Nkosi Haven

by sandy on May 6, 2010

Nkosi Haven Village, befits its name. Created in honor of its namesake, Nkosi Johnson and in memory of his mother, it is indeed a haven, a warm home for its occupants, many of whom are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

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Nkosi died in June 2001, aged 12 from an AIDS infected disease, having been infected since birth. His mother was too ill too look after him and they were separated.

He was looked after by Gail Johnson who became his foster mother.

She and he worked hard together during his short life, campaigning for the rights of those who were HIV positive.

It became their dream to open havens in which infected mothers could stay together with their children, in the belief that no mother should be separated from her child because of HIV-status.

In July 2000, Nkosi addressed the 13th International Aids Conference and captivated his world wide audience with a speech he wrote himself and that now resonates throughout the HIV/AIDS infected populace of South Africa.

This short video clip of two young girls, aged 5, cared for in a creche in Protea South, Soweto provides eloquent testimony to this. You have to listen carefully, but you will hear the words used by Nkosi in his speech.

“Care for us and accept us – we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else. Don’t be afraid of us – we are all the same.”

“Our projects are inspired by Nkosi’s legacy. His legacy lives on.”
Gail Johnson.

Meeting Gail, founder of Nkosi Haven
We met there with Gail, Nkosi’s foster mother, one warm day at the end of March. She was unwell with a nasty cold, but she insisted in showing us all aspects of the village, which is an extraordinary achievement.

The village which has newly been completed, took several years to build and has the capacity to care for 100 mothers and 183 children.

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They even have a bakery in a container. The money for it was raised by Dan Leader, a well known baker in the state of New York, USA. The idea is to introduce the skill of baking to the AIDS infected mothers, supply bread for the Haven’s needs and then to start selling to raise further funds. What a great outcome for everyone.

Vibrant colors are splashed on every possible surface. Lime green, bright orange and purple sofas, pink, blue and cerise walls studded with stars and playful murals provide a homely, warm atmosphere.

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Against this backdrop, we introduced even more colour, presenting the blankets especially made for the orphans of Nkosi Haven by our KAS community.

Last year, we asked the community to make 25 blankets to be presented to the 25 members of the Soweto Gospel Choir on the evening of their performance at the Annenburg Theatre, Philadelphia on January 30, 2010.

Debbie Posmontier, a member of the KAS community project managed the event, arranging for 25 children of the Musica Mundi Choir from Springside School to both sing in the foyer and to present the blankets to the choristers on stage. Many of our regular contributors put in a special effort to make the wonderful blankets and Jackie De Sousa organised the postage of the blankets to South Africa.

So it was with great pride for this extraordinary effort and achievement, that we wrapped these very special blankets around the children. Gail and the staff of Nkosi Haven were spellbound by the colours and beauty of the blankets. She asked me to thank you all for your great work and assured me that these will be greatly treasured by the children who own them.

Every stitch is a connection. A connection with the work Nkosi did before he died, a connection between KAS and the children of Nkosi Haven, the children of Springside School and the music of Soweto Gospel Choir, our knitters with each other, the audience at the event and finally us and the children who now own the blankets. The blankets are a life-long gift. How many nights will they comfort and warm these children as they grow into adulthood. They too are a legacy that lives on long past the date at which they are made and given.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jana May 6, 2010 at 09:58

Grab me the Kleenex and my crochet hook.

jackie May 6, 2010 at 13:44

WOW – the blankets made it – teary eyed as i read – i have been inspired – motivated – touched – and blessed to have been so lucky to be a part of this.

Zanny May 7, 2010 at 00:40

What a special day that was. Gail and all who are involved in Nkosi Haven are untiring in their incredible efforts to establish a long term cosy and educational home for so many who need just that. We were filled with admiration and will not forget the journey we went on as we moved through the Haven. So colourful and bright, so inspiring. Many young children at play in cheerful surroundings with smiles of gratitude on their little faces. South Africa needs more Gail’s and volunteer helpers.

Diane May 7, 2010 at 14:22

What an amazing woman and an inspiring story! Gail has created a haven full of smiling faces. I was already quite emotional and then I saw the photo of Ronda and the boy with a very cheeky grin – he is wrapped in the blanket that I made! I’m still wiping my eyes as I write this.

Debbie Posmontier May 7, 2010 at 19:38

Thank you, Sandy, for this wonderful report of the blanket distribution. I am filled with joy as I look at the faces of the children draped in the blankets that arrived, one or two or three at a time, at my house in Pennsylvania, then made the trip to the annenberg Theater, then to Jackie’s work in Massachusetts and finally to Nkosi Haven. What a journey of love! What a fantastic group of strangers who came together for the the children! Thank you, thank!

Jo Jasner May 7, 2010 at 21:23

Besides being surrounded by these beautiful blankets, I know these beautiful children feel the love that surrounds them by the wonderful, special people there caring for them.

Thandi Manyike October 23, 2010 at 18:01

Tears stream down my face as I read this and seeing the pictures of these adorable children
it just breaks my heart to know that at this early stage of their lives they are either affected or infected by HIV/AIDS but at the same time I’m filled with joy that they are not alone
They still receive the love and care that every child at their age needs
May the Lord richly bless Gail for all her hard work

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