Despite the misery we witness frequently in our work, we are constantly inspired by cases of mothers empowered by our programmes to improve their situations.
Nosipho Thukwayo’s story
My name is Nosipho Thukwayo. I live in Zwelitsha with my 2 sisters and my child, Sinokuhle. Because we don’t have a place to stay we stay in someone else’s house, no one is working and we depend on my child’s grant. I’m HIV+ and was diagnosed in the year 2001 and am on ARVs.
Sometimes we sleep without having something to eat for days and that makes me unable to take my treatment on an empty stomach and my child sometimes also doesn’t have food either. We don’t have parents because my mother died in the year 2000 because of asthma and my dad went to Gauteng when we were still young, we don’t even know him.
We were born 9 and 4 died. I’m left with 3 sisters and 1 brother, who also went to Gauteng and never came back again. My older sister died in July 2008. My younger sister is in Grade 11 and even if there’s something needed at school she must wait for my child’s grant. My mom’s sisters are in the Eastern Cape and they also don’t care about us, even today we didn’t have anything to eat since the day before last.
Assistant Coordinator: We met this lady when we did house to house visits, weighing children. Her child is underweight for age and is HIV+. We talked with the lady and she shared her story that touched me because they sleep without food and there is no place for them to stay. They live with a friend, sometimes it is not easy for her to take treatment as she is not ready to disclose to her friend. We promised to build a liveable shack and also we gave her R 300 from our fund for people who can do things for themselves, so that she can buy food for them.
The Morris family’s story
This lady has four children, living at Nkanini in an informal settlement with the children and two grandchildren. One of her grandchildren is on our programme. Her name is Ongeziwe Morris. She is underweight and also has TB.
The story of this family is that the lady tried to commit suicide three times and is now under Lentegeur Hospital, taking treatment. We tried to discover why she did this. She said she was suffering, also three of her children were infected with HIV and with TB, there was not enough food for them while they were taking treatment and they defaulted on their treatment while she was in hospital. She also told us that she didn’t know the whereabouts of the mother of her grandchild, who had left the child, and the grandchildren also had TB and were not taking treatment.
We started our first intervention, to organize food for them and to go back to the clinic where they were taking TB treatment. The nurses told us that they were not going to give them treatment again because this was the third clinic where they had defaulted treatment and also in this family was a lady who had escaped Brooklyn Hospital with MDR TB. We explained to them that we were worried about the children and also were going to monitor them to continue taking treatment. We also referred the family to Dr Ingrid le Roux to do her assessment and referred them to the TB doctor. We managed to convince the clinic to take them back. We started with one of them, so he took the treatment and others started to be tested again.
We also made sure that they checked their CD4 count, so that they could start ARVs early, because the lady who escaped from hospital was sick, with diarrhea and fast breathing – we took her to the clinic to be seen by the TB doctor. We continue visiting them and also encourage this lady to apply for grants for her grandchildren.
Khanyisa Peter, Senior Assistant Outreach Coordinator
This young girl Nomasibulele, aged 16, had a baby at 9 months 3 weeks, weighing 5.9 kg. Both her parents have died, the father in 2003 and the mother in 2007, caused by stress. Her parents were married and had 5 children. Nomasibulele is the first born and is now looking after her own child and her siblings. They have family, uncles and aunts, but they do not care for these kids. The child support grant was refused. Two of Nomasibulele’s siblings have now moved to Eastern Cape and stay with an old granny there. The mother had an income from the father’s work pension after he died. A friend of the mother is now the beneficiary of that pension and is not supporting the children but using the money for herself. Nomasibulele, her child and siblings do not have money for food. I have referred this problem to Social Services and they are investigating. In the meantime, they are receiving emergency relief from Philani, I am helping Nomasibulele to get an ID book and encouraging her to go back to school.
Nosandla Gqweta, Assistant coordinator
Nonzana’s family touched me a lot from the first day I visited them in lower Crossroads. This is a 44-year- old mother with 9 kids, staying in a small, one-room shack. None of those children is in school, they are staying at home with their mother. The six-month-old baby is underweight. There is no water in the house, they are so dirty and hungry. They are cooking food on an open fire inside the shack and the smoke makes everything dirty. Nobody is working in the house. They depend on the food they ask for from the Muslim church. They have no money to pay the rent for the land where they have built the shack.
The owner of the land closed off the water. They asked for water from the neighbour, only enough to cook and drink. There is no water to wash their clothes or bodies. They are suffering a lot. The mother wakes up early in the morning and takes the baby on her back and goes to the Muslims to ask for food, leaving the other children in the house with no food until she comes back. Mom gave birth at home to all those children, there are no clinic cards, no child support grant. Their father is working in the taxi rank, but not supporting the family. The mother tells me her husband does not want to hear anything about supporting the children. We are helping her to get clinic cards so that she can get the child support grants.
Nomonde Zigana, Assistant coordinator
A desperate family’s story
It had rained the night before and although the sun was up it was the beginning of winter and cold. This was in the afternoon, when I was asked by Nonguquko, an Outreach worker, to visit a desperate family with her. After knocking on the door for a while it was eventually opened and the heartbreaking cry of a hungry baby greeted us. The mother, who did not look well, was sitting on the bed trying to calm the baby with a bottle of water. A 5-year-old boy, who looked small for his age, was standing next to the mother asking for bread.
