HIV-positive widower gets a hand up for his children

Sibonginkosi, 45, lost his wife in 2008 and discovered that he was HIV-positive soon thereafter. His weakened condition meant that he had trouble providing for his children as a rural farmer. But World Vision's assistance is changing that.

By Michael Czobit, World Vision Zimbabwe. Edited by Peter Warski, World Vision U.S.
Published April 25, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

Sibonginkosi Dube's wife, Siphewe, had been ill for a long period when she passed away at age 40 in June 2008. Her death left their nine children motherless.

A short time later, Sibonginkosi, 45, tested positive for HIV.

A deeply stressful scenario

"I felt very distressed," says Sibonginkosi, remembering when he learned of his status. "I was imagining so many things in terms of what it meant for me and my children."

In the midst of his family's loss and the change in his health, Sibonginkosi, a rural farmer living in poverty in western Zimbabwe, needed to keep his children in school. That meant improving his field's harvest without the help of his wife.

"I used to work quite a lot before I was HIV-positive," says Sibonginkosi. "But now when I work, after some time, I feel I am losing a lot of strength. It may mean that my family might suffer when I am dead."

Choosing between food and school

Sibonginkosi's 12-year-old daughter, Sanelisile, says she worries deeply when her father is ill.

Sanelisile, a sponsored child in sixth-grade, hopes to be a nurse when she is an adult, because she likes helping people. When her father is ill, Sanelisile her siblings stay home from school to look after him.

Even two years before his wife's death, Sibonginkosi's small field wasn't yielding enough grain to ensure his family's food security.

"It was quite stressful," Sibonginkosi says. "We would have to sell assets, maybe like a goat or a cow, to be able to procure food."

Some of Sibonginkosi's children hold bowls of the maize and sorghum seeds they received from World Vision. Photo: ©2011 Michelle Siu/World Vision

Sibonginkosi says spending the income from his assets on food would make other costs — such as school fees — more difficult. "I think education is important, because my children will be able to find jobs and be able to support themselves," he says.

Compassionate support

Thankfully, Sanelisile and two of her siblings are sponsored through World Vision. With this support, the children have received mosquito nets, textbooks, and other items.

Meanwhile, Sibonginkosi's adult children live in a nearby town and look after his youngest child, who is 6 and needs more supervision than the father can provide at his home. One other child lives away from home to go to secondary school.

Additional help from donors — and a local World Vision agricultural project — provided Sibonginkosi with maize and sorghum seeds. He received hybrid seed, replacing a local variety he had been planting.

"The performance of the [hybrid] seed is quite different," Sibonginkosi says. It's less reliant on Zimbabwe's unreliable rainwater, meaning it can adapt better to drought conditions.

A special wish

Sanelisile, 12, aspires to become a nurse someday because she likes to help people. Photo: ©Michelle Siu/World Vision

In 2009, World Vision partnered with Zimbabwe's Ministry of Agriculture to provide training to Sibonginkosi and other farmers in his community. Sibonginkosi learned farming methods that improved the yield of the past harvest.

Using less land, his field produced 50 percent more grain. Sibonginkosi's children also help with farming by managing the oxen, digging basins, and planting the seeds.

"I am very grateful for the support that the sponsors are giving to my children, and also for the support that we've got to help [our field]," he says.

"My greatest wish is to see my children proceed with school, and I wish I will live long to see that dream."

With the assistance this devoted father has received, his wish may very well come true.

Three ways you can help

Thank God for the fathers of the world, like Sibonginkosi, who work hard to love and support their children, despite the immense challenges they may face. Pray for Sibonginkosi's health, and for the continued growth and success of his children.

Give the gift of seeds, tools, and training through World Vision's Gift Catalog in honor of a father figure in your life. Your gift will help provide the support necessary for a farmer like Sibonginkosi to maximize his crop yields and feed and care for his family.

Sponsor a boy or girl in Zimbabwe. Your ongoing love and support will help provide the resources a child needs to grow up to be a healthy, productive adult — like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, education, and more.