In honor of World AIDS Day, on Dec. 1, we invite you to celebrate the courage of people everywhere who continue to build their lives while living with HIV, and the perseverance of churches in taking action against AIDS. May you be moved by the stories of these women, just one example of the hope and strength that MCC workers often see in AIDS work around the world.
In rural Zambia, the Zambian Brethren in Christ (BIC) Church Compassionate Ministries, an MCC partner, provides home-based care, assistance to orphans and $100 grants to help people living with HIV find ways to support themselves. Grace Mweemba, right, standing with home-based caregiver Elizabeth Lungu, was able to build her home through profits from a small business that began with a $100 grant from BIC Compassionate Ministries.
Compassionate Ministries gives grants through support groups, which help provide a web of encouragement and care. Josephine Leswaneso, middle, stands with Mrs. Ellah Dubeka, left, chairwoman of BIC Women's Ministry; Mary Munsanda, kneeling, chair of the Chisekezi women's support group; and Elizabeth Lungu, right, a home-based caregiver. Leswaneso was able to build this home through profits from a food-selling business she began after receiving a grant.
When Gertrude Mundia tested positive for HIV in 2005, her mother came to a BIC Compassionate Ministries support group crying, “Now she is going to die!” The response from the group was a resounding "No," and they stepped in to help Mundia, who has two sons, access medical care and antiretroviral medicines. Through a $100 grant from the group, Mundia was able to start a small business selling donuts and has since begun a small shop.
Support groups are also able to educate women about how to prevent HIV from spreading through pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding. Maureen Munsaka is HIV-positive and on antiretroviral medications. Her two youngest children, through the education she had and the care they received, were born without HIV.
Many of the women in the support groups are widows. Often they have lost the wage earner in the family and live on small farming incomes. The BIC grants can help provide enough cash to begin raising livestock. For instance, Kelosia Mwemba, a widow living with HIV, used her grant to buy a pig. From the money she earned from its piglets, Mwenba was able to begin raising chickens. She was able to build this house with profits from her animals.
Debra Hachoka, part of a support group in Batoka, a small village just outside Choma, Zambia, used a grant to begin raising five goats. She now owns 10. She plans to sell four goats for food and another four to buy seed and fertilizer for a garden.
In countries where AIDS is widespread, it’s not uncommon to find more than one generation in a family affected. Alice Mudendi, a widow who is HIV-positive, is caring for an HIV-positive daughter and three grandchildren. She used her grant to buy seeds to plant maize, tomatoes and ground nuts (peanuts), which she can sell to neighbors. She will continue to farm – and to sustain her family – by saving seeds from the original plants.
Rhoda Liyokelo and family, including 3-year-old Frazer, received this MCC blanket through BIC Compassionate Ministries. Her husband died of AIDS, and she spent all her earnings to pay for the funeral. With a $100 grant from BIC Compassionate Ministries, she was able to start a fritter business in a local market. She rises at 5 each weekday morning to prepare the dough. She has since earned enough money to purchase a pig.
Sonja Miroupi, a widow who is HIV-positive, cares for six family members. She used her grant to start a fish business and then bought a pig. Selling fish will sustain her until she can raise the pigs and sell them for cash for school fees and other family necessities.
Often one small business will pave the way for another. Mary Munsanda, chair of women's support group in Chisekezi, Zambia, began raising chickens with her grant, then started a business sewing school uniforms. The income allowed her to build a room onto the back of her home, which she can rent out to boarders.
Zambia is one of the countries in southern African hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic. Some traditions, such as having multiple wives, may contribute to the spread of the disease. Mabel Kasamu (left) and Kristen Muleya, who each have six children, are the first and second wives of a man who is HIV-positive. If he dies, they and a third wife, who are all HIV-positive, will be left with little. Because of this, they received goats through a BIC Compassionate Ministries goat project.
Bupe Kalebwe has made a successful business of selling foodstuffs in the market with her BIC Compassionate Ministries grant. Profits allowed her to build a home, a fact of which she is very proud. Kalebwe was very ill and thin when she first became part of the BIC Compassionate Ministries outreach. With support from Compassionate Ministries, Kalebwe returned to health, and gave birth to Gift, who was born without HIV. Learn more about MCC’s HIV and AIDS work and how you can take action against AIDS in the new AIDS Action Toolkit. Go to http://aids.mcc.org/toolkit to learn more or download a giving calendar or for suggestions to mark World AIDS Day.