Bidvest keeps Nkosi Johnson’s dream alive
South Africa’s famous child Aids activist, Nkosi Johnson, was born with HIV and died at the age of 12 in 2001. At the time of his death, he was the longest-surviving South African child born with HIV who had not been given ARV treatment. His legacy continues to live on through Nkosi’s Haven, which houses and supports orphaned children as well as HIV-positive mothers and their children.
Gail Johnson is the founding director of Nkosi’s Haven. She met Nkosi while volunteering at an AIDS care centre. When the centre closed down, Gail took Nkosi home and a few years later she opened the care centre as an independent NPO.
After losing a major sponsor two years ago, Bidvest stepped in as a benefactor with a monthly donation. “We have been able to cover all our costs with ease, thanks to Bidvest,” says Gail.
“We currently care for 122 children and 19 moms. All of our moms are HIV positive, 34 children are HIV positive and 72 children are orphaned.
“One of our policies is to build the capacity of our moms, employing them internally to run our bakery, kitchen and laundry. We also employ 12 resident caregivers, a social worker, part-time play therapists, a counsellor, four sickbay staff and two drivers. We employ outside people as childcare workers, as they must have a matric and have completed childcare courses.”
Gail’s wish for Nkosi’s Haven is to arm all the children with a good education. “We have four students in college this year. One is studying sports management, two are studying tourism and one is in third year HR. Some of our children have special needs; for example one is at a school for the blind and another at a skills school. We pay for all tuition so the money from Bidvest is a big relief,” she says.
Nkosi’s Haven Village is situated in Johannesburg near Southgate. It currently consists of: 17 resident cottages; a sickbay; a therapy block; a library; a baby daycare; workshops and classrooms for additional onsite education and skill building; a music and arts centre; a leisure room; an upgraded kitchen; a sports field; and administrative offices. An onsite preschool is being built and plans are underway to build more cottages and accommodate more HIV mothers and children.
In 2008 a 12 acre farm was purchased with the objective of implementing a self-sustaining Kibbutz. This project will accommodate destitute HIV/Aids infected mothers and their children from the township of Sebokeng, the informal settlement of Orange Farm and the surrounding area. “We hope to use this new site not only to grow organic food to feed an increasing number of residents at the village, but as a site for individual capacity building and economic empowerment. We will do this through the sale of surplus crops and products made by the resident mothers and sold on the local market.
“We want to help more infected women and children and our doors are open for those who may have dropped out of school but are keen to learn farming.” The good work continues. Well done and thank you to Gail Johnson for her courage and wisdom and to Bidvest for its amazing support.