“You need courage to work with these children”

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DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA— “Isibindi is a Zulu word that means courage, because you can’t work with these children without courage.”

The woman who told us that was one of more than a dozen Isibindi staffers playing with children yesterday in a Safe Park outside this city that local HIV responders call “the epicenter of the epicenter” of the global AIDS epidemic.  Adopting a full social service approach to keeping children who live with, have been orphaned by and affected by HIV, these Isibindi workers seek to provide protection, nutrition, support, education to children who have lost the sources of all of these.  They work with children who are grieving, who, as one worker put it, “have been denied their childhood.”

They go to homes where they find that when the mother died, the children born with HIV stopped getting their medicine, and that “an uncle” is now sleeping in bed with the young girls of the surviving family.

They also find homes where neighbors and family members are doing the right thing and need help. They link them to care, testing, disability payments, advocate for them at school, and bureaucratic offices. “We want children to know their colors. We want them to know how to count. We want them to have information that has been hidden from them.

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