In Setswana (the official language in Botswana), “Ntwakgolo” means Great War. This is an appropriate name for this battle that is being waged against HIV/AIDS in Nata. Ntwakgolo Support Group consists of 20 active members who are living openly with their HIV status. They have come together to support each other and to educate others about HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS continues to carry stigma and people fear discrimination. The members of Ntwakgolo are true heroes as they are the first in the community to step out and live openly with the disease. They are setting an example for others and encouraging others to live openly with their status. Currently, about 50% of the members are taking ARV’s. The other members have a CD4 (t-cell) count above 200 which makes them ineligible for ARV’s.
The mission of the group is to support one another, educate others, and to engage in income generating projects that will provide financial assistance to the members. The group has written a constitution so that they may be registered as a Community Based Organization (CBO). We are currently waiting for approval from the Registrar of Societies in Gabarone (capital of Botswana). Once the group is registered as a CBO, then they will be eligible to apply for grants from the many funding agencies supporting HIV/AIDS. It is an incredibly long process to receive funds from these donor organizations. It is especially difficult for people in the rural areas, who often lack the education, to complete the forms and submit proposals. So, at this point, the members are doing the best they can with the assistance of the local Social Worker and Peace Corps Volunteer to organize and to engage in small income generating projects.
The Nata Clinic offered a small plot where members have grown vegetables for their own use and have sold the excess for a small profit. The group also sells oranges, candies, and other items to make a small profit. The group also recently held a raffle and earned $150. The money that the group earns helps those on the ARV’s pay for their transportation to the ARV clinic (60 miles away in Gweta) as the Nata Clinic often cannot provide transport. The group currently has approximately $250 in their account. They use this money to serve as a micro-lender. Members can “borrow” $20 and pay back with a few percent interest. This system is very useful as the current lending rate in Botswana is nearly 20% and most members would not qualify for any kind of loan no matter how small.
The group has applied for a large plot with the land board. Once they are approved to be a CBO they will be granted the plot. They would like to have a large garden and they hope to one day build a support and counseling center for those with HIV/AIDS. We will continue to fundraise for fencing and building materials for the center.
UPDATE - MAY 2008
Pictured above are members of the group wearing the shirts you bought them. To the far right is the social worker, Kennedy and our treasurer, Martha Ramaditse is 3rd from the right in the first row. The members have received over $900 in transport money to reach Gweta and to also reach Francistown for other medical needs. In the past 2 years, not one member of the group has died.
They meet every Friday to support one another and to discuss their projects. They proudly wear their shirts to all of their meetings and functions. They received a plot of land and fencing last year and now have a garden project. They grow vegetables for themselves and sell the left overs for income generation. The members would all like to thank our donors for their support. Members are always on hand to speak at functions and to encourage others in the community to live openly with the disease. The members of Ntwakgolo Support group are leading the way in making Nata a stigma free village.