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News : HIV

Mother buddies in Malawi

Mother buddies in Malawi – 3 May 2012

In Malawi, one in five children born to a HIV-positive mother is infected – a death sentence at birth. However, child and maternal mortality can be reduced dramatically with a number of low-cost interventions. Tearfund Ireland has received three year’s funding from Irish Aid, a government department, to mobilise churches and communities in rural Malawi to stop AIDS but still needs donations to enable this life-saving work to succeed. Give today

Slim disease

‘Slim disease’ is the local name given to AIDS which has ravaged the country since the 1980s. More than 10% of the population are infected with HIV and tragically are passing it on to the next generation. Rev. Harold, a church leader in Chitera was exhausted from attending the funerals of AIDS victims with often as many as ten per month. ‘People were in a constant state of grief.’ he says, ‘It was particularly tragic when a young infant wasted away and died’.

Loneliness kills

Rev. Harold then attended a training run by the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Tearfund’s partner. He realised that AIDS was the equivalent of leprosy in Biblical times. ‘Sufferers were isolated from family and community. Even us, their church persecuted for their condition,’ he explains. One woman, whose family, on learning of her condition, set fire to her home to drive her out. ‘It’s not only the disease that kills,’ Rev Harold continues, ‘but the loneliness.’

Changing church

As a result of his training Chitera community and the local church is changing dramatically. Following the example of Jesus with the lepers the church members have begun to welcome people living with HIV and are providing practical care and support for them. On a recent visit to Malawi I attended a church service and was present as the collection was gathered from the congregation. This was like nothing you would see in Ireland – someone offered a bar of soap, another a pair of socks, someone else a single egg. It was moving to witness people with next to nothing giving whatever they could for those suffering from AIDS.

Inspiring as the image is, however, it touches on something much deeper and confirms the incredible potential of the church to bring healing and hope.

A mother’s hope

The church conducted a voluntary HIV testing and counselling clinic as part of their Sunday service. 176 people came to be tested. One of them was Evelyn who was pregnant with her first child. ‘I was very afraid when I found out’ she says softly ‘I thought there was no hope for me and my child, in Malawi this is a death sentence.’ However a ‘mother buddy’ (a church volunteer) was able to take her to the health clinic on a bicycle ambulance so that she could be provided with anti-retroviral medicines. ‘I don’t think I could have gotten there without her’ says Evelyn as she reflects on the hour’s walk to the nearest clinic.


Throughout Evelyn‘s pregnancy the mother buddy provided continuous support and prayer. The anti-retroviral medicines can have some horrible side-effects including nausea and vomiting and without encouragement pregnant women often stop taking them. But Evelyn persevered and gave birth to a baby boy Ztembele, which means ‘thanks’.

Recently Ztembele was old enough to be tested for HIV and to the delight of his mother Evelyn he was negative. ‘Without the medicines, my mother buddy and my church I would be telling a different story today’ says Evelyn. She has decided that she wants to be trained as a mother buddy so she can share her experiences and help mothers in her situation.

Today, in Chitera there has been only one burial for an AIDS victim in the last six months. Behind this dramatic turnaround is the loving care and dedication of a network of church volunteers, led by Rev Harold and inspired by Jesus.

A future free from HIV

Such success has not gone unnoticed. Tearfund Ireland has secured three years funding from the Irish Government towards reducing the incidence of HIV transmission from mother to child, a significant initiative in a country with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Over the next three years we plan to test 6,500 mothers and will be providing ‘mother buddy’ support to the HIV-positive mothers. As a result hundreds of children will be born with a chance at life. Evelyn is looking forward to her opportunity to give something back to her people – her way of giving thanks.

The Malawi HIV project is only partially funded by the Irish government and will require your support to ensure its success.

