The heart-warming story below is written by Paula Thomson who has known Ester Sibisi since Woza Moya was started in 2002.
Ester Sibisi is the creator of the Rugby little travellers and has been making them since 2002. Ester was one of the first home-based carers registered with The Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust and then one of the first crafters registered with Woza Moya.
The Hillcrest AIDS Centre started with 2 nurses. They would get a message that someone was very ill and needed help in the community. They would go to them, and would wash and clean them, tend to their wounds, and feed them. They found that, with this most basic care and unconditional love, a miraculous thing occurred: many patients recovered, and others could die with dignity and not alone.
Many of the first patients were found locked in an outside room, with no care or being cared for by a small child. In roughly 1999 the Hillcrest AIDS Centre saw the need to expand their home-based nursing program as there were so many people asking for help and not enough nurses. The centre had heard about women in the community who were caring for neighbours and community members who were dying of HIV and AIDS. These women had taken it on themselves to feed and wash very sick patients, for no salary or renumeration. They also had no training to do this just big hearts.
Back in 1990 if family or community knew you had AIDS there was terrible fear and stigma, but these incredible women did this very difficult job. The centre identified these women/heroines/angels and gave them training in basic medical care and how to protect themselves from being infected. They armed them with food and medical supplies and provided support and back up if cases were very severe.
There were 42 of these incredible home-based carers and Ester was one of them. As the centre was volunteer based there was no funding for salaries for these women. Woza Moya was started in 2002 as in initiative to assist this group of women to earn an income through making beadwork. The women were able to bead and care during the day and started earning a small income through Woza Moya.
Thinking back on these days, I consider myself so honoured to have been able to know and work with this incredible band of women. When Ester started, we could only make AIDS pins, but slowly we developed more and more products.
Ester was also a participant of our Little Traveller exhibition in 2007, where every crafter was given a disposable camera, to depict “who am I?”, “where do I come from?” and “where am I going?”. When we developed Ester’s photos all 26 photos where of Ester standing in front of her fridge.
We were curious and asked her why. She said that she had nothing when she started caring and then beading with the Hillcrest AIDS Centre. Through doing beads she was able to have her water and lights connected and build her home. She was able to buy her fridge when we received an order for 100 000 AIDS pins from Gap International and Ester, along with the other crafters, earned a tidy lump sum. The fridge was a symbol of hope, of a better future for her and her family.
We have continued to work with Ester and her family, and her creativity has blossomed. She has made countless rugby little travellers with her team/family of beaders. She has one customer who sends her drawings of the different teams he needs Travellers for, and she interprets these in beads. These travel worldwide to rugby matches near and far.
Ester has not come into the centre for a while because of ill health, but she is still beading and sends her work to us on a Friday with one of her children. We are so grateful to have travelled this road with Ester.
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