Help Me Dry the Tears of Malawi
By Sr. Lilia Conol, MMS
AIDS, ‘Edzi’ – These words strike fear, guilt and shame in the hearts of these found to be HIV positive in Malawi, Africa. Their days are numbered. They experience anger, confusion, denial, shock. Of the 10 million inhabitants of Malawi, more than one million are HIV positive, Blantyre, where I work has the highest HIV rate in Malawi. Of the pre-natal mothers coming for a check up at the Central Hospital in Blantyre, 38% were fund to be HIV positives in 1994. Hospitals can no longer accommodate them, so they discharge those HIV as fast as they come in and send them back to their homes with no guarantee of further help or follow-up.
Sr. Lilia comes from Oroquieta, Misamis Oriental; after school there, she studied Pharmacy at the University of the Philippines Manila. She is one of ten children.
In just ten years the AIDS epidemic has become a national crisis. Women suffer the most. Joyce, a typical wife and mother of two children, was rejected by her husband when hospitals and African healers could not cure her. To add more pain to injury, the husband ‘kidnapped’ their children from her sight during her last agonizing days with incurable bedsores. Compare this with Edina, a mother of four. Her husband Fabiano, afflicted with tuberculosis, then pneumonia, lived for two years. Edina was always caring for him, faithfully at his side. Fabiano died in peace. Edina’s third child, now severely emaciated, will follow her husband soon.
Tears of Joy
As the only home-based-provider for three parishes at the moment, we appeal for Home Based Community Volunteers who are genuinely motivated to care for their communities. There are now about eight of them responding to the Church’s call for help in these parishes. As I walk with then in our home visits through hills. Valleys, rocky or dusty roads, I use these daily moments to hear their stories of poverty and oppression, disappointment and joys. I see the extent of degradation that AIDS and POVERTY have effected, I feel the cries of their hearts, the hurts, and also the tears of joy at discovering that God is still with them in spite of everything, when I spot out medicinal plants on these journeys, an informal class happens, followed by a practicum in the next house being visited. Acupressure, pranic healing, massage therapy are doing wonders which also surprises me at times’ in my unbelief’. I meet the people also as a group in their parish halls at most once a month on Sundays for five hours. They share experiences, and problems, and ways to solve them.
Who will help the Orphans?
As a Home-Based Promoter of the pilot project, I meet with the other nine Home- Based promoters together with our national coordinator, Mr. Namanja, every two months to share our problems and experience in the field. Expansion will begin as soon as the funding agency approves the diocesan proposals. Income generating activities that are sustainable for the benefit of orphans and elderly are being discussed at the moment by the Home-Based Community in their areas. Some HIV positive women are given help in small businesses, so they can continue caring for their fatherless children.
The AIDS ministry is quite demanding and depressing. There is still a lot to do and not much time left. What I find depressing is that I meet many victims, beautiful people. And hear their stories, their dreams, their hopes. And then a few months later, or less, another funeral takes place. Still I continue visiting them in their homes with a few multivitamin tablets, herbs, words of comfort and prayer that they may be reconciled their God. Milikah, a widow for six years, with seven children to support, is a real gift to me. She volunteered and is very faithful to the sick and orphans in her area. She is busy with embroidery work to provide an income. She is confirmed HIV positive and knows she got it from her late husband, yet she surrenders herself to God for the remaining years left to her by helping other victims and orphans. Indeed, Christ is born in the hearts of those who have suffered much and reflected much on life; “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) So, I wind in and out of people’s lives. Having touched them, I am blesses. Having touched me, they are blessed.