Adventist Grandmothers Welcome the Queen of Lesotho to an HIV/AIDS Program
September 2007 - Johannesburg .... [AAIM Staff]
Singing and dancing with almost one hundred grandmothers from Seventh-day Adventist Churches spread across the country, Her Majesty the Queen of the Kingdom of Lesotho praised the Church for its efforts in combating the effects of AIDS in the Kingdom. She said that it was her wish that other denominations would follow the example of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This joyful occasion was the culmination to a three day training seminar in which ninety-two grandmothers from across Lesotho were given training and then tasked with setting up Grandmothers Clubs in their communities.
As the Adventist Church’s frontline response to the challenge of AIDS in Africa, Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) is bring hope and healing to those infected and/or affected by AIDS. Serving through out the continent, Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, the directors of AAIM have witnessed first hand the devastating impact of AIDS on families and communities and can bear testimony to the healing power of love and acceptance.
While working with affected families Eugenia became aware that a large portion of the burden of AIDS was born by grandmothers and because of lack of knowledge on HIV prevention and how to best care for the infected, they too were at risk of infection.
In traditional African families, grandmothers are a source of wisdom, comfort and counsel; a point of stability around which the extended family rotates. In fulfilling this role she could expect to enjoy the support of her children and the extended family. Instead of being able to rest and enjoy the support of the younger generations many grandmothers are, as a result of AIDS, being forced to assume burdensome responsibilities.
Grandmothers are compelled to fulfil the multiple roles of caregiver to their sick or dying children, parent to their grandchildren, and provider for the entire family. In many instances these duties and responsibilities are not limited to caring for their own families but include members of the larger community. This awesome task is complicated by a lack of knowledge and an absence of support and comfort for the grandmothers. Recognising this need, AAIM set about the task of establishing Grandmothers’ Clubs that could act as a source of council and information for grandmothers and provide them with an opportunity to share their cares and concerns with others in a similar situation.
The SDA church in Lesotho is blessed in having energetic and enthusiastic members who are willing to work with dedication to share the love of Jesus with those in need. One such member is Evelyn Nkhethoa.
When Eugenia shared the idea of Grandmothers’ Clubs with Evelyn, Evelyn became excited by the idea and set about developing the concept with a passion. Evelyn badgered pastors, motivated sponsors and inspired politicians and as a result of her tireless efforts on September 7 this year (2007), Ninety Two Grandmothers from Churches across Lesotho gathered for a three days workshop at which they were trained in the skills required to set up Grandmothers’ Clubs throughout the Kingdom.
The extent of the burden placed on grandmothers was again evidenced by the Giordanos during the workshop. When asked who was currently taking care of friends or family affected by AIDS, almost every participant raised their hand.
Their stories are illustrated by that of one of the participants, Maborotho, who having lost here daughter to AIDS is now taking care of here two grandchildren. In addition to this task Maborotho is assisting a neighbour, also a grandmother, who having lost one daughter to AIDS in February and a second during May is now caring for four grandchildren, the oldest of these children being only seven years old and the youngest a babe in arms. The fathers of all these children have previously died from AIDS. Instead of having time to grieve for their own children, these grandmothers now have to fulfil the role of parent and provider to their grandchildren.
Through the workshop the grandmothers received training in home based care, nutrition, care for orphans and vulnerable children, and psychosocial support. In addition to the educational instruction, the participants were enriched spiritually through music and bible study and their physical needs were not forgotten as each participant was able to enjoy three wholesome and nutritious meals each day. On Sabbath the participants were especially privileged to be able to enjoy a banquet lunch sponsored by the First Lady of Lesotho and at the end of the conference each participant left with a hamper of foods and hygiene products.
Besides the valuable knowledge gained during the training workshop, for most of the participants the highlight of the program was the closing ceremony which was addressed by the Queen. She arrived at the meeting accompanied by a marching band and a guard of honour provided, by the local Pathfinder Club. Addressing the meeting the Queen praised the elderly for their dedication, service and sacrifice, and urged children to honour their grandparents for their sacrifice on behalf of their children and grandchildren. The queen urged the participants to share the knowledge they had gained with their communities, she thanked the Church for the work it was doing and said that she hoped that this would not just be the end of the seminar but rather the beginning of a great work.
At the end of Her Majesty’s speech the band struck up a lively tune and as the crowd ululated with joy and excitement, the queen came down from the podium and together with her subjects danced for joy at the opportunity to be able to bring love and comfort to those in need. People across the country were able to hear of the efforts of the Church as the closing ceremony was given prominent coverage on national television.
NOTE: AAIM is currently in the process of taking this initiative of Grandmothers Clubs to other countries in Africa.