Monday, May 14, 2007

Sibu Sibaca (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words of
The Aids Orphan: "What I had to say may not have changed what went on to decide and do, but it showed them the other side of Africa, that we weren’t a bunch of basket cases, we weren’t loosing our minds, we weren’t all dying of aids and we weren’t all begging on the streets. I’m from a small township called Langa, which is in the Western Province. I grew up in a protected family; you know a brother, a mother and a father who all lived in the same house. My dad was even a pastor and a respected member of the community. I was the kind of child whose life had pretty much been planned out by the time I was two years old. Growing up I was very strong academically; I did really well in school. I was very strong physically too. I even played netball for my province and athletics as well. Things were going pretty well, and I was nominated to be head girl in my last year of primary school.

"Then my mom fell ill in May 1996 then died 2nd June 1996.I was young and didn’t really understand what was happening, I do remember that my uncle, her brother past away shortly before too. Because they were close I told myself that she had died and fell ill because her brother had. That was the only way it made sense in my head back then. You know my mother had never been sick before but over a period of four or five weeks she was in and out of hospital. The last time I went to see her in hospital, she didn’t even know who I was. My dad was so frustrated because she kept asking him “ who is she?...” He eventually said, “ Sibu lets leave your mom is not well.” The next day I left for a school camp and when I returned on the Sunday there were a lot of people at my house. And you know what its like when something good happens a lot of people come over, in the same breathe when there’s something bad people also come over.

"When I got out the car I realized that one of the two things could be happening. Either my mom was back from hospital and everyone came to see her, or she had passed away and everyone had come to comfort us…When I got in the house I discovered it was neither of the two. But then about 20 minutes after I had arrived a call came in from the hospital for my dad and my mom had passed away… I wanted to know what had happened and asked but my dad said I was too young to understand what was going on and that one day things would come together I would understand what it is that was going on in the world.

"Today as much as I want to blame my dad for everything that had happened, I can’t forget how incredible he was. He became everything to me, my mom and dad. I remember the first day I had my period, he freaked out so much you would have thought that I was pregnant. As close as my dad and I were, my brother and my father weren’t getting along at all. Like they were on each other’s backs. It was so crazy that I’d even say to my brother “ bra what are you doing?” because he would go out of his way to upset my dad. My brother is 8 years older than me; my mother had two miscarriages between us. Like my dad was doing his best to provide for us, I was a spoilt brat I got what I wanted within reason. I went to a very good school in Cape Town where the requirements were a certain aggregate and also to have some sort of provisional type colours. Anyway things were going really well and I had just had my sixteenth birthday party. It was really weird because at that time a lot of kids were getting pregnant, I wouldn’t say it was a trend it just wasn’t a disgrace to be like 15 unmarried and pregnant. The following year I was going to grade 11 and my dad fell ill. For four years from 1996 to 2000 he would take a handful of pills to the point where I knew what pills he took and at what time of the day. Still he was fine he went to work when I went to school.

"I remember I would literally get the morning pills and giving them to him, then the afternoon ones after school and the evening ones. I would ask what they were and he would say they were just multi-vitamins to keep the body strong or whatever. January he fell ill, the year I was entering into grade 11.He passed away a month later on the 24th February. Same thing as my mom. So now I was thinking, “what the hell is going on?” Again I asked my aunt and my brother and again no body would come out and say anything. Up until I was in a taxi one day, coming home from school .Now remember I had told you my dad was a respected member in the community a preacher, a teacher an inspector for the department of education. Everyone knew me as my fathers daughter, I used to go everywhere with him. Anyway back to the taxi, there were these two ladies sitting in the front next to the driver and they never saw me.

"My father’s funeral had been two weekends before. The ladies were having a conversation you know the general taxi gossip, then my fathers funeral came up. It had been one of the biggest that my small township had seen in a very long time. So the one lady said to the other that it was so touching and the other one said “do you know what killed him?” and the other said “no what?” and the lady was like “ It was aids, he had infected his wife as well remember a couple of years ago she died.” I sat there thinking what was going on. I actually missed my stop and went as far as far as that taxi’s route then I had to walk all the way back home.

"That walk back was so traumatizing. When I got home my brother was sitting there totally unaware of what I had just found out… I went crazy and was shouting at him pissed off because he never told me. He said he was trying to protect our father because our father didn’t want me to know. All the time that he was angry with my father back then it was or because at some point my father had told my brother what had happened to my mother, so it was my brothers way of retaliating to my dad for what he had done to my mother. Because to my brother it was like my mother didn’t have to die and my dad’s promiscuous ways had cost her, her life. Of course I was so angry and didn’t want to believe what he was saying. I kept saying that he was lying and not telling the truth, because I didn’t think my dad could ever do that. Then it kind of just hit, and I knew it was true. When I calmed down my brother sat me down and told me that my dad had gotten infected because he was unfaithful and had, had an affair. He then infected my mother, she died first, and that’s how the story went.

