News Articles

Ministry reaches families ravaged by HIV

PIETERMARTIZBURG, South Africa (BP)–The HIV/AIDS pandemic sweeping African nations is destroying entire families — from grandparents to children. One Christian ministry, with the help of Southern Baptists, is making a difference in the lives of thousands of adults and children.

A feeding project conducted by Tabitha Ministries in Pietermartizburg, South Africa, aims to alleviate much of the suffering caused by this deadly disease by providing food and assistance to adults and children who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Most of Tabitha Ministries’ work is done in the surrounding community of Sweetwaters, where thousands of people are infected with HIV. Tabitha Ministries itself ministers to more than 4,714 children and 1,500 adults in that area. Because so many more people in Sweetwaters are in need, Tabitha Ministries focuses its limited resources on those whose needs are most desperate. A six-month segment of the feeding program used money provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund to help 645 people children and adults with no income at a cost of about 40¢ per day.

Providing food is an important ministry strategy, according to project director Gail Trollip, not only because of the pervasive hunger in Sweetwaters, but also because AIDS patients cannot fight the disease and maintain their anti-retroviral drug treatments unless they are getting a certain level of nutrition.

“Due to the devastation caused from the AIDS pandemic, many adults and children in Sweetwaters are sick and dying from the virus,” Trollip said. “When an adult becomes ill, he is no longer able to provide for himself and has no income. When it is a child, they are unable to care for themselves, as there are no longer adults to provide for them as a result of their deaths from the virus.”

Tabitha Ministries’ community efforts are built around 29 volunteer caregivers who travel Sweetwaters’ streets, checking on patients. Some of those caregivers — called “Mobile Moms” — are women who have been specially trained to work with children, many of whom live in child-headed households because their parents’ lives were claimed by AIDS.

An important aspect of the ministry is that children who are forced into the position of being heads of their household often resort to immoral or illegal ways to provide food and care for their siblings, Trollip said. Providing food relieves some of that pressure so they don’t have to struggle to survive.

In several ways, the project exemplifies the compassion of Christ for people in need, Trollip said.

“This project only responds to those who are the poorest of the poor,” Trollip said. “These are the people who are unable to work due to the fact they are sick. The project allows children to attend school instead of going out to find ways to make money or find food for themselves and their siblings. The project is able to help keep people healthier due to better nutrition and the ability to have food in order to take their ARV’s. This project also responds to the nutritional needs of the HIV-positive caregivers, as well as the 24 AIDS orphans living at Hope Center.”

Tabitha Ministries has been working in the Sweetwaters community for almost 10 years, and each year the ministry grows as the number of those infected with HIV grows, Trollip noted. The volunteer caregivers and Mobile Moms live in the community and bring to light families in need — ones who are infected and dying from the disease and can no longer work or take care of themselves. The provision of food and assistance to these patients is essential to alleviate their suffering and for their survival.

“This ministry is a truly biblical one,” said Susan Hatfield, who with her husband, Mark, directs work in Sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. “It helps orphans and widows in their distress, visits people who are sick and helps those who are destitute.”

The fact that Southern Baptists care enough to give to their World Hunger Fund literally makes the difference between life and death for those who receive the aid, Trollip added.

“Our grateful thanks to Southern Baptists for past assistance,” she said. “This has enabled us to serve and share Jesus with the people who are in desperate need, both physically and spiritually in the Sweetwaters Community.”
Pamela Swithin is a collegiate correspondent for Baptist Global Response, which is on the Internet at gobgr.org.

    About the Author

  • Pamela Swithin