Lulu Boxoza, founder of Temba Community Development Services in Mthantha, South Africa, which focuses on HIV-AIDs awareness-raising and education programs.
When Lulu Boxoza started Temba Community Development Services in Mthantha, South Africa in 1999, she thought she would be involved in poverty alleviation, but people were so overwhelmed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that her group quickly switched to working on awareness-raising programs and education. She soon discovered that many people sent home from overfilled hospitals had no one to look after them.
“Home-based care was just becoming too much for the community,” Ms. Boxoza says while in Toronto as a guest of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). “We visited one home and we were welcomed by children. The youngest was about three, the eldest was about six. The mother had passed away, and the father was just lying on the mat with a jug of cold porridge next to him. When we asked how long this had been here, they said it had been about three days. So to us, it became very clear that we could not continue just doing home visits.” That’s when the idea of Temba House was born.
It started with a small three-bedroom house where Ms. Boxoza and volunteers cared for people who had no one else to look after them. It quickly became full and, in 2001,Temba moved into a bigger house that could accommodate 15 to 20 people.
Ms. Boxoza says the initial intent was simply to give people dignity before they died, but to their surprise, people started to recover some of their health when they were cared for. “The main thing that we realized was the management of nutrition,” she explains. “You don’t just give someone a plate of food and leave. You sit next to the bed and you feed the person. And also treat the opportunistic infections.”
With counseling and ongoing support, people who came to Temba were often able to go home. “First it was 60 per cent, then 70 per cent, now we are at 75 per cent of people we are looking after, and that is without ARVs (antiretroviral drugs),” says Ms. Boxoza. “In 2001, we didn’t even have ARVs in South Africa that were given by government clinics.” Only those with money could get ARVs.
In 2005, PWRDF began providing $30,000 in annual operation funds to Temba, but money for building the place Ms. Boxoza envisioned, one where more people could be treated and that would also accommodate education with facilities such as a library with computers, came from Trivitt Memorial Church in Exeter, Ont. The church has a large bequest fund that is used for local and global initiatives. The parishioners were planning to donate money to HIV/AIDS work in the Diocese of St. John’s in Mthatha, but Canon Greg Smith of Christ Church in London, who is also chair of the Huron Hunger Fund, recommended that they contact PWRDF to find a specific project. Through PWRDF and Mr. Smith, the people at Trivitt Memorial heard about Boxoza and her work and decided to fund the first phase of the facility. With $167,000 from Trivitt Memorial, Temba bought land, started building in January 2008 and moved in in September.
Now the house has 30 beds, space for voluntary testing and counseling, as well as administrative offices that are doubling as a starting place for a library until a second phase can be built.
In that next phase, Ms. Boxoza wants to do more for orphans in the area. South Africa has an estimated 1.4 million orphans. Many are placed in families that are headed only by the eldest of the children, who cannot go to school because they are looking after younger children. Ms. Boxoza says there are 180 children in the immediate area around Temba House in need of help. Ms. Boxosa wants to have a facility where the young children can be looked after while the older ones go to school. She says this is already happening on a smaller scale in the current facility.
“My vision was and still is that we will still continue to shelter people because (an end to HIV/AIDs) is not going to be overnight, but next to that we also have a library, computers, arts and crafts…. We want to enable people to reach their aspirations and fullest potentials,” she says. “We will also continue to have a soup kitchen so that, while they come for food, they are also able to go for testing. We have voluntary counseling and testing.”
Temba House also offers many educational workshops. “We have realized that some of the people we discharge go back to work, but there are those who are sent back to the shelter because of the conditions at home, whether that is gender-based violence or problems of poverty,” Boxoza explains. “So we said ‘Let’s us not just look at caring for people; let us also try to liberate people’s minds… liberate hearts.” Temba’s educational and personal development workshops are tremendously popular, generally each attended by 100 to 150 people.
The focus of Temba’s educational programs had been on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, but Boxoza says the group’s approach is broadening. “What has concerned me is that in 2003 the statistics went up to 5.5 million (people with HIV/AIDS in South Africa) and this year it is 5.7 million,” she says. “In 2007, I was very concerned to such an extent that I asked the religious leaders and traditional leaders to come together, and we had a summit where we were looking at the root causes. It was agreed that one of the root causes is the ideology of gender; men who are equating manhood with aggression and sexual conquest. We said it is a recipe for disaster.”
In response, Temba started the “One Man Can” campaign to address these issues with men, and Temba now has a group of 33 men committed to changing their own attitudes and behaviours, and spreading the word to other men through circles of support.
Funding is an ongoing problem for Temba. Not only is Boxoza looking for funding for the second phase of the project, but she will also need to find new operational funds as the arrangement with PWRDF ends in 2008, the same year a major source of funding from Sweden ends. Zaida Bastos, PWRDF’s Africa program co-ordinator, said, “We are looking to see if we can provide another grant for next year.”
Dean Terrance Dance also offered some hope from the diocese of Huron. “I’m going to go back (to Mthantha) in the summer to see what the state of affairs is, and I’ll have some recommendations for the diocese when I come back,” he said. “What they are doing has really become a flagship project in Africa.”
(Editor’s note: The sixth paragraph of this story, first published Nov. 25, has been changed because of incorrect information.)