The real extent of the HIV aids problem was felt when the diocese of Kokstad invited 40 orphans in Umzumgoana parish for a week at the mission. 340 orphans arrived. And this is only one parish surrounded by 10 villages.
When the week ended some children lay down on the ground and refused to go home. Of course, what does home mean? If you are the youngest of five children in a family where there is no adult, if there is little care, not one to welcome you, no one to wipe away your tears it might be hard to understand the word ‘ home’.
Sr. Constantia Kumalo and Fr Aaron Nakufa and 18 helpers had to multiply the loaves and fish. Many children found it hard to adjust to a light program, at home there is little order. But soon, as children they were interacting as if they had been born at the Mission.
The snow on the mountains did little to quench their play and with so many little bodies the halls and rooms of the Mission felt warm.
Bishop Slattery, the Bishop of Kokstad says that the diocese hopes to build shelters in the villages for such children. These will offer food and care for orphans who will continue to live at home and attend local school. Mrs Sibongile Sehlaba, the Regional Director of Welfare feels that anything the churches do will be a welcome help for a great problem. “We have distributed 1000 blankets this Winter, but it is just a drop in the ocean”, the Bishop said
The diocese continues to send out food and soup and is involved in micro agricultural projects to produce food locally in the villages.
This scheme the diocese wishes to take to all the parishes of the diocese.
The arrival of so many children underlines the absolute chaos reigning in the hinterland of Kokstad. The children had a marvellous week.