We hear about AIDS all the time however do we really know what happens to a family when this dread disease comes knocking on the door? Who are the most vulnerable and what are they experiencing?
Is there any way we can turn the tide through experiential education that will change destinies? Find out more by reading this story …
“Once upon a time a bright eyed and happy little girl, called Zolani, lived in an idyllic rural village. She lived with her Mother and Father and there was always plenty of food, fun and laughter. She thought she was the luckiest girl in the world!
Then one day her Mamma told her, sadly, that her beloved Father had died of AIDS!
What makes her even sadder is that her mother tells her that they have no rights to her Father’s land and that they must go and stay with her relatives. All their former friends have ostracized them.
Zolani’s mother is forced to go to work for long hours with low pay, leaving her daughter to fend for herself. Zolani is constantly at risk of being coerced into sex by older men who superstitiously think that a young virgin represents a magical cure for AIDS. Zo misses her home and family life and becomes depressed and feels vulnerable and disappointed in life.
They have become very poor and life is tough. Relatives are already burdened by their own needs and AIDS has claimed many of the productive adults. Many homes are headed by a Gogo struggling to keep the kids clothed, fed and out of trouble. Many do not have any adults and the older kids work at a menial, badly paid job or are lured into crime.
Without many skills or opportunities, Zolani’s mother is forced to sell her body when she loses her job. Then she gets sick. By now Zo is not doing well at school and she feels very ‘different’ to her peers who enjoy a stable family life. She spends up to 4 hours a day taking care of her mother. Slowly more time is needed and Zolani drops out of school.
When her Mother dies of AIDS, Zolani is forced to move to relatives in the city. She has a lucky break as her great aunt takes an interest in her and enrols her in school again. She should be happy however she is self-conscious because she has fallen behind and most of her peers are younger and less physically developed than she is. She feels like a ‘freak’ when she tries to interact with them and her self-esteem takes a knock as they are relatively rich and have families … while she is embarrassed to be an orphan.
She gravitates towards the older children within her status group who have lost a parents to AIDS). Unfortunately, most of them have been drawn into comforting themselves through substance abuse and physical closeness through sex. Zo wants desperately to be belong to the’ in group’ and be admired. She experiments with alcohol because then she can forget the reality of her life. She feels a bit better about herself because one of the ‘sugar daddies’ has his eye on her. If only he was not so old she might like the promises of lovely new clothes, jewellery, and fun parties. She decides she needs more ‘experience’. The boys like her and have offered her drugs. But that means that she is going to have to sleep with one if she wants to continue being accepted.
Then one fateful day she sees a Lunchbox Theatre Show! As she watches the Thand’ Impilo Show she remembers the days when her Father would call her his ‘little Princess’. And how the three of them would, laughingly, tell each stories about their day … She realised, with great longing, that that what she needs is to feel safe again! She decides then and there to honour the memory of her parents and make herself safe. She decides to wait until she has married a good man like her Father and have a happy family.
After the performance, she shyly approaches one of the actresses and asks her about what it is like to dance and act. The actress says, “I want to make a positive difference to as many children as possible. It is impossible for any individual to fix all the problems in the world. I can only do what I can with my talents and trust that our messages will find the hearts that are waiting for them.”
Zo immediately went and found out about the After Schools Activities Program at her school. Through this outlet Zolani blossomed. She found peers who were like her, no matter what their social status. She loved her teacher who encouraged her and made her feel like she could act as many characters, yet remain true to herself.
In fact, her life became so full and there were so many advantages that she developed a fulfilling career and became a ‘Princess’ again. And yes, she did meet and marry her Prince and they lived happily ever after.”
This is not a true story however it a composite of facts drawn from research into what actually happens when a family breaks down because of the scourge of AIDS. One or more of the effects and circumstances described in this story do happen when a child loses a parent and the familial home. And Lunchbox are all about telling stories to make the world a better place.
The pressures are, sadly mostly on women as they are the most affected in every sphere of life. This is not to minimize the impact of HIV/AIDS on boys and men, but economic, social and cultural patterns places males in more favourable positions to cope with the impact. Existing gender inequalities intensify along with the pandemic. From a young girl to a mother to a grandmother AIDS is ripping the fabric of our society apart and it will be felt for generations to come.
This disease is waging war on us! And we can only fight it with love. Show your love by supporting the Love Life or Thand’ Impilo Show through a personal monthly donation or by organising funding to help us get this lifesaving show out to as many youngsters as possible.
See more on www.lunchbox.org.za