John Robinson, Duduza, place of hope, from PRIVATE 36 – AFRIKA[A]n old prison once derelict and abandoned is ironically now the home of about 12 Pietermaritzburg children. Some of them are very young, some a little older and some approaching their teens: they all should be within a family structure, but the fact that they now call this place home is due to the Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
This is Duduza Home, that means “to comfort” in zulu, the native language of these children. They come from the surrounding areas of Pietermaritzburg, capital of KwaZulu-Natal, an area that is also one of the epicenters of South Africa’s AIDS problem. The length of their stay in the Home depends on their HIV status: some of the children will find new parents willing to give them a home and a family, some will grow up here and will receive an education, and they will be as the poppies in the fields of Flanders, populating a new world that many of us will never see. Some will die in the trenches like their parents did, caught up in the bombardments of a ferocious disease that their depleted immune systems can no longer fend off.
Duduza Home intends to provide a place of comfort in a family environment for children affected by HIV and AIDS, and to offer every child the opportunity of being adopted into a family. The home is run on a cluster foster system, with foster mothers each looking after six children within the home; the younger ones have day-care mothers and volunteers that take care of them while their older “brothers and sisters” attend a normal school, go to lunch and do their homework. The Home is part of Project Gateway, an inter-church initiative of the city that aims to change people’s lives by helping them physically, emotionally and spiritually.