Angels in the hell of AIDS

by Deacon Thomas Müller

If one coloured in the continents according to the prevalence of AIDS the black continent would really be the black continent. If we coloured in Africa only in the same way, the most southern part would be the darkest: South Africa (27.9% of the population being HIV-positive). Within South Africa it is the province of kwaZulu/Natal  (37.5% HIV-positive) and within this the Sundumbili area (76%! HIV-positive) and iSithebe with even 88% HIV-positive people when factory workers once were tested there. That means that probably about 200000 people will die from AIDS within the next few years just here in the catchment area. That is nearly the entire population!

AIDS, poverty, "no-future-feeling" - It was that situation which the German Missionary Benedictine Gérard Lagleder was sent into as a parish priest about 15 years ago. He initiated first relief projects together with four South Africans. These pioneers founded the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard to achieve this. Grace abounds where misery prevails. Thus the Brotherhood grew with her tasks. Industrious fundraising enabled them to provide professional help besides the tireless work and readiness of the volunteer staff. 38 employed staff and many hundred donor members support the work of more than 700 active members and half of these volunteers help in the Care Centre regularly.

Financed purely through donations an impressive Care Centre could be built with 40 hospice beds in air-conditioned wards and further 40 beds in a Children's Home. The Care Centre is also the base for many further outreach relief projects.

It is for more than a year already that my wife Angelika, a medical assistant in a doctor's surgery, and I, Thomas Müller, deacon, are here in Mandeni as volunteers in the proximity of Sundumbili and iSithebe. We come from Oyten next to Bremen in Germany. Got got and used the chance to be able to help here for three years. Where darkness is greatest the light shines brightest. Thus we meet here in the hell of AIDS angels of charity like Wiseman Zulu. He goes out into the bush with a 4-wheel-drive station wagon to visit our AIDS patients in their homes.

If AIDS patients do not come for treatment too late it is possible to prolong their lives by many years at a high quality of life through Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART). Usually they regain that much strength that they are able to work again and feed their families. The Brotherhood visits such patients regularly at their homes to discover possible difficulties and adverse drug reactions as soon as possible and to eliminate these subsequently. Wiseman is our man for this task. One day he is sitting far out in the bush outside the hut of an HAART patient and discusses his life situation with him: How are you doing with your medication? How is the family doing? Do you have a prospect for work? and so on - and so forth.

A tractor is passing at some distance pulling two trailers loaded with oranges. After finishing his home visit Wiseman does not go directly to his next patient, but he follows the road which the tractor had been driving on and doing so he reaches a sorting plant for oranges and grapefruits. The farmer is there as well and supervises the work. Wiseman talks to him telling him about the Care Centre and the Brotherhood. The farmer made the spontaneous offer to donate fruit to us from time to time which he cannot sell - not because they are rotten fruit, but fruit which does not match the expected shape, did not get clean enough in the washing plant, is still a bit green or so, but good fruit. Wiseman carries on visiting his other patients and after having returned back to the Care Centre he reports on his talk with the farmer.

The next day already there is freshly pressed orange juice in our glasses tasting absolutely deliciously and being a true blessing for our children, patients and staff.

South Africans are trying here with great effort to solve South African problems within a South African Project. It is a highly professional relief project rooted in the heart of the Zulu. I am glad to be able to help here for a while and I am full of praise for the work done here.


This page is part of the Newsletter No. 26 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard




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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:50:14