Zimbabwe: The Bonde family - a World AIDS Day story

Mr. and Mrs. Bonde live in Chivhaku village in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa: the region that is the world epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Every day, this family battles HIV/AIDS and its effects. Today, World AIDS Day 2007, Africare honors these parents as they care for the health and well being of two chronically-ill adult children and an extended family of five with assistance from Africare's Nutrition on Wheels Program.

CHIVHAKU, ZIMBABWE, December 1, 2007 - "I have a large family of nine," begins Mrs. Bonde of the Chivhaku village in the Buhera district of Manicaland province, Zimbabwe. "My husband, who is 65, is too old to work. I have two chronically ill children: Kidwell, age 30, and Stella, age 33. And I take care of their children as well."

It was only recently the household of Mr. and Mrs. Bonde, Sr., grew to nine. The Bondes' son, Kidwell, married and with two children (a boy and a girl, ages 6 and 4 respectively), returned home to his parents in 2004. He had developed an unremitting illness that had left him bed-ridden for almost a year. The few resources his family had were diverted toward his treatment.

Fate struck again when Kidwell's sister, Stella, was diagnosed HIV positive. In 2006, her husband died; now a widow with two children, she, too, had to return to her parents' home.

In a matter of two years, Mr. and Mrs. Bonde, Sr., became the caretakers of seven close relatives -with no added income or resources to care for them. The Bondes were heartbroken as they nursed their son and daughter, who were both facing imminent death. As their adult children grew weaker by the day without proper nutrition, it seemed clear to the senior Bondes that they would soon bear sole responsibility for their grandchildren.

On the surface, the Bonde family had more odds against them than opportunities to succeed. Still, this family of nine managed to provide food, shelter and a limited income for each family member - largely due to the initiative of Mrs. Bonde, Sr., who found a food aid program carried out by Africare/Zimbabwe to meet the daily needs of her family.

"I am really grateful for the food aid support that I am receiving," she says. "Our harvest this year did not last us two months. We did not have enough inputs to plant on our two-hectare piece of land. The little that we planted was severely affected by the dry spell."

In February 2005, the family was registered for the Nutrition on Wheels Program under an Africare/World Food Programme collaboration that assists (1) individuals who require home-based care as well as (2) children who have been orphaned and are considered vulnerable as a result of HIV/AIDS. The Bondes are receiving a monthly food ration that consists of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and a corn soya blend to meet their nutritional needs: needs the family became hard-put to meet in the face of a failing harvest and limited income.

A combination of medical treatment and nutrition has enabled Kidwell to regain his mobility. He now engages in gardening, brick molding and many other activities to support his family. Stella, who was also house-bound, is now able to walk around and do light household chores. Additionally, the senior Bondes are able to invest in the education of their grandchildren, sending each child to school with money freed up from the provision of food.

Monthly food rations through Africare/Zimbabwe's Nutrition on Wheels Program have given the Bonde family the break they needed to take life back into their own hands. The family has since been able to launch an income-generating business, provide nutritional meals for their family, nurse their adult children's failing health and give their grandchildren an the opportunity to receive an education.

Their story is one of thousands. Since 2004, more than 80,000 people in the Zimbawe's Buhera district have been touched by the Nutrition on Wheels Program.