Bishop Kevin Dowling, Diocese of Rustenburg, South Africa tells how out of a desperate situation involving Aids victims, a community was born that helped bring hope and destroyed stigma.
“Freedom Park” is the antithesis of its reality – an appalling informal settlement in Rustenburg, South Africa made up of zinc shacks, poverty and hopelessness. Some 25,000 migrants and refugees take a lonely journey to death because of AIDS.
We began our response as Church. Meetings with the community identified root causes and possible solutions. Then the invitation to the community to recognise its greatest gift – its own people, so capable of sharing the lot of their fellow citizens and deeply conscious of what this required.
A team of community carers were trained by a religious sister in how to nurse and care for sick people at home. An NGO formed them in listening and counselling skills. There followed months of care-filled visiting of every shack. Despite facing constant danger and threats, their own sense of calling enabled them to continue the mission to transform reality.
The facing up to the challenge as a community has meant 13 years later the stigma and discrimination against people with Aids is a memory. And those carers are still there.
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