Today we went to visit a spunky great-grandmother named Maria in Lower Molweni, a township deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. I met Maria at Siyabonga’s birthday party on Friday afternoon at Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust.
Maria has spent her entire life in Lower Molweni. She went to school there, trained as a teacher, and raised a family of eight children. All but one of her children have died – Maria nursed several of them until their final days, and took in their children when they passed away. At age 64, she is the head of the household and looks after seven grandchildren.
About a year ago, Maria began to suspect that she was unwell. She was referred to Hillcrest’s Repite Unit for care, where her grandson had also received treatment. There, she spent two weeks recovering from a difficult bout with TB. After she regained her strength, Maria returned to her home and is now actively referring her neighbours and people in her district to Hillcrest for counselling and testing.
She is more engaged in her community than ever – in addition to caring for seven grandchildren (and visiting with her four-year-old great-grandson), Maria is actively involved in volunteering with a local creche (nursery). She’s also on the board of the local secondary school.
‘I’m glad to help those in need,’ Maria explained, sitting in the doorway of her modest home. ‘I don’t want to see people suffer like I saw my children suffer. I want everyone to be happy.’