Welcome, benevolent viewers, to another edition of Good People, Good Works. Zambia, located in Southern Africa, is home to the legendary Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall.

When I look at Zambia as a country, it’s a very rich country. You look in the tourism industries, we are doing well, especially with the Victoria Falls. We have a lot of tourists come in. And when you look at agriculture, we’ve got abundant rainfall, yes, we plant maize. So I think on food, we’re doing fine. So we’ve got a very bright future ahead of us.

This week we travel to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, for the first in a two-part series on projects financially supported by Irish Aid, the Government of Ireland’s humanitarian assistance organization.

Seeking to promote peace and justice, Irish Aid works to better economic conditions and foster equality in developing nations such as those found in Sub-Saharan Africa. To successfully achieve its goals, the organization forms close partnerships with recipient countries, other donors, multilateral groups, non-governmental organizations and missionaries.

Two projects that received assistance from Irish Aid in Lusaka are Our Lady’s Hospice and the Umoyo Day Center for Orphans. Our Lady’s Hospice is a faith-based organization that mainly provides palliative care to cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. The facility serves over 3,500 Zambians on an outpatient basis and operates an intensive care unit.

Now let’s meet the administrator of Our Lady’s Hospice in Lusaka, Sister Kay O’Neil.

I’ve only been here since December 2006, but I came to Zambia in 1982 from Ireland, and I first worked in a mission hospital in Luapula Province. I stayed there for 13 years, and then I moved to the Copperbelt, where I did home-based care in Luanshya, and after that I came here, and I’m here since.

I was brought up a Catholic in Ireland. I became a Franciscan sister when I was 18, and I really wanted to serve people and I had a good home, and I felt I wanted to be able to share with other people, so I thought I would like to work with the underprivileged and the poor. So, by joining the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, I have the opportunity to come and help people in Zambia.

The Zambian people are very spiritual people. And most Zambians worship in church. But many of them are Catholic. And we want to be able to provide services for them when they come here when they’re ill.

Our Lady’s Hospice has a program to help youngsters who are HIV positive cope with their condition.

Usually it’s only for the children who know their (HIV positive) status, so when we meet once a month, we sit down and they bring out stories, so they encourage one another, “Even me, I’m in your situation, even me, I’m like this, my parent is doing this, my caregiver is…” So we encourage them, we sit together by discussing with their friends, they open up.

The antiretroviral drugs that the Hospice dispenses which halt the progression of the HIV disease are truly making a difference in the lives of those with the condition in local communities.

I am a pharmacy attendant, assistant in short. We normally come to discuss the drugs, the ARVs (Anti-Retrovirals) and then we prepare for the inpatients. After that we take the drugs that side. But mainly it’s the distribution of the ARVs. That is mostly done. For those who are tested after their CD4 (T-cell count) results are out and they are eligible to start the drugs, we give them the (antiretroviral) drugs.

And there are a lot of people coming in to get their drugs, which is so encouraging, because at least people are testing and they are knowing their (HIV) status. At least they will know how to live positively than when they just stay at home and they don’t know.

The non-profit Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) sponsors a puppetry troupe to inform HIV positive children about how to manage their condition, in particular encouraging them to regularly take their antiretroviral drugs. We met the troupe when they were performing at the Hospice.

My name is Gladys Wayama I’m one of the puppeteers. I’m “Taonga” in the puppetry team. We started puppetry in 2007. It’s a CIDRZ project. They do research on cancer, HIV, TB and other related diseases. The puppetry project that we’re doing is mainly on ideas around stigma, hygiene and good health, and our objective is reaching the pedes (child patients), the young ones who are on ART (Anti-Retroviral Therapy). So we mainly go to the clinics. We've started going through the clinics in Lusaka. And recently we had a tour of Southern Province.

I play the character of Oliver in the performance. And I’m a puppeteer. I think for me, this is the greatest job I've had so far, and I enjoy performing.

It is helping a lot of children to adhere to (taking) their medication and just being careful with the way they take care of their bodies, because it (the play) emphasizes hygiene and cleanliness, and the way they’re supposed to take their medication.

My name is Teddy Winashiku. I’m a doctor in the puppetry show. And actually the puppetry show is for the kids. And this is helping them to adhere to (taking) the medication. So this show at the moment has started in the clinics. We are in the clinics, because we’ve got ART (antiretroviral therapy) places in the clinics; that’s where kids get their treatment.

So it's all about talking about the treatment of kids, adhering (to treatment) and the caregivers. The caregivers are the ones that we want to also put in line with the treatment of the child. Looking at the child, a child is a person who needs a second person to actually help out to follow the (taking of) medication.

We asked the puppeteers about how the children react to their performances.

The response is overwhelming. And we have seen, looking at the clinics that we have been to, we have kids when doing their adherence (to treatment) actually they mention what they learned from our script. And that is encouraging because they are picking a few things from there.

The children love it very much.

They love it. We’ve been to certain clinics on several occasions, and they just want us to be there all the time. They love it, because it teaches them about playing with one another. Mostly, you find that the children that are sick are stigmatized by their friends. But we teach them to love their friends who are sick.

We are one of the countries in Africa that is actually doing the best, despite (the fact) we are in the sub-Saharan area where there’s a high rate of HIV. But in Zambia, our statistics are showing that people are actually complying with the treatment, and all the necessary measures of not getting infected, and others actually are not falling off from the treatment (regimen).

When this facility first opened in 2003, the majority of the patients didn’t go out alive. But now, 70% are going out alive. And they’re returning to work. So already, the number of new orphans has decreased. Many of them they get to have their parents back again. They’re back working, so the children are not suffering because there's no income.

So, we would hope that people will come in time for treatment, so then they can stay alive longer. But obviously, ultimately, we would like that there would be no more HIV. So we are also trying to give health education and education about how to live life and not become infected. And that’s the ideal.

What do Zambians wish for their children’s future?

Zambia is a great nation. I love to be a Zambian and there’s a lot of potential in our country. That’s why mostly, when HIV and AIDS started, a lot of people sought out the older people. But today we look at the children. That’s why we are seeking this group that we have. We are looking at the young children because they are the future generation, and they are the future leaders. We love our country.

My hope is that we have in the future, a generation free from HIV. That’s why we are looking at the young ones, because they are the foundation of the country, that if we seek out the young ones, probably and by God’s grace, we will have a nation free from HIV and AIDS.

What I’m hoping for maybe, really, it’s for a cure, and they give them that confidence that no matter their status, knowing that they’re HIV positive, still they can do well in school, they can finish school, they can go to universities, and they can study well, and get a good job after finishing their schooling.

My wish for Zambia as a whole, of course is to see that this peace which we have in this country continues and that there will be no conflicts, and just peace to continue.

We love Zambia! Yeah. Great nation.
We love Zambia! Woooo, yeah, yeah.
We love Supreme Master TV! Wooo! Yeah.

We commend and salute you, Irish Aid for your support of Our Lady’s Hospice which is uplifting the lives of the Zambian people. Our sincere thanks, Hospice staff as well as the puppeteer troupe from the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia for bettering the lives of many Zambians in need.

Respected viewers, please join us again next Sunday on Good People, Good Works for the conclusion of our two-part show where we’ll visit the Umoyo Day Center for Orphans in Lusaka.

For more details on the organizations featured today, please visit the following websites:
Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia www.CIDRZ.org
Irish Aid www.IrishAid.gov.ie
Our Lady’s Hospice www.OurLadysHospice-Zambia.org

Thank you for your lovely presence on today’s program. May peace, love, and dignity eternally prevail everywhere.