Philile and Nokuzola, 2 sisters of 15 and 6 years, lost both their parents in 2002 as a result of HIV and AIDS. They continued to live with their grandparents and uncle in Chibini. After her parents' death, Philile's uncle
began to sexually abuse her. Philile approached her grandmother. The grandmother's attitude was dismissive and uncompassionate. In fact she felt that Philile deserved such treatment considering the disgrace her parents had brought upon their family! The grandmother also began to mistreat Philile and Nokuzola making them work for their keep. They were only allowed to eat left over and sometimes rotten food and were forced to work in the vegetable gardens all weekend. Before and after school they had to fetch water and wood, every day.
Philile's uncle then began to make advances on her younger sister, Nokuzola, who Philile is very protective over. This was too much for Philile who ran away to Ixopo, taking her younger sister with her. She contacted the social worker who reported the matter to the police. The uncle was arrested and charged.
Philile and Nokuzola meet their aunt, Agnes Dlamini, at Agnes' employer's house in Durban, where she works as a maid. When we first found Philile she was hiding out in a squatter camp in Ixopo, with a distant relative who had no food. Philile was in a bad state. Many men in the Chibini community were enraged by the arrest of her uncle. Philile had heard this and was unable to sleep at night for fear of being found and killed. Philile and Nokuzola were also hungry and cold. We provided them with warm clothing and food. Philile's safety was a priority. Together with the social worker we were able to track down an auntie in Durban and Philile and Nokuzola were put on the next taxi to Durban. We also began the process of applying for Foster Child Grants for them. The following day Philile and Nokuzola reappeared in Ixopo. The auntie they had gone to meet had suddenly and mysteriously died! So we began the process again of looking for another relative for them. It took about 2 weeks to identify and make arrangements with another auntie in Durban, Agnes Dlamini. During this period Philile and Nokuzola's grandfather suddenly died. Philile was particularly distressed about her grandfather's death as he was the only person at home who had been concerned about their welfare. The grandmother and uncle had not allowed him to be supportive of them. Despite the risks involved, Philile decided that she would like to attend her grandfather's funeral. She felt more confident now, knowing that Woza Moya and the social worker were behind her. She returned to the community wrapped in a scarf and only once she had entered the rondavel where her grandfather's body lay did she reveal her identity, knowing that no one would harm her in such a situation. It is common practice at funerals in the community for people to take the stage and make a speech. Philile took her turn and decided to take the opportunity to tell everyone about the abuse she had endured and how it had been for her. Apparently everyone present - including the men - were visibly moved and changed by Philile's words. She was able to leave the community without feeling threatened by anyone.
Thanissara managed to find 2 overseas donors to support Philile and Nokuzola for 6 months until their Foster Child Grants came through. Sue drove Philile and Nokuzola to Durban to meet their auntie, Agnes Dlamini. 2 weeks later Sue and Jane went to Ntuzuma ( about an hour out of Durban ) to visit Philile and Nokuzola at their new home. Agnes Dlamini has two daughters of her own and a warm, caring home environment, even though money is scarce. Agnes was shocked to hear about her nieces' ordeal and has responded with love and compassion to their situation. She says that they will be cared for as if they were her own children. Since then Sue and Jane have been twice to visit the family in Ntuzuma. Both Philile and Nokuzola are attending school and very happy in their new home. Philile had been the top pupil at our local Sinevuso Secondary School in Chibini and the school principal here was particularly concerned that she continue with her studies as soon as possible.