GLC helps older generation cope with HIV fallout

The Graff Leadership Centre in Leribe not only comes to the fore in educating and supporting the youth of Lesotho, but also excels in assisting the communities’ grandmothers cope with the fallout of HIV and AIDS in their children’s generation.

Nkhono Mafiloe, now 63, married as a teenager. The disease took her husband and two of six children. Stranded in a rural village, she has sole responsibility for the care of 10 orphaned grandchildren aged three to 14.

Isolated, both geographically and emotionally, Mafiloe was paralysed by the responsibility: “The children were so sad, and I did not know how to help them because I too was sad.” All 11 family members lived in a small one-room hut, sharing two mattresses. Food was scarce and Mafiloe would often go hungry so the youngest could eat.

Her plight led to the village chief contacting FACET’s Graff Leadership Centre. The monthly Grandmother meetings help Mafiloe learn about HIV and in turn to care for the sick and educate her grandchildren, as well as support them emotionally. Meeting women in a similar situation, she also benefits from being able to share her worries and offer encouraging words to that network.

The support continues at home: food parcels, shoes and blankets are all forthcoming and she has had assistance in building a keyhole garden, specially constructed to yield 10 times that of a normal garden – enough to sustain her family.

“Before I started the programme, I worried if my grandchildren would have a future at all,” confides Mafiloe. “But now we all help each other. My grandchildren help me with the garden, and with everything. And I am able to listen to them and let them grieve for their parents. I am so blessed to be part of this programme.”

Graff Leadership Centre offers a beacon of hope

Mokhabelane Morahanye, the District Administrator for Leribe, the location of Lesotho’s Graff Leadership Centre, explains how the centre is critical to the well being of his community.

“AIDS has devastated our country. I know many of the grandmothers in my village, and I have been to the funerals of their children.

“In this area of northern Lesotho, there was information about AIDS, but no ongoing support, which was what our youth needed. Knowledge without a support structure is not enough.

“My vision is for Leribe to become an exemplar of what leadership is all about. We thank FACET Foundation for helping people to rise above their suffering. Help Lesotho has clear and comprehensive programmes, and its work at the Graff Leadership Centre plays a pivotal part in realising this vision. It is a special place for our people: everyone is welcomed, free to think and express opinions. I am proud that it is located here.”

Workshops, debates and group exercises help youth flourish

A haven for vulnerable people, the Graff Leadership Centre is a place of learning, discovery and healing, where every visitor is made to feel welcome and offered support.

Bongane, a 26-year-old graduate of the FACET-funded Help Lesotho Youth Development Programme is just one example of how this atmosphere nurtures success and well being.

Once a heavy drinker, having succumbed to peer pressure in high school, Bongane would disappear for days at a time: “My father got angry and eventually became violent. He thought beating me would make me stop, but it made me angrier. When he realised it wasn’t working he turned on my mother. He blamed her for my drinking, saying she was a terrible mother and wife. I couldn’t take it. I left.”

Bongane entered a world of petty crime to fund his drinking habit, but knew something had to change when his friend suggested an armed robbery on a house. He moved in with his brother and signed up to the Youth Development Programme, but he wasn’t aware what he was getting into: “I thought it was a job. When I realised it wasn’t, I thought I’d just stay for the first day and never come back. In that day we heard inspiring talks about how we have potential to make changes and take control of our future.”

And Bongane also met past graduates of the programme: “You could see the transformation in their eyes. They were happy. I wanted to be like that, so I stayed.” So, three days a week, together with 55 other young men and women, Bongane would participate in workshops, debates and reflection exercises covering self-esteem, goal setting and communication skills among various topics.

Following the programme, Bongane was able to join a community work project for six weeks and now volunteers at the GLC library, hoping to fulfil his ambition to become a police officer.