This story is not for the fainthearted. When I was about 8 years old I left my home to stay with my mother’s relatives. My mother could not take care of me because she was sick. I could not stay with my father because he was injured during work. Both my parents were unable to take care of me so I stayed with my mother’s relatives until I was 15. After that, I had to live with other relatives because my mother’s sister got sick as well. From that time I lived with different family members and moved around a lot. I did not have a good childhood.
I was molested at the age of 11 years up until I left to live with the other family members. I was raped several times. At the age of 16, a community member raped me. I was raped a second time at the age of 21. He was my computer teacher in school. At the age of 24 I was raped a third time, this time it was my boss. Due to my parents’ illnesses and injuries, it was up to me to support the family. I never knew what it is like to be a happy child.
In 1997, at the age of 26, I met what I thought was a wonderful man. We have three beautiful boys together -11, 9 and 5 years old. But when I found him in our bed with my sister I knew he had never truly loved me. My sister also has a child with him. We are separated now. It is hard taking care of three kids on my own but I want to give them the childhood I never had. I love them with all my heart and would give my life for them. I also look after the children of other family members since of my sisters died of AIDS in May 2008, leaving two children behind. My other brother is also very sick because of AIDS. He has 5 children. I’ve just found out that my other sister is also HIV positive, she has one child. Very soon, I will have 11 children to look after. They will come and live with me next year. I don’t know how I am going to manage, but I will.
I have been with Bobbi Bear since 2000. I heard about their work in the community. I heard about the women being helped under the tree. They were being taught about HIV and AIDS, while also being empowered to seek help when they were in abusive relationships. I really wanted to meet the founder and get to know her. I knew how to sow and pottery so I could use these skills to teach the women under the tree, making them less dependent on a man.
But when I met her she just asked me if I was OK. I did not expect this and ended up crying. I realised that I never had somebody to listen to my problems, and I never had any form of counselling. She told me that I could talk to her whenever I needed to. I could not leave the tree before I gave her my details. She wanted to stay in contact with me and wanted to train me. She saw talents in me, which I did not even know I had. After a year I was trained to be a CSO (Child Safety Officer). Now I am a counsellor and I want to go back to school to become a psychologist.
What can I say about the founder of Bobbie Bear? She is my mother and Bobbie Bear is my family.
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