Wednesday, 25 December 2013

We Stand!

Saturday 30 November - the Cathedral was colourful: people in bright green or black WAD t-shirts; pillars draped with red and white khangas; on the platform a pyramid of white candles, greenery and scarlet ribbons.  This year, as last year, St George’s Cathedral, the Groote Kerk and the Central Methodist Church and other churches joined to celebrate / commemorate World AIDS Day together – a wonderful opportunity to make an interfaith statement and show solidarity.

The day’s events began with a short service at St George’s, with the church leaders lighting candles, Bishop Garth and Revd Margaret Heyns reading prayers and a testimony given by Marius Harmsen, a member of Living Hope. Afterwards the congregation spilled out onto Wale Street where a blue and white testing tent had been been erected on the pavement outside the Crypt. Other Living Hope testing stations were at the Groote Kerk and in the Labyrinth courtyard of the Cathedral

The theme for the day was TOGETHER WE STAND AGAINST STIGMA. The aim to attract as many people as possible to test. Pancakes at the Groote Kerk and cupcakes iced in red and white were offered to all willing to test and enjoyed by many others as well. In all 62 people tested. One tested positive, and members of the Fikelela team were glad to be there to pray with the person.

A highlight of the day was the exhibition 30 Years / 30 Lives displayed between the Cathedral, the Groote Kerk and the Methodist Church. 30 Years / 30 Lives is a wonderful collection of photographs and stories of people who have been affected by HIV and AIDS. It was put together and made available to us by the Revd Dr Kim Vrudny of the University of St Thomas, Minnesota, USA. CHATT members guided viewers round the exhibition, which it is hoped will be displayed in full in the Cathedral so that more people may see it.

On Sunday 1st December, 45 people gathered outside the Groote Kerk at 11 30 after their morning services for a short ceremony: a minute's silence; lighting of candles; a prayer.

Marius Harmsen gave us his poem on the change that being HIV positive has brought in his life:
In our lives, we’ve had thousands of failures,
hundreds of wrong decision and countless stupid mistakes.
But if given the chance to change? ... We’d rather NOT ... because ...
Somehow our past made us what we are right now,
not as hard as diamond, but strong enough to win our fight
against HIV and AIDS

Many thanks to Fikelela’s Beverley Hendricks and her team who worked so hard to make this all happen.

Mary Bock


On 2nd November, CHATT enjoyed a fabulous day with the Isibindi carers at Greenpoint Park. We ate, drank and played games together (we now know each others' favourite ice cream flavours)! We heard their stories of HIV-related stigma, which reminds us why it remains real and priority for us in the coming years.

The National Association of Child Care Workers’ Isibindi programme, which now oversees some 40 project sites, develops and trains community volunteers as child and youth care workers to provide emotional support and respond to the needs of children.

Isibindi means courage. Isibindi carers work with orphans and vulnerable children identified through a school outreach programme. Key to its success is that children stay in their own homes and communities. The Isibindi child care workers teach them important survival skills like how to prepare meals, how to take care of themselves and younger siblings, how to apply for child support grants and how to stay in school.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Another Big Bang!

Four schools raised the roof once again at St. George's Cathedral, as part of a fundraiser for the Fikelela Children's Home and the Zonnebloem Cottage. On the dramatically wet evening of 30 August, led by reputable Music Directors, the following schools displayed their musical talents: Beau Solei Junior Brass Ensemble, Westerford High School, Bergvliet High School and SACS Jazz Band.

The damp weather was completely overshadowed by the excellent and high quality jazz and marimba music performed by young people on the night. 
Over 12,000 Rands was raised to support the children's homes to ensure they can provide a safe, loving and happy home for children in need in Cape Town.

Shireen Vambo
CHATT Co-Coordinator, St. George's Cathedral

Sunday, 19 May 2013

In Solidarity on AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day

St. George's Cathedral marked AIDS Candlelight Memorial today with the lighting of candles and special prayers for people living with HIV. Father Richard reminded us that 'Our country and our Church have AIDS'.

We had a special speaker - the Reverend Rachel Mash - who has been incredibly committed to supporting communities with HIV. Reverend Rachel shared stories about HIV-related stigma and emphasised the opportunity that we have to reach out to our communities with compassion.

Following the service, we had a forum with Professor Linda-Gail Bekker from the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre who talked about TB and HIV/TB co-infection. It was extremely informative and challenged us all to think about our role in doing practical things on a daily basis (such as opening windows, covering our mouths when we cough, not spitting) to take care of our own health and the health of others.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

'Every child is my child'

CHATT members visited the Fikelela Children's Centre to meet children living with and affected by HIV.

We heard from one of the carers that the motto at the centre is 'Every child is my child'.

The children are extremely energetic and beautiful and we totally loved holding and playing with them! The boys and girls’ ages range from about 6 months to about 8 years. They are supported by a loving and committed team of carers who work with social workers to ensure the children receive their treatment, access additional health and social services, and are placed in long-term foster homes or, where possible, re-united with their families.

There are many challenging issues both for the children and their carers. As CHATT, we are proud of our relationship with Fikelela and look forward to continuing to support them as much as we can.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

30 years/30 lives

Photo taken in Cape Town from 
30 years/30 lives collection
On 14 January 2013, CHATT started the new year with a stimulating meeting with Kimberly Vrudny, an associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota.

Kim led a piece of work called 30 years/30 lives She documented the lives of 30 people affected by HIV through photography. The majority of people involved in the project were from Cape Town.

As CHATT members, it was so interesting to learn about Kim's experience of capturing the structural drivers of HIV through individual stories, including issues around ethics in photography.

Kimberly has donated the rights to print the photographs to the Cathedral and is open to exploring how we can use the photographs to reach Cathedral members and the broader Cape Town community with stories about the lives of people affected by HIV.