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Mashambanzou – cradle of living hope


Norman’s life story reads like a folktale. He was left to die in his rural home in Lupane, where he went for days without taking any food, just waiting for the last chapter of his life to close.

Norman (not his real name) said he was bed ridden for three years without even going outside the house and people in the community were just waiting for the sound of the funeral dirge at his home.

“I had lost hope. I thought my life here on earth had come to an end. But I always prayed for God’s mercy and salvation.

I could not talk or move my body. My legs had become paralysed.

“I could not do anything for myself, even raising my hand and people would forget about me while I was incarcerated in the house for many days. My mother was old and could not adequately look after me,” said Norman.

Then the answer to his cry for help came.
“My brother brought me to Harare and I was eligible to be enrolled here at Mashambanzou.

Through counselling and physical exercise, I slowly started recovering. Now I can move around although I am still wheelchair bound. I can see the ray of hope. I can say I was “resurrected” from the dead,” said Norman.

Many people living with HIV at Mashambanzou Care Trust have sad life stories, often punctuated by experiences of neglect, stigmatisation and discrimination but the light of hope that has shone through their grim circumstances has made them want to live another day.

Located in Waterfalls, Harare, the care centre, which houses 30 patients at a time, offers lifelines to people living with HIV. Patients are helped to access nutritious food and the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs, among other essentials required by those infected with HIV.

“Our target group is poor people living in high density areas and we have a screening exercise to establish if the person is eligible, those who are elegible are brought and helped to access the necessary drugs and when they improve they are released back into the community,” said a nurse at the centre.

NewsDay tracked down Memory, who was released from the centre after two months during which she was literally nursed back to life.

“Because of the counselling I received at Mashambanzou, I can live positively and I now know the importance of adhering to prescribed drugs and I know the importance of taking them on time. In fact, I feel empowered and I have learnt how to deal with stigma and discrimination,” said Memory.

However, the nurses at the institution said they sometimes overwhelmed as there were only three nurses during each shift who have to look after 30 patients.

“Sometimes we have to ask for the assistance of the caregivers who are only obligated to nurse their relatives.

In some cases we ask for their hand to look after other patients because we would be overwhelmed,” explained the nurse.

Ivy Mudangande, Coordinator at Mashambanzou said they had to rely on donor funds for the upkeep of the patients.

“We do not have any projects. We rely on funds from well-wishers, no donation is small,” said Mudangande.

This year, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gave donations of educational materials, blankets and paints to the institution.

The blankets were part of the presents given to the PM on his birthday by an anonymous donor while Dulux provided the paint. Educational materials were provided by Verocy Real Estate.

In his speech, the PM lamented the fact that people living with disabilities and those living with HIV and Aids have had very little help from the government leaving them vulnerable and stigmatised.

“For years, the plight of people living with disabilities and those living with HIV and Aids has not only been neglected but ignored by those in authority and this has stigmatised many of our people.

They then feel left out in national planning and the effects have been devastating,” he said.
“During the last 30 years, the authorities took a back seat, leaving developmental non-governmental organisations to attend to the needs of people living with disabilities and those living with HIV and Aids.

This is despite the fact that people with disabilities constitute about 10% of the country’s population. This figure has failed to translate to resource allocation by central government, a situation which has left those living with disabilities scrambling for the few crumbs.”

Through the vision of Sister Noreen Nolan of the Little Company of Mary, Mashambanzou, was founded in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1989.

Noreen saw how people infected with HIV were stigmatised, rejected and discriminated against. Her aim was to offer comfort and reassurance to people living with Aids and their family members, enhancing the quality of their lives and enabling them to die with dignity and the knowledge that they were loved.

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