Monday, September 24, 2012

From political activist to caring for the sick

Meet our people:
Mzi Tshikitsha
 Carryou Ministry Programme Manager, Mzi Tshikitsha's life could easily have taken a very different path. The 34 year-old former, local ANC Youth League Chairperson, could easily have forged a path in politics.
 Born in the Transkei in the Eastern Cape, he moved to Randfontein aged 11, where his father owned a small piece of land in the Brandvlei area.
 "I was a naughty youngster at school, always getting up to mischief," says the married father of two daughters, "but I had a happy childhood.
 "My parents weren't Christians but rather believed in the power of their ancestors -- beliefs I did not share.
 "I became interested in Christianity at high school, after a friend invited me to church and, at age 17, I became a committed Christian and have been a member of that particular Apostolic Faith Mission church ever since."
 Tshikitsha completed his high school education in Randfontein and then enrolled at a college in Johannesburg, where he hoped to complete a Para-legal diploma. At the same time, he was involved in youth politics and headed up the local branch of the ANC Youth League, something that his father was bitterly opposed to.
 "My dad hated my involvement in politics," he says. 
 "Somewhere around 2001 I heard that a white lady - whom I later learned was Carryou Ministry founder, Pam Jamieson -- was going to be running a five-day course training people about AIDS and how to care for terminally-ill patients and I thought I should at least go and see what it was about.
 "The programme started on a Monday but, because I was writing exams, I could only get there on the Tuesday afternoon."

True calling

 The rest, as they say, is history. That day saw Mzi's life change and he discovered his life's true calling.
 At the end of the course, Mzi became a Carryou Ministry Care Giver and was assigned to care for a man older man who had developed full-blown AIDS.
 "I cared for him for six months until he died," says Mzi. "I washed him every day, fed him and took care of him in whatever way I could. In that household, I became the mother, father and pastor and, when he died, I buried him and preached at his funeral."
 It was a long way from the political high-life that may have been.
 "I think we were paid in the region of R50 (about $6) per month," he says. "But I didn't care. I loved helping and caring for people."
 A short while later Mzi was promoted to the position of Supervisor, where he had to oversee nine other Care Givers and, two years later, he effectively became Carryou Ministry's assistant manager, when he was appointed Programme Manager.
 He is currently in charge of three programmes - Home Based Care, HIV Counselling and Testing and the newly-started Health Post.
 The Home Based Care programme cares for people who are too ill to work and are at home.
 "Currently we have 163 patients in the programme, the bulk of whom are aged between 26 and 40," he says. "Thirty four Care Givers visit these people in their homes daily, to take care of them.
 "Our HIV Counselling and Testing programme is run in partnership with the health clinics of Randfontein and some in Krugersdorp and 60 people do the testing, counselling and help arrange treatment.
 "The Health Post is a new project," he says. "It was allocated to us by the Department of Health and is a holistic programme aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of entire households and families. 
 "Care Givers visit homes where they help people get identity documents, arrange ante-natal care for household members who may be pregnant, assist the sick and even become involved in helping parents get truant kids back to school."
 It's a big job that Tshikitsha must do and any free time he has is devoted to his family and his church.
 "I love spending time with my wife and young daughters," he says, "and my work in the church takes up any other spare time I have. I am an interpreter there and also hold the position of Secretary General."
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