Zambian caregiver presses Congress for Aids and TB funding

Lister Chingangu outside the Capitol Dome. Courtesy of World Vision.To raise awareness about the tragic impact of HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis (TB), a Zambian caregiver who partners with American organization World Vision has just visited the United States and spoken to members of Congress.

Lister Chingangu asked them to take action swiftly and renew the Global AIDS, TB and Malaria Bill, a bipartisan legislation worth USD 50 billion that was first passed in 2003 to fund programs to fight these diseases in poor countries. World Vision has worked with Congress since then to ensure that this funding is protected, but authorization for this bill expires on September 30, 2008.

NEED magazine had the opportunity to speak to Mrs. Chingangu about God Our Help Ministries, the home-based care program that she runs in Lusaka, her hometown in Zambia.

“My husband is a pastor and together we opened a church in Lusaka in 2001, a time when we had a lot of people suffering of HIV/Aids and TB," Mrs. Chingangu says. "We started by just doing holistic care, looking after people physically as well as spiritually.

“One day I visited a widow who was very sick and had children to look after, and she told me about the miracle she had witnessed: only two days before, she told me, they didn’t have any food in the house so they started to pray until she felt fine again. My husband and I felt that God brought us this sickness but was also going to help us. So we founded God Our Help Ministries, and we registered it separately from the church because we wanted everybody to come and seek help, not only the members of our congregation.”

Through support from the World Vision-administered RAPIDS program (Reaching AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support), God Our Help has become a partner in a network of local aid groups implementing community-based care and outreach to orphans and vulnerable households in Zambia. With her background as a nurse and her passion for caring for the sick, Mrs. Chingangu started working as a caregiver and recruiting others to join the cause.

She says: “We worked for three years without any external support using only our own funds, but in 2004 we became partners of World Vision who began to give us some money to send children to school and finance other activities like the creation of a group of dedicated caregivers.

“It was initially a group of ladies, which now has grown to 65 members, 43 women but also 22 men. From 2001 we have increased the number of households we visit to 300, and we look after 1,500 children. We used to train family members who were not sick with the basics to look after their relatives, but now we train caregivers very carefully for two weeks, teaching them all they need to know from first aid to nutrition.

“Among the activities we do with children there is the memory book in which orphans put photographs of their parents, write their names, what they looked like, where they came from and what did they die of. The book helps the children to work through their loss but also to connect with God and accept his will.”

Zambia has a population of 11.5 million, 17 per cent of whom live today with HIV/AIDS and 54 per cent with TB. Three quarters of all Zambian families care for at least one child orphaned by AIDS, stretching the support networks of extended families to the limit.

But Mrs. Chingangu is positive about the future and she stresses how people in Zambia are recovering very rapidly thanks to the introduction in 2005 of free anti-retroviral drugs: “Many are going back to work and some have become caregivers in turn. When a person who was very sick becomes better and can go back to work and look after his or her family, I feel satisfied; when a orphan who has no hope to go school because his or her grandmother cannot afford it, I help to raise some money to buy the uniform and I feel very satisfied; when a mother who cannot feed her children starts to sell at the market to earn some money I feel great.

“These are the things that make keep going, but when the resources are not there and my ideas cannot be put into practice, I feel bad, because I really want to help but I can’t. I was in Congress last week and explained to them my work in the same way I’m explaining it to you now. I think it went well, and they understood what I was asking: I was asking for continuity in their financial help, which is vital for carrying on with the empowerment of the people of Zambia.”

World Vision
P.O. Box 9716, Dept. W
Federal Way, WA 98063-9716

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