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Claude is a little boy whose parents died of AIDS. He was about eight years old when I first met him. Every day, he would rattle the gates at the Sisters’ place: “Sister, Sister…” The
nuns took him in along with the children to whom they gave a meal to fight kwashiorkor (a severe form of malnutrition). They also tended to a wound that would not heal. He was like a skeleton.

His family could not take care of him: his aunt was already caring for several children and was herself in poor health. Claude and his younger brother went to live with them. We tried to help her to care
of him, but Claude became more and more of a vagabond. Finally the streets became his home, and his family threw him out.

On the street, it became obvious that he also had AIDS himself.
Rumours spread that he was a ndoki (sorcerer), a wicked spirit that brings bad omens and that everyone flees like the plague; he was said to have caused the death of his parents, and his family rejected
him completely. Many would chase him away; sometimes throwing stones at him. He was now ten years old. At night he slept on the floor of an unfinished house. We gave him a straw mat and a blanket. In the
morning he had to leave early, as a relative of the owner would come by and, if she found him there, she would chase him and confiscate his mat and blanket. Then she locked the entrance, and so Claude had
no choice but to sleep outdoors under a porch. Appealing to his family led to nothing. We gave him shelter in a classroom.

During the day, he would stay with us. In the evening, a mother
would give him something to eat. But street children are not always well behaved. He caused us many a worry. Whatever he could get his hands on, he would steal and sell for next to nothing, to buy a piece
of smoked fish, a mackerel or a piece of bread. He was a real street kid. If something disappeared from the house, Claude would be the first suspect. He would emphatically deny it, but you could tell
right away that he knew something. If we insisted, he would name the buyer who often had already resold the stolen item, forcing us to buy it back.

He would always come back, but persisted
in his bad behaviour. We would buy him a pair of plastic sandals, but two weeks later, he would be running around in bare feet — at least four times, he sold his shoes. We put him in school, but one day
he would sell his notebook, the next day his ballpoint. On that day, he would skip class and play hooky or truant, for he could buy himself something!

AIDS often causes diarrhoea, and often
he would reek foully, which would isolate him even more. We had to clean him up and change his clothes.

The last month of his life, you could see that he was losing weight. One night, he
did not come back. Sick and tired, he slept outside. He came back in the morning showing the strains of the disease. He never got up again. We washed him, cared for him, tried to feed and rehydrate him.
He died peacefully three days later. With a few devout people, we prayed with him. He had never shown signs of piety, I never saw him pray, but God was surely close to him, for his family, although
informed, abandoned him completely.

At his funeral, we had a beautiful prayer. We filled his coffin with flowers, we sang for the angels to welcome him. The Lord will have welcomed him
lavishly, for he was one of these little ones in whom we felt His presence. We went away filled with thanksgiving.

The story of Claude, submitted by a colleague who wishes to remain
anonymous, was published in the NOUVELLES of the Central African Province, June 2002, no. 6, and is republished as an Easter greeting to all the readers of the AJA News.


Sister Marie-Noëlle MUNENGELA ODN of the Compagnie de Marie Notre Dame has joined the staff of the African Jesuit AIDS Network as an assistant. Originally from Lusaka in D.R.Congo, Sister
Marie-Noëlle trained as a nurse, practised and taught nursing, and administered a maternity hospital. During the past year she volunteered at the Nyumbani orphanage and studied English. Sister Marie-Noëlle’s
job description is “assistant ad omnia” with a special accent on organizing the growing quantity of information on HIV/AIDS in Africa that is accumulating here at the AJAN office. A warmest welcome,
bienvenue, boas-venidas and karibu to Sister Marie-Noëlle! You can reach her at <>


Postulate from the Rwanda-Burundi Region (February 2003): Apostolate regarding AIDS

Considering: given the sufferings which affect a large section of the population both in
Burundi and in Rwanda (the HIV rate: 16 to 20 % / the high mortality rate amongst those in the 25-45 year age-group / the growing number of orphan children); given the discernment made by numerous Jesuits
in Africa, and the challenge launched by Father General when the African Jesuit AIDS Network was set up.

The postulate: Effectively to organise a Jesuit service for the people infected by
HIV/AIDS in Rwanda and in Burundi.

The suggestions: That a co-ordinating office be set up in Kigali and in Bujumbura, in collaboration with other existing services, to stimulate every form
of service focused on AIDS;

That all the active members in the Region be invited to include a special attention regarding AIDS in their apostolic activities.

That members be
prepared to get involved in the new services which respond to this exceptional challenge.

Postulate from Zambia-Malawi: To undertake a study on how the Province could respond to the crisis
of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi and Zambia.

The principal reasons in favour of the postulate are:

  • The Province Plan calls for an appropriate Jesuit response to the plight of orphans and vulnerable children.

  • The gravity and extent of the situation involving these children.

  • It is not a short-term problem so calls for new ways of thinking.

  • Jesuits are called to enter into solidarity with the poor, the marginalized and the voiceless.

  • It would be a way of implementing the Jesuit magis today.

African Jesuit AIDS Network: “Let’s mobilise to fight HIV/AIDS”

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