The Guba HIV/AIDS support group started in 2010 & has continued since with monthly meetings held every first Tuesday of the month.
The group was started following a team meeting decision to keep on top of the latest HIV/AIDS situation & information for ourselves so that we are well positioned to support our friends, neighbours & colleagues. All of us have keenly felt the negative impact HIV/AIDS has had in our communities, friends & families.
Soon after the first few monthly meetings, we decided to open our meetings to those working around Guba on the neighbouring farm – Saint Clements – whom we see daily.
In 2011, the group members chose to focus on diet & nutrition. Guba volunteer Adam Rogerson facilitated alongside Guba’s Lead Facilitator, Bongi, practical sessions on healthy eating using ingredients & cooking methods easily replicated at the homestead. Eating healthy foods is vital to promoting a healthy immune system especially if it is compromised by HIV/AIDS. It is incredibly detrimental to the body if the drugs administered to manage the virus are taken on an empty stomach. The drugs can also have some serious side affects which can be partially managed with a good diet.
In 2012, group members chose to focus on testing, becoming more informed about the facts surrounding HIV/AIDS & taking over the management of the group themselves. Many group members identified financial problems & mounting personal debt as a major source of stress. In response to this Guba’s Operations Director, Sam, has led the group through some personal budgeting exercises aimed at raising awareness of simple strategies to better plan & live to a budget. This will be an ongoing process, but the foundations have been laid.
As well as continuing to develop knowledge around HIV/AIDS, in 2013 group members focused on developing a kitchen garden to learn permaculture approaches they can also take home with them, share produce & eat healthier foods. The skills the group shared during the setup of a joint kitchen garden on the Guba farm soon translated into clusters of kitchen gardens being established by smaller groups of the members at their different places of work as this transpired to be more easily managed & regularly harvested for lunches & take-home produce, shared with families & friends.
With some support group members facing hard times & illness during 2013 & going into 2014, the group agreed to focus on improving trust & teamwork with the aim of being better placed to honestly talk with each other & provide the kind of support that will improve quality of life. This involved doing a fair bit in terms of setting goals & aspirations on an individual level too as the group identified that those members struggling the most in terms of health & money were also more likely to hold low self esteem & less likely to hold clear aspirations in life.
Although this direction continues into 2015, the group have found their bonds further cemented & are even more passionate about continuing group meetings & furthering their impact in our communities. To commemorate World Aids Day 2014, the group jumped at the chance to support Vusi Matsebula from SASO who was involved in celebrating Hannie Dlamini’s lifetime of achievements as the first HIV+ person to publicly come out in Swaziland & outspoken AIDS activist. This World AIDS Day celebration not only brought attention back to Hannie & the power we each hold to be effective HIV activists but it also gave Hannie a practical present of a permaculture kitchen garden. Sadly, a recent stroke has left this Hannie unable to manage his large cropping area so his friends & supporters came together to redesign his homestead to include a kitchen garden close by his home to give him easier access to nutritious, healthy food using low maintenance & low cost management strategies. The Guba Support Group were delighted to organise & facilitate this empowering & inspiring day celebrating Swaziland’s AIDS activists.
Guba also offers group members an opportunity to save money by depositing cash after each meeting in an account which can be accessed during each monthly meeting without charge. This service has not been taken up by all the group members but those that have saved have found the service to be uncomplicated & easily accessible. While there is demand for it, we will continue to provide this transparent & straightforward savings service & offer advice in an effort to promote self-sufficiency & improve quality of life.
[flagallery gid=1 skin=photo_pro_jn]