The Story So Far
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.
In 2014 Kay & I came under the covering of Globe Mission - as missionaries.
MercyAIDS has come full circle and we are beginning to see a fuller realisation of the original vision.
Firstly, since 2012 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.
And more recently, the early vision of networking has resurfaced in a new way. As I have become increasingly aware of organisations doing a wonderful work under great personal sacrifices.This is an aspect of our work that we want to expand and need more funds for.
There are wonderful people and organisations in underprivileged communities doing a wonderful work under great personal sacrifices. Their heart is to help. They are not in it for the money. They might have a non-profit organisation, but no Section 18A. Or they don’t have access to the people with money. Here is where we want to help more. We want to come alongside more people and organisations doing wonderful things for the right reasons.
We don’t want to take over, but give support to take their work to the next level, be it through advice or finances or just spreading the word to our contacts. In 2016 we officially launched Aid to Mercy - a new take on the original vision.