The HEAL Project is run in Zambia by Jeannie Mulenga – this is her story as to how it began:
“I suffer from HIV/AIDs. This project began when I was in a desperate state of health after contracting the disease from my husband, who subsequently died leaving me with 3 children and no home. I faced a lot of hardships. My children were thrown out of school because I couldn’t afford to pay the fees. I faced discrimination in all aspects of my life. While living on the streets I met Dr Helen. She started treating me, my health improved and she helped me start a small business. I rented a room and soon I was able to support myself and the children were back in school. There was a need for me to extend the support I had from Dr Helen to other HIV+ people, who were in a similar situation, so we started the HEAL Project.
Dr Helen Ayles
We now have official charitable status in Zambia and the group is growing. All skills and talents are useful. Some use the sewing machines and make clothes, cusions, curtains, bags etc. Others knit, crochet or do cross-stitch embroidery. Papier mache bowls, banana leaf cards and many other craft items are also made.
We sell the goods in the markets and this is a useful meeting place for people to see that, although we are HIV+, we can still lead full lives. There is still a stigma attached our illness. One white lady stopped at our stall for a chat and said how courageous we were. She had been diagnosed HIV+ but dare not tell any of her family or friends of her condition.
Now we have extended our work into the Ngombe compound where several members live.We have built a community centre and school to provide lessons for the most needy orphans. This is costing a lot of money so we need help in providing basic materials and day to day running costs. A midday meal is provided and the children at the school are growing vegetables to supplement this. Thank you for what you are doing – we are so grateful for your help.”
Jeannie Mulenga, Chair Person, the HEAL Project