Many months ago, I wrote about an extremely destitute family that my NGO works with through its home-based care program. The matriarch of the family is HIV+ and her health has deteriorated to a level where she is now bed-bound and unable to do basic tasks for herself (like get up to relieve herself). She has six young children living with her and no one in the home to assist with child-rearing (i.e. the father has passed and there is no known family otherwise). There are also two teenaged daughters, unfortunately both have now died of HIV in the months since I have known them. One of the daughters left an infant baby to, essentially, be reared by her younger siblings, making seven children in total living in the home.
In my posts about this family, you may also remember that I said this family is living in a one-room house without water or electricity (in the house or on the compound). The family curls up together day-in and day-out, with the mother sleeping on the only bed that fits inside the home. The other children pile onto blankets on the floor and the infant baby sleeps next to the sick mother. Food is scarce. The family is endowed with a support check from the government in the total of P150 per month (US$21) that they use to buy food. This is not enough but they make due with the supplemental food my NGO is able to give them through our feeding program. This, much to our dismay, is nominal as well but every bit helps. Finally, the family also doesn't have a toilet or a pit latrine on their compound so they defecate into a bucket and bring it to the neighbor's house to dispose of it. This is a hard process, especially for a sick mother whose children are attempting to stay in school, rear themselves, and care for the family simultaneously. This family is, far and away, the hardest situation and most impoverished that I have encountered since coming here. Theirs is a life of hardship to say the least.
A project that I have taken on has been to help build the family a home. I am proud to say that, to date, we have completed the foundation, built support for the walls, and put a ceiling on the basic structure. All of this has been done with donations of time, money, and materials by community members that have recognized the desperate need. We are in the final push right now to mobilize resources and are engaging in a fundraising campaign with a number of individuals and communities. As the days pass, it looks more and more promising that we will raise the necessary funds to finish this house and give the family a home to call their own.
A quick note on the toilet situation because it is a necessary side-project of the "house building project" and is something we all feel is very important (as hygiene plays a significant role in health), and therefore something we have been working diligently on. I am pleased to say that we believe this project will also come to fruition in the upcoming months. I have been working with a Church group in Botswana that has been spearheading the fundraising effort to dig a pit latrine on the compound. They are hopeful that the funding will come through by the end of the year and that we can start digging in the first months of 2013. This will make a huge difference for the family and I am exceedingly grateful for their continued efforts.
I am beside myself with appreciation for the love and support of so many communities in making this project a reality. If you are reading this and have participated in this project on some level, please know the depth of my gratitute - I will never forget your kindness and generosity and neither will the family. This house will belong to these children when they truly become orphaned. They will not be homeless and they will have something to call their own. And, until that day, they will have a safe place to live. This will relieve their stress and their burden and, I believe, bring them comfort both in actuality and in knowing that so many people care about them and their well-being.