study on the floor to an inefficient candle flame. I gave her a lift home in my mini-van taxi to Jeppe’s Reef and asked her if she could please show me how she did her homework.  Like all the children I’ve come across here, she studies on the floor. The children in this household were all born in Swaziland; therefore, they do not receive government social grants.  However, the elders receive a pension.

Our visit was on World AIDS Day, which was a sharp reminder of how devastating HIV/AIDS is, especially today.