The following problems were established in this home: the mother had enlarged glands behind her ears and looked very thin. Her feet were swollen. She was stressed because she had no food for her children or herself. Her breasts had dried up and she had no other milk for her baby. There was no food in the house and when we checked the cupboards they were empty. The room was very cold and she had no electricity. She had no grant for the baby.
I always carry a tin of Nan for emergencies and we were able to make a bottle of milk for the baby. The baby literally gulped down the milk and it was gone in a flash. Soon after, he fell asleep. We referred the mother to the Philani clinic for continuous milk supply. I wrote a referral letter for the mother to be investigated for TB and gave her some money so she could buy food for herself and the older child. We applied for, and she was granted, emergency relief from Philani for three months, while waiting for the child support grant. The mother is now on TB treatment and the baby is thriving. This mother’s problems are not over, but we have managed to alleviate some of her concerns and will continue supporting her.
Nomvuyo Macaba, Nursing Sister
Azenathi and Nobomi's story
As a 14-month-old baby, Azenathi weighed 5.7kg, was HIV+ and very sick. On our first outreach visit we tried to gather as much information as possible, despite the difficulty of being disturbed by neighbours curious to know who and why we were there.
Azenathi's 24-year-old mother, Nobomi, lives alone, abandoned by her family and boyfriend because of her sick baby. We asked if she had been attending a local clinic, but the answer was no, although she had a letter from a doctor. She should have been attending appointments at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town, but she had not had sufficient money to be able to do so for the previous 2 months. Asked why she was not going to the nearby clinic, in tears she responded, 'I will never go to that one, because everyone will laugh at my child as my neighbours do.'
Philani's Medical Doctor examined the child and referred her to the Red Cross Hospital. Azenathi has now started on ante-retroviral drugs and Nobomi no longer has difficulty in attending appointments. Thanks to a grant from Philani's Desmond Tutu Scholarship Fund, Nobomi has been able to pay for Azenathi to be cared for at a crèche while she works, she is able to buy food and is improving her shack. She is also saving money to attend night school.
Nosipho is an 18-year-old girl who was found destitute by one of our outreach workers. Orphaned and left alone by HIV, she had lived with her uncle, until she had a child herself and was thrown out by her uncle's wife. She was then given shelter by various friends, but had no money to clothe herself or her child and, by the time Nosipho was discovered by Philani, her 2-year-old child was severely malnourished.
Our first intervention was to assist Nosipho in replacing her lost ID book, as without it she was unable to obtain a government clinic card for her child. Our initial financial assistance with this failed, as, in desperation, Nosipho spent the money on food. We then enrolled her on to Philani's Desmond Tutu Scholarship Fund, offering modest financial assistance for 1 year. She was accompanied to obtain her ID by an outreach worker, finally has a clinic card for her child and has applied for a child support grant from the government. With the assistance of CHOSA, we were also able to build a home for Nosipho and her child. She has borrowed furniture and is proudly keeping the house immaculately clean.
In December 2006, Nosipho came to Philani and told us that she was planning to return to school in 2007. She had already organized care for her baby at a crèche and obtained a report from her previous school. The fact that she felt empowered to do this is testament to the strength of the human spirit to overcome immense obstacles, if support can be found and maintained. By building trusted relationships with clients, often young mothers without any other support, our outreach workers consistently demonstrate the weight of the grassroots approach of Philani's programmes.
Mrs Liwani's story
Early in the morning, while visiting families in Crossroads, we came across a 26-year-old mother pushing a trolley. Her 4-year-old child, walking barefoot, was helping his mother to push. Every Tuesday, when the rubbish bins were put out, Mrs Liwani would push her trolley, with her 8-month-old baby on her back, scratching in the bins to find anything she could eat, wear or sell.
This was a very striking sight. We accompanied Mrs Liwani until we reached a tiny one-roomed shack near the N2 freeway. A fire in a tin made the very neat room warm, two thin blankets were folded in a corner and a candle was pushed into a coca-cola bottle. On the table was a small amount of maize meal with a little sugar in a bottle. The baby was severely underweight at 4.5kg, dehydrated and having difficulty breathing. Both mother and children looked very hungry and tired. The baby had had diarrhoea for some time, so with a little sugar and salt, we quickly made an oral rehydration solution, which the baby drank quickly as she was so thirsty. We then took her to Philani's Medical Doctor as this was an emergency.
The child was admitted to the Red Cross Children's Hospital for 2 weeks, then stayed in Themba Care for 4 months. This relieved Mrs Liwani and gave her the chance to look at herself and her other child. We then arranged for Mrs Liwani to receive assistance from Philani's Desmond Tutu Scholarship Fund. With the first R300 she bought some soap to wash herself and her clothes, as well as maize meal, rice, samp and vegetables. She also budgeted for a few rands to enable her to visit her baby in hospital. The next time we visited the family we saw 2 new blankets and Mrs Liwani showed us a new pair of shoes she had bought for her son. The shack was becoming brighter and brighter at every visit.
Today Mrs Liwani is living in a 2-roomed shack, painted white outside, clean and neat inside. She is a mother with hope, who shows us smiles when we visit, instead of tears. She now pushes a trolley at the supermarket and plans each day of her family's life with confidence.