World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
Since 2007, Habitat for Humanity Ireland has supported a HIV/AIDS shelter and support programme in Zambia through funding from Irish Aid, and the generosity of our volunteers and supporters. The local name adopted for the programme is Pamwesu which combines Bemba and Lunda languages and loosely translates to “at our home, there is joy and happiness”. This project aims to promote equitable development and human rights amongst women, orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has devastating effects in Zambia. Currently 12% of Zambians are infected, with 11% of children under 18 having lost one or both parents. For many women in Zambia the loss of a husband means not just losing a loved one, but losing their home. Women are rarely aware of their land or property rights, and few have written wills in place. Thus, women can become victims of property grabbing from male relatives, leaving themselves and their children vulnerable and without security.
Since the project began in 2007, 476 homes have been built, and 2,856 individuals now have a safe place to call home. 15 water points erected, serving 3,500 community members. 19,717 individuals have been educated on land tenure, housing rights, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.
Through the Pamwesu project, Enessi (pictured to the right) partnered with Habitat for Humanity Zambia to create an environment in which her grandchildren could thrive.
Enessi is the caregiver to her six orphaned grandchildren (Robson and Elizabeth pictured to the right). Before partnering with Habitat for Humanity, she lived in constant fear for her grandchildren’s future. She wanted to be able to provide a healthy and secure environment, as they grew up under her care. This fear was linked to Enessi’s living conditions. She lived with her grandchildren in a small, overcrowded mud hut in Chazanga, Zambia. The family lived day to day, hoping that the shelter would withstand the winds and rain.
“Whenever it rained I woke up my grandchildren and we sat in a corner, ready to protect ourselves if the walls collapsed. We could not risk falling asleep because the walls shook with the wind and, each time it rained, the cracks grew bigger and the walls to my mud house grew thinner,” said Enessi.
Robert, 11, Enessi’s grandson, says that times were hard, “we barely got any sleep but that was fine. I was able to go to school”.
In 2013, Enessi and her grandchildren moved into their new safe and decent Habitat home (pictured above). The family’s life has changed dramatically since the move. While Enessi’s life isn’t free of struggles, she can plan for the future with the comfort of knowing her grandchildren are safe, and have a place to do their homework and work towards their dreams.