Painting a box with bright pink brushstrokes, Londaka explains the significance of the colourful container: “I have made a memory box for putting things in, like photos, to help me remember my mother.”
Londaka is one of the 1.4 million children who have been orphaned by HIV-related illness in South Africa. The twelve-year-old now lives with her grandmother, sister and three brothers.
KwaZulu-Natal province, where Londaka lives, has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. The life expectancy of its male residents is 42 years and 45 years for women. This means at the grand old age of 22, you are middle aged.
Remembering a mother
Londaka never knew her father and her mother died in 2006. She says: “My mum loved smiling and laughing and she loved me. When she got sick and went to the hospital she told me she loved me.
“I felt so angry when she died. Sometimes I talk to my brothers and sisters about it, sometimes we cry.
“My mum was pretty. She looked like my grandmother, she had plaited hair and wore a pink dress. It was her favourite colour and it’s also my favourite colour.”
Turning the tide
In November 2010, the UN reported that the global AIDS epidemic is beginning to turn with fewer people becoming HIV infected and fewer people dying.
The challenge of combating HIV is far from over, but this news reflects the success of a massive international effort to educate communities on the prevention of HIV, particularly around adopting safer sexual practices.
In South Africa, one of the countries hardest hit by the disease, the Red Cross is playing a vital role in addressing misconceptions around how to prevent HIV infection and reducing stigma and discrimination.
Orphans and vulnerable children
As well as providing care, treatment and support for people living with HIV, the Red Cross does a lot to help orphans and other vulnerable children. This includes visiting them at home, providing support for their education and running after school clubs.
“When I come to the Red Cross we sing and do projects, which I like and they give me food. They also teach us about HIV and how you can avoid getting it. When I grow up I want to be a doctor,” Londaka says.
Then she puts the finishing touches to her memory box and goes off to play with her friends.