Südafrika: Busisiwe Virginia Hlomuka

My disabled child became a blessing to me to learn about disability and about other things like HIV/Aids and children’s rights.

— Busisiwe Virginia Hlomuka

Busisiwe Hlomuka (1965-2005) was born in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. She fled from her home with her disabled child because her family and neighbours did not accept the child. Two years after she fled, around 1996, people in her new community started to bring their disabled children to Busisiwe for her to take care of them. That was the beginning of Ezakheni Children’s Center for disabled children. Within a year the number had increased considerably because of HIV/Aids orphans.

“God blessed me with my child who has given me the ability to feed all the other children that are brought to me by the community. God can do miracles for you when you trust that He is the only salvation. I trust in God and each day I become stronger and stronger for all these children,” said Busisiwe. She had started the center in a small shack with five children. After two years, the local council gave her a four-roomed brick house to accommodate 28 children. Neighbors were reluctant to help Busisiwe because some of the children were HIV positive: “People were scared of HIV/Aids." With her First Aid skills, day-care and disability management skills, Busisiwe had to learn fast to deal with children with disabilities and at the same time pass on the knowledge to her assistants who had no formal training. With the help of KwaZulu Natal Department of Social Services, and some individuals in the community and the youth, Busisiwe got financial and social assistance. People donated clothes, food and toys for the children. In 2001 Busisiwe received an award as the National Community Builder of the Year. The award brought heightened recognition of Busisiwe’s work. Her work attracted researchers who highlighted the issue of HIV/Aids in KwaZulu Natal and its impact on children. Lately, the center has received increased assistance from different people and the staff has also increased. The department of health recently provided financial support to the center. However, she has always be concerned about the unskilled caregivers who work at the center and receive a low income. “The committed caregivers are either illiterate or semi-literate,” said Busisiwe. Despite the problems, the center has gained recognition as a home for children living with disabilities and HIV/Aids. Busisiwe Hlomuka died in April 2005.

Ezakheni Children’s Center