  • €18 will enables us to provide emergency transport for a pregnant woman
  • €35 enables us to provide HIV testing at a church
  • €150 will enable us to support a HIV positive pregnant mother and prevent her child being born with HIV

Give today

Malawi HIV Fund

Malawi HIV Fund – 30 Jan 2012

In Malawi, one in five children born to a HIV-positive mother is infected – a death sentence at birth. However, child and maternal mortality can be reduced dramatically with a number of low-cost interventions.

Tearfund and its local partners are mobilising church and communities in rural Malawi to stop AIDS together.Irish Aid, a department within the Irish government, has awarded Tearfund Ireland a grant in recognition of our expertise and accountability in this area. This covers 72 per cent of the cost of the HIV project in Malawi but the remaining 28 per cent (€30,000) is still needed to enable this vital work to go ahead.

One child is born with HIV every minute. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Could you help save a child’s life? Click here to give today

World AIDS Day: Church in China – 1 Dec 2010

World AIDS Day: December 1st

More than two million souls live in the Chinese city of Baoshan which lies in the province of Yunnan near to the border with Myanmar (Burma). This proximity inevitably brings a movement of people between the two countries. The nearness of the infamous Golden Triangle also means a flourishing drugs trade.

Because drugs can be bought easily and cheaply, there’s a human cost in terms of addicts and the transmission of HIV. Latest statistics show there are more than 2,000 people living with HIV in Baoshan.

Through the work of Tearfund partner Cedar Fund, the local church is addressing these issues. A network of churches is working with local government health and social services to transform the lives of people affected by HIV.

Cedar Fund is training pastors in HIV prevention and drug awareness, while also helping them to understand that the church has a role to meet the physical needs of people as well as spiritual ones.


Pastor Xu Chenyun took part in our partner’s training. He said, ‘I started to see the role of the church and that we shouldn’t only focus on what’s happening inside the church itself.

‘Instead we should have knowledge of what’s happening in society and meet the needs with the power of our Lord.’

Pastor Xu has shared his learning, and with church colleagues has built a team to work on HIV prevention and raising awareness. Visiting a drug rehab centre inspired him to get involved in setting one up himself and he now divides his time between it and the church. He’s one of a new generation of church leaders being equipped to meet the pressing social needs of the urban poor and to be a tangible sign of hope where all too often there is none.

  • Give thanks for the work of the local church in Yunnan as it meets the needs of people living with HIV and drug addicts.
  • Pray that more of the city’s 40 churches develop a wider community awareness and become involved in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of the people around them.
  • Pray for those affected by drug usage and that greater awareness leads to fewer lives lost to addiction.
Zimbabwe Appeal - Shadreck age 12

Zimbabwe Appeal - Shadreck age 12 – 1 Jul 2010

Shadreck is just 12 years old, but caring for his sister and elderly grandmother. More than 1.8 million children in Zimbabwe are orphaned. We are making sure they are not forgotten.

Shadreck, age 12, and his sister Primrose, age 10, live in what seems an idyllic spot for children to grow up in.

From their home, there are far-reaching views for miles over the rolling countryside and forested hills. Wild flowers are in bloom, butterflies and birds are in the air and peace pervades this rural part of Zimbabwe.

But life for Shadreck and Primrose is anything but idyllic. Both their parents died from AIDS-related illnesses and the children are now among the poorest of the poor, facing a daily struggle for survival.

No regular income means a lack of food is their biggest problem. They often go hungry.

They live in a small thatched hut which has seen better days as the roof is coming apart and the walls are succumbing to the elements. Inside there is a hole in the ground where they have a fire to cook their food and the only piece of furniture is small table, crowded with plates and pans.

The children have a small patch of land where they have planted a maize crop but lack of rain in January means it is likely to fail, leaving them facing greater hunger.

Their hardship has been compounded by the theft of the few chickens they had.

Only Primrose goes to school. Shadreck had to give up attending in 2008 so he could work to provide for them both.

