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Shelter for the Orphans

Christ Church Lutheran, Phoenix, Arizona/Thrivent Global Village building in Kwa-Ximba, South Africa

Mathew 25:40
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.

This scripture was what inspired Shara Cunningham, a volunteer with Christ Church Lutheran, USA who was in South Africa with her fellow parishioners to build a new house for orphans in Emvini, part of the Habitat for Humanity KwaXimba Aids orphan project.

Shara was a volunteer from the Christ Church Lutheran, based in Phoenix Arizona, part of a 15 strong global Thrivent partnership Global Village church group which included 2 pastors, Roger Ellis and Arnie Frank. The group had two missions, one to build a house for four boys orphaned following the death of both parents, 3 months apart and now being taken care of by Duduzile and Aaron Gumede. The second was to build a pastoral house in Shongweni for the Lutheran church.

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International and local volunteers on the site

Added to the builds, a potential partnership between Habitat for Humanity South Africa and the HfHI Thrivent/Lutheran church global partnership in the USA to discuss a project to help orphans in South Africa would be on the agenda during the groups two-week stay. “God calls all of us to help the least in this world. Those who are suffering, those living in poverty, living with ill health and especially the widows and orphans”, shared Shara during one of our many chats on site.

Born in Bulwar, Duduzile attended farm school until Standard 8 when her father passed away unexpectedly in 1980. With two younger brothers and a sister to care for, she had to leave school and help her mother raise the family. Her dream of becoming a nurse one day was crushed.

In 1984, Duduzile married Aaron Gumede whose family lived in KwaXimba. As a young wife she joined Aaron to live in the family Kraal at Emvini, KwaXimba. In later years a small piece of land became available close to the family kraal and Aaron and Duduzile were given permission to occupy the land by the local Chief Mlaba.

In 2000 further tragedy struck when her brother in-law passed away followed a few months later by her sister, his wife, leaving behind 4 orphaned boys, the youngest only 3 years old. The family had been living in Kwandangezi near Pinetown. Because the boys were from the Mkize family, Duduzile needed to ask her husband’s permission to take in the boys rather than have them live with their father’s family where there was no one to care for them. Having no children of their own, Aaron gracefully allowed the boys to stay with them despite not having sufficient money to feed and clothe them.

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Duduzile together with the boys and some of the volunteers

“At the time of my sister’s passing, no one was working and the children had no birth certificates and so I could not apply for any financial help. I had to start from the beginning to obtain the children’s birth certificates and eventually we received grants to help with two of the boys”. Duduzile continued, “Today Aaron works nights at a local factory in Pinetown and I sow to bring in additional money but it is very hard as the boys are growing fast and need school clothes and shoes. They love the latest fashions and want to wear decent clothes. Trying to raise 4 boys is not easy but we love them as if they were our own. We provide the discipline and the love that they need to grow into fine adults”.

The boys, Siboniso 18, Sibusiso 17, Sanele 16 and 10 year old Samukelo clearly love Duduzile as returning in the afternoon from school they each give her big hugs. They greet the volunteers who have traveled from the USA to help the family build a new house in which the boys will live. The volunteers from Christ Church Lutheran, Phoenix Arizona, have spent the week building in KwaXimba as part of the Habitat for Humanity Aids orphan building project. The family, one of 70 families in the first phase of this project will be beneficiaries of a new three bedroom house, built across the road from the existing Gumede kraal.

I asked Duduzile what was the hardest part of raising the four boys. Duduzile thought for a moment and replied, “The questions were always the hardest for me, particularly from the youngest, Samukelo. The children all attended their parents’ funerals and after their mother’s death, I was putting Samukelo to bed when he asked me, “You put my mummy into the ground, when are you going to bring her back?” “That was very hard for me and my heart was very sore.”

“There were many questions from the boys in the early days and I would show them few pictures I had of their parents to try and help them deal with their loss. When their mother passed away, I had to work to feed the boys and had to leave the youngest at home to get ready for school so that I could leave early to catch the bus. He would dress himself and climb through a small hole in the burglar bars with his school bag and walk the two miles to school. In the afternoon he would climb back into the house through the hole, change into the play clothes I had left folded on the bed and eat the lunch I would prepare for him before I left to go to work. After lunch he would then climb back through the hole and play the whole afternoon with his friends until the older boys came home and I was back from work”, shared Duduzile with tears in her eyes. “I worried about him so much.”

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Duduzile Gumede

As Habitat for Humanity, we know that this scenario is playing itself out over and over again as family after family are impacted by the Aids pandemic sweeping through South Africa. Grandmothers and aunts are in the path of this pandemic, as left in its wake, thousands of children are left orphaned and vulnerable. These women bravely take up the challenge of trying to raise the children without the desperately needed support both financial and emotional.

Habitat for Humanity South Africa has also taken up the challenge. Across the country we are mobilizing partnerships to work at community level and build houses for orphaned and vulnerable children in desperate need of shelter. Funding for these projects has now become a priority and we are appealing to individuals, companies and churches to partner with us as we face this challenge head on. We may not be able to turn the tide at this point, but we can provide a safe haven for those affected, whilst the country battles this disease and its impact on our country’s future….a generation of children with no parents.

Written by: Sue Johnson
Habitat for Humanity
South Africa