Africare News Release
Africare works with home-based care providers in Bukalo, Namibia, to help meet the needs of people living with HIV — many of whom are women like Jen Matapi, supporting both children and grandchildren.
From Bukalo to the Bishop Walker Memorial Dinner:
Celebrating the Empowerment of
Women in Africa
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 25, 2007 — Jen Matapi lives in Bukalo, in the Caprivi region of Namibia. Since 2004, when her husband passed away from AIDS, Jen has struggled to care for her two children and two grandchildren. Physically disabled, and living with HIV herself, she cannot work as others do in the fields — and so, her ability to provide food for her family is limited. For example, she can plant vegetable seeds, but it is nearly impossible for her to walk the long distance to obtain water for her garden. Thus, much of the food for her family of five comes from the $50 she receives in disability each month. Although she stretches that $50 as far as possible, too often she comes up short. She and her children and grandchildren know all too well what it means to go to bed hungry.
“We eat what we can. But some days, we eat only buhobe [a type of porridge]. We have no choice. Our stomachs are empty, but what can we do?” replied Jen when asked about her family’s diet.
A Bukalo home-based care group is working tirelessly to address the needs of families just like Jen. Since 1999, the group has provided has provided its clients with palliative care, helped orphans with their schooling and assisted HIV/AIDS-affected families with household chores. But time and time again, the group faced the bitter reality that its work could not address the problem most commonly expressed by its clients: hunger.
In 2003, Africare formed a partnership with the home-based care providers in Bukalo to address hunger in the region. As a result, the hard-working members of this home-based care group — combining their own skills and knowledge with appropriate support form Africare — began filling the empty stomachs they’d been unable to help just months before.
Africare provided chickens, feed and materials for the construction of a chicken run. That material support has been complimented by extensive technical support and training in poultry production and project management skills. Slowly but surely, the group’s project has flourished.
In 2006, the Bukalo home-based care group was able to provide Jen some of the assistance she needed. Each day, the group members visited the chicken run to sweep it clean, provide fresh water and, most important, collect newly laid eggs. The eggs were then distributed to clients in greatest need of nutritional support, particularly those living with HIV and receiving anti-retroviral therapy — clients like Jen.
Each week, Jen received eggs, which she then boiled and gave to her children alongside buhobe. The impact of this dietary change was significant. The increased protein provided by the eggs helped Jen’s children and grandchildren build muscle and fight infection. A generally-better nutritional status slowed the spread of HIV in their bodies and fuller stomachs allowed them to concentrate in school. A seemingly slight change — these eggs — made all the difference.
“Women are the health care agents of the family,” reminds Africare President Julius E. Coles. “Improving their health also enhances the health prospects of the family and future generations. They are a critical link in our effort to address health and nutritional needs of Africa.”
On Thursday, October 18, 2007, Africare will celebrate the empowerment of Jen and other women in Africa at the 17th annual Africare Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner in Washington, D.C. Now the largest annual event for Africa in the United States, the Africare Dinner was first held in October 1990 in memory of the late John T. Walker, the first African-American Episcopal bishop of Washington and the longtime chairman of Africare's Board, who passed away on September 30, 1989.
This year’s theme, “women’s empowerment Africa-wide,” will be exemplified by a salute to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia: Africa’s first elected female head of state. At the event, the Africare Board of Directors will present President Johnson Sirleaf with the 2007 Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award. Given each year at the Africare Dinner, the award recognizes people whose work has made a significant impact on raising the standard of living in Africa. Prior recipients include former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, then President Nelson Mandela, Andrew Young, Dorothy I. Height, Graca Machel, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates.
Proceeds from the event help support Africare's mission of assistance to the people of Africa in the areas of food security and agriculture, health and HIV/AIDS, water resource development, environmental management, literacy and vocational training, microenterprise development, governance and emergency humanitarian aid. The Africare Dinner is a top multicultural affair as well, with guests representing all races and a wide array of cultures and nationalities.