Shadreck said: ‘Yes, we feel hungry but there’s nothing we can do. If we have some mealy meal (a local type of porridge), in order for us to survive, we eat just once or twice a day. We have been living with hunger since our mother died.’


Although Shadreck is two years older than his sister, she is taller than him, evidence of how lack of food and a poor diet is stunting his growth.

While Primrose gets lunch at school, Shadreck goes without in the middle of his busy day.

The children get up at 6am. Shadreck works either his own or a neighbour’s land until 11am and then spends the rest of the day making two trips to fetch water in a 20kg bucket, walking a kilometre there and back over undulating countryside. After that he might walk up to four kilometres to find firewood.

‘I get very tired,’ he says in a quiet and understated voice. ‘I wish I could go back to school. I also wish I could get enough food and new clothing.’

Primrose rises at 6am too and walks two kilometres to school which starts at 6.45 and finishes at 3pm.

‘I feel pity for my brother. It’s also hard for me to see friends at school who have food when we don’t have enough’ Primrose says quietly.


Recently the children’s 85-year-old grandmother Sehli has been staying with them but she is in poor health. Mother-of-four Sehli has only one surviving son, who is blind, but does support her as best he can from his home in Bulawayo. With failing eyesight and the need for a stick to walk, Sehli relies on Shadreck and Primrose.

‘I have hope that God will protect us,’ says Sehli. ‘Yes the children are surviving but they need more food because they are always going short. Life was better when I was a youngster. I cannot work to help the children. Instead they are the ones working to look after me. It’s frustrating for me. I would like to be able to look after them.’

Both children attend the Agape Missions Pentecostal church, which meets at the local school. Despite their trials, their faith remains intact.

‘God is good and is going to bless us. He has been our protector,’ said Shadreck.

Tearfund’s local church partner, Zoe gives them porridge, mealy meal, sugar beans, cooking oil and maize supplies once a month. Primrose also gets help to pay her school fees.

We have also been able to provide them with some maize seeds. A local church volunteer Sellinah, supported by Tearfund, visits them regularly to offer support and train them in farming. She is teaching them how to dig and plant their own crops.

For years Zimbabwe has lived under the cloud of insecurity and political violence. Hyperinflation meant families did not know from one day to the next if they could put food on the table. A deadly cholera epidemic killed thousands and malnutrition became widespread. And at the same time HIV devastated the country. One child in four – over 1.8 million children – has lost one or both parents. For more information visit BBC to see their short film on Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children.

You can help give children a hope and a future

In Zimbabwe, Tearfund works through local churches and partners like Zoe. Individual church volunteers mentor individual children and their families, giving them not a ‘hand-out’, but a ‘hand-up’. Your donation will help to fund this work, and provide thousands of vulnerable children and families with the chance of a brighter, self-sufficient future. Give today.

  • €45 will provide agricultural training for five church volunteers. With this training they could then help 120 orphans to farm their own food, giving them the skills and opportunity to build an independent future.
  • €81 will provide orphaned families with seven chickens – providing them with nutritious eggs and food and helping them on the way to self-sufficiency.
  • €119 will provide an entire community of 30 families with seeds from which to plant up to eight different crops, allowing them to diversify their crops so they are less vulnerable if a particular crop fails.
  • €598 will pay to hold workshops to envision and train 60 church leaders – helping them to play a leadership role in their community’s struggles to defeat poverty.

To make a gift today, please give online, call Christine at 01 8783200 or post a cheque to Tearfund Ireland, 5-7 Upper O’Connell St, Dublin 1.

Fundraising – Make a meal of it

Summer, the perfect time for a barbeque – to eat, have fun and raise vital funds for families living in poverty in Zimbabwe. To help you pull together a Make a meal of it event, we have resources for you to download.


‘Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger’ Lamentations 2:19 (NIV)

Let the people of Zimbabwe know they haven’t been forgotten and encourage your church to pray today. To help you we have put together a short powerpoint presentation which you can download here.

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