The Story so Far
By Holger Lorentz - Founder
As we prepared to launch the MercyAIDS website at the end of 2012 we asked Holger, the founder and director of the organisation to tell us the story. As you will see, more than 10 years after the initial vision much of what Holger saw at that time is beginning to be more fully realised.
I was still in Texas, preparing to return to South Africa and I was struck by the extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; especially its devastating impact on children. The name itself described what I had in mind. MercyAIDS - to offer compassionate assistance, motivated by God’s love, to those most in need of it and least able to help themselves. At the start it was about helping children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS in any way. It wasn't long before it became about any orphan or vulnerable child.
We started in 2003, running MercyAIDS from the church. The Father’s House are still our main South African partner. In 2004 the German based trust, Helfen in Verantwortung e.V. (HiV-eV), was established. This trust pays my salary and has been the major funder of MercyAIDS’ projects since that time. Back then I thought the aid could take many forms in the future, but at the start the focus was on practical help. It was later that the scope began to broaden to fit with my original thinking.
From the start my vision included teams and networking. I tried to gather information about ministries working in that field; sending out questionnaires and knocking on doors. I spent a lot of time trying to discover who was doing what, where and so on. That first attempt was not very successful, as there was little response to my questionnaires.
In 2005 I made two key connections – one with the Fisantekraal community and the other with Philippi Trust. With the help of the Fisantekraal clinic, which at the time was run by a Christian organisation, I identified a number of children whose families really needed practical help and nutritional support. I am still involved with these families and now we are involved in more than the practical, nutritional support in Fisantekraal. I also got involved with Philippi Trust’s OVC Camps and through this I met Regina Gcwabe.
Affectionately known as the “Mother Teresa of Mfuleni”, MamaRegina used her small pension to run a soup kitchen. She took care of needy or sick children and adults from the surrounding area and had taken several children into her own home. Her dream was to have a children’s home and by the time I met her she had managed to find money to build the walls for 3 rooms and a bathroom on her property but did not have the finds to complete the project. Within a few months the necessary money was raised, in Germany by HiV-eV and within FCHF, to complete the rooms, bathroom and kitchen and furnish the rooms. MercyAIDS continued to partner with “Regina’s Hope”, as the home was called until it closed at the end of 2011. Sadly Regina passed away in 2007. Her daughter Nondumiso took over the home and ran it for four more years until she had to close for private reasons. Homes were found for all the children.
Kay got involved in Philippi’s OVC Camp work too and from 2006 onwards our whole family was involved in camps. Later Kay also got involved in the training aspect of the OVC work. In 2008 she met Patricia Fakema from Du Noon. A dynamic woman with a heart for people affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic Patricia runs Zusakhe. Zusakhe is a community based organisation with many successful projects; one of which is a crèche. Since that time FHCF and HiV-eV have regularly provided food for the crèche and after-school program. In 2009 HiV-eV raised funds for playground equipment and toys.
Through Kay’s involvement in training adult carers to work with vulnerable children the initial dream of doing more than the practical interventions began to take shape and has recently grown. Barbara joined the MercyAIDS team a few months ago and we have had two International Social Work students from the Evangelische Hochschule in Ludwigsburg in Germany interning with us since August. So things have grown at quite a pace in the past few months. It is all very exciting but we need a bigger team.
Kay & Barbara ran a workshop on how organisations and individuals can work together to make Fisantekraal safer for children. Out of this the Fisantekraal Shalom Trust was born and we have new avenues of involvement in the community as well as new ways for people from outside to get involved. With the help of our two wonderful interns, Jana & Sarah, we have run 12 kids clubs and provided ‘on the job’ training to those involved. MercyAIDS became part of the Connect Network this year and we are excited at the doors this is opening; particularly around our growing involvement in Fisantekraal.
In some ways we have come full circle as we have been involved in a training program for adults working with HIV positive children. Working with MSF-Khayelitsha’s Children’s HIV Disclosure program has been an exciting opportunity and we are grateful for it. We are keen to get more involved in this type of work and are currently developing training material in this area for clinics, community forums, churches – anyone who needs it.
We are currently developing a Parenting course. With the help of one of our Fisantekraal volunteers we have been running workshops in Darling. Next year we will run the course in Fisantekraal too.
There are many doors that seem to be opening for us. Some will be based in Fisantekraal but run as pilot schemes to be taken into other areas later – such as the collaboration with Connect around the Child Ambassador program.
As we launch the website I am very aware that we are about to step into some new territory; and re-visit old things in a whole new way. It is a very exciting time!