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.