"At this stage in my life I am in the second last year of high school, the most important year of my entire school career. I hated anyone who reminded me who my father was; I hated my father, my surname. I went awol, my brother did what he could to get me back on track. I was really struggling I just wanted to belong whenever I found a guy who looked like he could look beyond, my skinny frame and double lens glasses I would just stick to him, no matter how the relationship was. I dropped out of sports because my father had been my main motivation he was the one who literally rushed me from swimming to modern dancing to netball, especially after taking the package from the education department he had a lot of time, so when he died I was like screw that. I miraculously passed matric, like if anyone asked me how I achieved it I don’t know because I don’t remember sitting down and saying “its my finals now I am going to study for two weeks” I failed maths though as a result.

"2001 I matriculated and 2002 did what most people do in the township of they don’t know what they want to do with their lives or couldn’t study further what whatever reason, I sat on the street corner. Can you imagine what kind of crap you get up to, on the street corner? The things you think of doing? The things that you actually do? So one day a friend of mine said that they were looking for a motivational speaker at the Love-Life Youth Centre that had just opened. Now my experience in the township with the youth centres was pretty much like they are here today and gone tomorrow. I wasn’t keen. It tool my friend three months to convince me, eventually I was like I have nothing better to do. Also I think deep down there was some strand in my body that actually thought there must be more to me than what I am doing now.

"I started to enjoy it, children would come to me, two or three days after I had spoken and be like “ thank you so much for your message, I was being raped by my father for the past three years, hearing you speak taught me so much” or “ I am twelve and pregnant...” You must understand that when the word got out about my fathers status people started attaching me to the virus, I had some friends whose parents told them to stay away, because I looked like I was sick, I behaved like there was no tomorrow. Even people who were once my father’s friends had turned their back on my brother and I, because they had their own family problems to deal with. So when I started becoming an asset to the very same community than less than a year ago was my enemy, seeing this kids changing their lives, it was awesome. I then became a ‘Groundbreaker’ in the company Love Life, and in my fourth or fifth month I was spotted by the CEO of the company and started going everywhere with him. After travelling around the country and even overseas, I represented South Africa in Brazil at a Youth Summit; I represented Love Life and Africa at an Aids summit in Bangkok. I also got to go to places in South Africa that aren’t even on the map and met people with extraordinary stories.

"It was then that I realized that I had been complaining for nothing though my brother and I were Aids orphans he could still provide for us. I was part of a project that was called women on the move and had to speak at a campus. After I did my speech a grey haired man came to me and said,” If you ever feel like leaving Love Life I have a job for you”. I had no clue who it was and besides I had finally found my place in the work I was doing, my CEO came to me and asked me what the man had said, so I told him that he had offered me a job. He then asked me “ Do you know who that is?” I was like “no”. Turns out it was Richard Branson. Still I wasn’t moved. Two weeks later Richard then through my previous boss invited me to New York, we hung out with Elton John, Sharon Stone and many others. Again he offered me a job, but was very clear I would have to live in the U.K or the U.S.

"At this point my work was exploding I wasn’t willing to leave it yet. I then got invited by to the G8 Summit; because he felt that before he came to Africa he had a picture of Africa and the world needed to see the other side. I went to the MTV London show; there was a panel with Bob Galdorf, and the likes. Tony Blair was there too and he with everyone else including the kids from the other parts of the world were on about what a basket case the African continent was and trying to figure out how to help it. Then almost as an after thought lets give the young girl from South Africa a chance to say something. I then said, “I don’t want your aid and I don’t want your job. If you are going to sit around a table and decide on my future back home in Langa, that’s not going to work”.

"I then got invited to go to the G8 summit in Scotland, that for me was for me the biggest moment in my life. Sitting with people who supposedly smart enough to change the world and here they were listening to me a 21-year-old girl. What I had to say may not have changed what went on to decide and do, but it showed them the other side of Africa, that we weren’t a bunch of basket cases, we weren’t loosing our minds, we weren’t all dying of aids and we weren’t all begging on the streets. Yes we have poverty and all those social ills, but that’s not all that we are. At that point I decided to take Richards offer because my core had moved from speaking just for and to South Africa to Africa. Still the job was too much I was twenty-two years old and CEO of Virgin Unite, a new division for one of the biggest corporations in the world. I called Richard and said it was too much and I wasn’t feeling my impact like I had before. Now I am the CSI Manager of Virgin Active South Africa, and its so fulfilling. I can measure my impact. At some point in my life I was on the receiving end of charity and now I am on the giving end. But I was at some point in my life on the receiving end of charity and now I am on the giving end. I know what its like to have people throw cheques in your face I wont do that, I understand both sides so well. So I do my job with dignity not for me, but for the people who are still on the receiving end of charity."



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