Angels in Africa at Blue Roof Wellness Center
By: Glenn Bozarth | June 11th, 2014
I’m in Durban, South Africa, now to see two more programs funded by Keep a Child Alive. And today I visited the Blue Roof Wellness Center. This facility is very special to the charity. Leigh Blake had the vision for a comprehensive, holistic care and treatment clinic addressing the AIDS epidemic here. And Alicia Keys was so moved by the need that she personally funded it. That was really the start of it all!
A brilliant blue sign stands out against brick walls and razor wire. And then you enter and see the bright colors and natural light in the atrium courtyard, and you immediately sense that this is a place of hope, compassion and dignity.
Rhona and Tessa work in offices that say ‘management’ on the door. But, in truth, these two ‘aunties’ are the heart of Blue Roof. They oversee care and treatment for 2,000 clients who are on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), and another 1,500 on top of that. There is great need in the immediate Wentworth Township neighborhood, but people come from miles away to benefit from this model clinic, and avoid the stigma of being treated closer to home. And the Blue Roof staff goes out into the community, too, providing educational sessions at local schools, and onsite testing for workers in factories.
In addition to Tessa and Rhona, there are other angels here. Doreen in the pharmacy focuses on drug delivery and treatment compliance. And Veronica and Nellie provide all-important nutrition. They serve up to 90 better-than-mum-made meals a day to Blue Roof clients. They’re hot and delicious; I can tell you that for sure, because I was treated to a very tasty lunch of mac and cheese, curry chicken, beets and rice.
The most moving part of these visits is hearing the stories of clients who ‘put a face’ on the work. In this case that ‘face’ was Gerard, who told me all about it. He was very sick and in a mode of self destruction before Blue Roof. Today the medication is working; he has tremendous energy and enthusiasm for life, and he is so very thankful. He now works at Blue Roof, and he is a true inspiration and role model. He’s taken-up running, and in two weeks he will participate in the 90 kilometer (56-mile) ‘Comrades’ Ultra Marathon here. GO GERARD, you’re an angel, too!