“In many ways, these are like any other teens,” says Dyantji . “Their appearance is important to them. They are on a very interesting journey, living in their homes as orphans, taking care of siblings.”
The ministry’s support comes from the community and churches, including historically white congregations. But while great, the needs are not purely financial.
“People think it’s all about money, and they are not coming in to help,” says Dyantji . “In our tradition, ubuntu means ‘You are also my child.’ It means ‘You don’t have to be an orphan.’ It means ‘I’m hearing you.’ It’s about the relationships. People just forget that.”
Asked if men volunteer to help, Dyantji puts her hands over her face and shakes her head.
“Boys have asked us to get men to help, but to get men isn’t easy. And the boys just need someone to talk to them.”
Between last May and late August, 35 more parents with AIDS died. “The children often don’t understand when their mother has died,” says Dyantji . “They may tell me that she won’t eat or drink, but when I arrive, she is dead.”
At the funeral of his only parent, a young boy named Thomas “sobbed and cried like mad. I had worried about taking the other kids to the service—that it would be too much for them. But we decided to take them, and 50 kids formed themselves into a circle and put Thomas and his siblings in the middle, saying, ‘If I can make it, so can you.’ Then they all cried and helped one another.”
‘You are late, I am late’
After visiting during the 2006 South African Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope, divinity student Dionne Davies D’08 could not forget the image of all the children coming in from school and rushing to hug “Ma Carol.”