My dad died when I was 11 years old. I was devastated. It took years for me to get over it, and today I’m not sure I even have. Ask anyone who’s been through the pain of losing a parent – it’s life shaping. It’s really tough.
Imagine how you’d feel if you lost your mother not 12 months after your dad died?
I don’t want to.
But I imagine my heart would be so heavy and there would be so many memories in daily life that would be constant reminders of what I’d lost and how life will never be the same again. My young shoulders would be weighted down with responsibility having to care for a little brother.
Imagine if you lost your Dad and Mum and your little brother?
Would you be put into care? Maybe a loving foster family would look after you? Your teachers at school would be warned to treat you in a special way. After all, you’ve endured. Your poor heart must be breaking.
Imagine if you lost your Dad, your Mum and your brother and there was no care? No social welfare. No special needs teachers. Nothing to fall back on. What then?
You’d have to worry about where to find food. How to live from day to day. Would you even be able to continue with school? You’d be so tired at the end of a day. You’d be vulnerable. And your heart? How would be? Heavy and trembling with fear in case you don’t survive.
That’s how I imagine I’d be if I was in Gantz’s situation.
This is Gantz. He’s from a small village outside Cape McClear in Malawi. He’s such a gentle lovely guy and also a bit of a geek! He loves science and wanted to be a biologist when he got older. He lost both his parents and his brother to AIDS. His grandmother was doing what she could to support him. Without her, I imagine he would have had to give up school. When I met him, continued attendance at school pursuing his dreams was a bit precarious. What would happen to Gantz once the old woman was gone?
But Gantz is not all morose and feeling sorry for himself. He’s warm and smiling and gentle. He still has ambition. In fact, he considers himself lucky to be alive.
Many people of our age like Gantz in Malawi have not been so lucky. An entire generation has been wiped out. Since AIDS came to Africa twenty years ago, most of the women and men of sexually active age have died.
Can you imagine what that would be like?
To lose most of your friends and all of your family to a pandemic that is rife. Its not anybody’s fault. AIDS is sweeping through the continent of Africa. Why Africa and not Europe?
Because AIDS and poverty go hand in hand. If you’re already weakened by poverty, then you haven’t much hope when HIV and AIDS comes your way. HIV attacks the immune system. If your body is weakened through lack of food, it makes it much easier for HIV to take hold.
Today is BLOG ACTION DAY.
People around the world are blogging about poverty. I chose to blog about my friend Gantz. I don’t know if he’s still alive, or if he ever managed to make it through school. But I do know that he has more richness of spirit and inner strength than I have.
Gantz is just one story – one young man in a small village near Cape McClear. I hope he has survived. The odds aren’t stacked in his favour though – 1 African person dies of AIDS every 17 seconds.