Article by Lungile Ngubane, an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting form the Mgungundlovu district in KwaZulu-Natal.
MGUNGUNDLOVU. – Friends for Life is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that not only gives support, but also hope, to the community of Mpophomeni.
Plagued by gangsterism, teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS, concerned members from the township formed two groups, Mzamo Youth Group and Sibani Chid Care Project, in 1999 to address these problems.
Over the years the challenge of HIV/AIDS grew worse in the community ‘ the Department of Health even investigated the problem in the Mpophomeni community. In response to the growing HIV problem, members of the two groups (Mzamo Youth Group and Sibani Chid Care Project) decided to work together and formed a new group called Friends for Life.
It wasn’t always easy, at that time the organisation couldn’t afford to employ people and many volunteered their own time to do the home-based care and run the support group for people living with HIV/AIDS. But the organisation’s hard work and dedication paid off, and as more people joined they finally received some funding and the volunteers were paid a small stipend.
As the organisation grew, Friends for Life also started working together with the Department of Health and their counsellors also helped out at the clinics in Mpophomeni and Howick, as well as Greys and Edendale Hospitals.
‘We joined the organisation because we saw how the community has been suffering and we wanted to help others. We are happy that the organisation has grown,’ said Friends for Life members Ntokozo Xaba and Zodwa Malinga.
Everyone in Mpophomeni agrees that Friends for Life has been a blessing for the community. They have expanded their efforts to surrounding rural areas and now do door-to-door campaigns to teach people about HIV/AIDS. They also do work in schools and with funding from Turner and Townsend, created a toy library where around 60 children come to play with the toys. They also identified the need to feed children who visit the library and now also provide a meal for those who need it.
In another project, the organisation has also helped 150 people find employment in waste management, gardening and home-based care.
This small group that formed 13 years ago has grown into a respected organisation that has improved the lives of many people in the Mpophomeni community.