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Carbondale to Kabwe: Growth of an HIV/AIDS Partnership
“As the days are becoming closer to our departure, I am so anxiously looking forward to returning to Zambia. The people of Zambia, Ranchhod Hospice and Orphan Care in Kabwe, have begun to teach me to be humble, to smile more, and work harder to help. People with what we Americans consider so little, they consider “enough” as long as family members survive from one day to the next. Our egos and plans for rescuing them pale in comparison with the tasks they are already aware of and have assumed the task of performing. If we have ideas, we can contribute, but we learn quickly that they also have ideas and have enacted many of them. Our job is to provide support, guidance when needed, and much love. The Zambians can work with what they get—a lesson for many of us to learn from.”
—Debbie Czarnopys/White, member of the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship and an active supporter in fundraising, education for this social action project
In 2003, I traveled to Africa to see the AIDS pandemic up close. The Carbondale Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship embraced this vision and sent medicines and other supplies.
We applied for a partnership through a foundation that matches programs and we were chosen to be partners with Ranchhod in Zambia. Since then four trips have been made to our partner by various fellowship members. Over $30,000.00 has been raised through concerts, silent auctions, and yard sales; quilt raffles and dropping money in our Africa jar each Sunday. We even receive monthly checks from a donor in a small nearby town who heard about our work in Zambia and it touched his heart deeply. Collections of supplies are on going. In 2004, the fellowship worked with Southern Illinois University to bring UN Special Envoy to AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, for a symposium on the AIDS pandemic. In 2006 the fellowship received a grant from the UU Women’s Federation to build a permanent workshop for “The Busy Bees”, a group of AIDS widows who are doing income-generating activities. The pride they feel in this building is the greatest reward. The children in our R.E. classes recently made a recording of songs that we will bring to Kabwe to share with the children and I understand that plans are underway for a children’s concert in Zambia to share with the Carbondale children.
This partnership has also helped to raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS in our own community and we have partnered with the So. Illinois HIV/AIDS consortium in celebrating WORLD AIDS DAY and holding candlelight vigils in may for the International AIDS Candlelight memorial.
I think that the following words by a Dominican nurse in Zambia are the guiding force behind the success of this partnership.
“If you have come here to help—Go Home.
But if you have come here because you understand that Your Destiny is entwined with mine—Let’s join hands.”
—Words of a Dominican nurse in Zambia