Columns & OpinionsNew Year's Day. The phone is ringing, and when I answer, it is Africa calling. They are giving me an update on how things are going there. The schools are on their break. Yet, children are getting tutoring on a daily basis. She tells me that more people have died of AIDS. People who did not even know they were HIV positive. by Wil Groot
- 21 January 2020
|Africa Calling - A Free Spirit’s Dream|
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They did not want to get tested for fear of their environment. She also told me that the HIV medication has not arrived at the clinic. Once again, the van in which the medicines were transported was robbed. Hopefully, the medication will arrive soon, otherwise she and others will experience the negative effects of this.
In South-Africa, HIV medicines are used to get high.
This has been going on around five years now. On TV, an HIV-infected man told that he made a powder out of his medication and smoked it as joints. He mentioned that he did this because he was suffering from side-effects. That way, he felt much better. Shortly thereafter, the trade in HIV medication started and hospitals who had obtained the medication were robbed.
She says that there is still a lot to do at the projects. Education is needed and not just for the children. Many girls are pregnant around the age of fifteen. Many have three children around the age of twenty. Primary school classes are bursting at the seams. Tables and chairs no longer fit, taking up too much space. Between 50/90 children in the classroom is normal, especially in remote areas where there are not many schools. She wishes me a happy New Year and, above all, asks me to thank everyone supporting us.
When I put down the phone, I lean back in my office chair and take a moment. My thoughts go back to the last time I visited the projects. I get my notebook, browse back to November and read through my anecdotes.
"An old man sits next to me. He is speaking of apartheid. How education and hospitals were much better in those days. That the first open heart transplant was in Cape Town, and that Dr. Bernard suddenly became world famous. These were very different times. Sometimes I wonder if things have got better at all. Corruption is everywhere. Girls no longer want to get married and many have children at an early age.
We drink a cup of coffee, which he uses with five scoops of sugar and lots of milk. We continue to chat about cultural changes, as every culture is always subject to change. A moment later he sees the blonde Sandra walking by and says that he would like to taste some white bread. "I've only had brown bread all my life." He chuckles and gulps down his last sip of coffee, alias sugar water. "
In 2007 this "Free Spirit" had a dream. “Walking on an unpaved dusty road I ended up among a group of children that were playing. I asked them were there parents were. A girl looked up, smiled at me and said that her parents had died of AIDS. She immediately continued playing with the other children. I saw a dilapidated farm and told the children that I would farm it for them, and that on this farm, we would all live together, happy and healthy.”
That this dream would be a turning point in my life was not reflected in the dream. That I decided to make my dream come true was clear to me when I woke up the next day. Looking back on these last twelve years, the realization of my dream has clearly changed my life.
Stigma is all around us. In Eastern Europe and Asia, HIV is on the increase, a disaster with grave consequences. Local politics is no help. I have met HIV-infected Eastern Europeans who have applied for asylum in the Netherlands.
Being positive is in my blood, literally and figuratively. Hope springs eternal, and I will continue to be hopeful, as it makes me a fighter and active. My book is now also translated into English as “Africa Calling” by Paul Collet. Together we spent three months working on it last year. Many thanks to Paul!
I also thank everyone who has supported me and helped to make the dream of this "free spirit" come true.
"Africa Calling" is still calling, and this "Free Spirit" is happy to pick up the phone and do my bit, because "Changing the World is a matter of taking action."
Africa Calling can be ordered via www.willenendoen.com. The proceeds go entirely to the charity. The second edition of the Dutch version of “Droom van een Vrijbuiter” can also be ordered now.
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