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Patricia's Story
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Mophela, Mpumalanga, Republic of South Africa, 4.11.06 till 19.11.06
‘Patricia’s Story’

Last year a group of friends and I decided to do some charity work. As most of us were in busy jobs as NHS workers e.g. Paediatric OT, paediatric physiotherapist, GP partners, salaried GPs (and one of the team members is a solicitor) it was not that easy to take time off and just go for months.

So we decided to dedicate about 2, 5 weeks of our skills, time and knowledge to a charity called Lily of the Valley, an orphanage for children affected by HIV and AIDS. There were 98 children in Lily and about 40+ were HIV positive; the others were orphaned as their parent(s) died of HIV/AIDS. Lily of the Valley is in a rural township called Mophela and it is between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is in the province Kwazulu Natal.


Lilly of the Valley 1

As 2 of my friends had already worked there in 2005 they had prepared us that there would be no luxury (sometimes power cuts, sometimes no water…) and that everything was basic-a flash light was recommended as snakes were not uncommon in the compound. I had build up an image of LOV.I expected a place of chaos and unhappy, unsettled children but I was proven wrong. We were picked up at the airport by Noel and Pat, the managers of Lily and some volunteers-this all in 2 buses with a LOV logo. We then had an idyllic trip past fields, chicken farms and through the hills and after a 40 minutes trip we arrived at a gate announcing “Welcome to Lily of the Valley”. As we drove past a bakery, amphitheatre and health clinic, I was impressed by the cleanliness. We then arrived at a security gate (that always closed from 9pm onwards) and in front of us were individual chalets, playground, a swimming pool and I just loved the SPACE. On the right of lily we had fields and on the left we had a nature reserve Tala, where zebras, giraffes, kudus, rhinos, hippopotamus, impalas and other exotic animals lived. I immediately fell in love with the place. The serenity, peace and love I will never forget.

Lilly of the Valley 2

On the day of arrival we were greeted by a big group of nosy and noisy children curious to see who the new group of volunteers were. Pat and Noel introduced us to the manager Warren, an incredible white South African man who has been in LOV 24/7 including weekends. He was the “father” of all of the children and having been adopted himself he understood what a lot of the kids had gone through. Having Warren there was invaluable to us and we spent many evenings chatting to him.

Our “house” for the next couple of weeks was chalet 9. All the chalets (about 25 in lily) had 3 rooms-with bunk beds so 6 children (3 per room) shared the house with 1 housemother. Our house was the meeting point for the volunteers and every evening we had briefings and a rota to cook. Our chalet turned out to be a meeting point as well for the children. All the kids had their own incredible story and my 3 special friends were Menzi aged 9, Nkozi and Sandile, both 11 years old. What never failed to amaze me was the feeling of one big family and the kids all looked out for each other. When we attended hospital the older kids looked after the young ones. The courage and strength of the kids was admirable. I remember one hospital run where the kids had to attend a clinic to check their viral load and CD4 count(to check their immune system).The waiting time was usually hours but they played ,entertained us all and suddenly they started singing a beautiful Zulu song and the whole hospital was quiet. I was so proud of them!!!

Lilly of the Valley 3

We managed to do health checks on 98 children in Lily of the Valley. This was fully computerised and simultaneously we trained 2 of the local health workers to operate the laptop.

Although we went there to do health checks, we also organised 2 days of carnival. There were several stations: face painting, Polaroid photographs in self painted frames, gliders, treasure hunt and just lots of fun. The aim was to show kids that doctors and health care workers can be fun too. And I am sure we managed to convince them. Towards the end they approached us, knocked on the doors and freely asked us medical questions.

Lilly of the Valley 4

Lily of the valley has changed me. The effect of HIV/AIDS on the Zulu community is shocking .Young and old are affected by this big disease with a little name. It was a privilege to work in Lily as the strength, beauty, vulnerability and courage of the kids have made me look at my life and values.

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