We met in 1999 in an orphanage that looked like a mortuary. You were 11. Desperate to get our help, they took you from your bed and exhibit you. Medication was available, but you were dying because you could not afford it. Impossible to think of anything more cynical. Your moaning stopped the very moment our eyes met. Your body was very weak, only skin on skeleton, your mouth would neither speak out a word nor whisper, and you had little hair left. Death was winning, but not yet. Your big eyes expressing your strong will. You are a fighter, 11 years old while the huge majority of babies, born with HIV does not reach their second birthday. Your unforgettable eyes challenging us, John, Stef and I: ‘’Do not cry for me. My battle will be soon yours’’. Even though I was blind, your eyes would have dazzled me.
How long did we stare at each other? No idea. I ran outside to snap up some air to avoid suffocating. Outside, the beautiful and empty playground was desperately silent: in this playground no sick orphan shall ever play, hurt himself or just express joy. No parent will look after any child. The area was perfect though to formulate a fervent prayer in your favor. The miracle did not happen. You died a week later.
Suffering is part of being human. John, Stef and I felt your pain. A pain that became inspiration, and strength to take action. No more Jabu.
Together with all the donors, the volunteers, the partners, …we put
our hands together and made nevirapine (medication) available. Thousands of pregnant woman showed up to benefit from the medication. We screamed at the world “with €5,- you can save a baby’’. The cost of a single shot of nevirapine, per baby. I believed everybody could save a baby. We innovated by creating milk bars in the community to make milk formula available as alternative of HIV infected breastmilk. We created JABU perfume, named after you. Ooh yes, very quickly the number of babies saved from HIV was increasing. Happy to keep hope alive. All of us, together contributing in your way, in our way to repair the world. Jabu, today it’s time to be proud with more than 500.000 lives saved among many other tremendous achievements. An HIV -free generation is not there yet. Not yet, but we are winning. ‘’It always seems impossible until it is done’’.
We stay TOGETHER.