A caregiver’s love saves, transforms lives in Zambia

December 1 is World AIDS Day. In Zambia, Richard Sianeza is an HIV-positive father who is thankful for his best friend, a World Vision-trained caregiver, for saving his life and inspiring him to do the same work.

By Collins Kaumba, World Vision Zambia
Published November 5, 2013 at 03:30pm PST

Each morning before sunrise, Richard Sianeza, 49, casts his nets wide as he floats in his banana boat on Lake Kariba in southern Zambia. He returns in late afternoon for another two-hour session to ensure he catches his daily target of at least 44 pounds of fish.

In between trips to the lake, Richard tends to his family’s farm, sells his catch to markets, cares for sick friends and family members, and fulfills duties with his church community in Siabbeula village.

Six years ago, this life was unthinkable — Richard was bed-ridden and dying from AIDS.

Care that saved his life

“What I am doing now is something I was unable to do a few years ago, because I was very ill,” Richard says. “As a result, it was hard to survive and support my family.”

Now he’s providing for his wife and seven children, helping save lives as a community caregiver, and making disciples as an ordained pastor.

His story of redemption and flourishing began when McSwin, a World Vision-trained caregiver in his village, loved him boldly. With persistence and patience, McSwin convinced Richard to get tested for HIV.

“I don’t regret being a caregiver,” says McSwin, who is now Richard’s best friend. “I made a wise decision that helped to save the life of my best friend.”

Witnesses to Christ’s love

McSwin, 40, and other caregivers in Siabbeula help people living with HIV and AIDS. He often relies on Caregiver Kits that donors in other countries provide through World Vision.

During regular visits to his patients, McSwin provides counseling and general medical support, brings food supplements, and educates them on treatment options. He also advocates for patients to reduce stigma around HIV and AIDS in the community and empower others to become caregivers — like Richard.

In the process, they develop trusting friendships, through which some patients decide to follow Jesus.

“Christianity is at the helm of everything I have done and continue to do. Love does not just come without being a true Christian,” says McSwin. “Without love, it is hard for one to be called a caregiver.”

Living life to the full, despite HIV

Richard still lives with HIV, but he has regained strength since receiving antiretroviral treatment. World Vision trained him to become a caregiver and also provided him with seed to improve his farming business. The income from selling fish and produce enables his family to save and invest in their children’s education and future ventures.

“Some patients whom I tell that I am HIV-positive, at first they don’t believe me because of how I look and what I am able to do,” Richard says. “I tell them that before, I had a very bad perception about people living with HIV and AIDS. But now, after another caregiver educated me and helped me to where I am now, as a person living positively, I have been transformed and would like to help them, too.”

McSwin and Richard witness to patients about their life change. Since Richard’s turnaround, both the men’s wives have joined the caregiver ministry with them.

McSwin’s bold love years ago multiplied, as many patients have become Christ-following caregivers. They’re helping more people survive and thrive in the midst of illness.

“Without the caregivers being trained and supported, what they did for me would have not happened, and I would be dead by now,” Richard says. “It is that person’s commitment and love that saved my life. Therefore I want to pay back the community by doing the same.”

World Vision U.S. writer Chris Huber contributed to this report.

Learn more

Read more about World Vision’s commitment to promoting health and well-being for children, families, and communities we serve.

Three ways you can help

World AIDS Day is December 1. Please pray for communities threatened by this terrible disease, and praise God for caregivers like McSwin who reflect the love of Christ by giving hope to those who suffer.

Make a one-time donation to provide Caregiver Kits to compassionate volunteers like McSwin and Richard. These kits contain critical supplies like latex gloves, antibacterial soap, petroleum jelly, and more to assist those who care for people living with HIV.

Give monthly to provide care for children affected by HIV and AIDS. Your monthly donation will help reach even more vulnerable children with interventions like nutritious food, medical care, vocational training, HIV prevention education, and more.