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International AIDS Conference 2016


Nikki “Tita Aida” Calma

Today was going to be a memorable day for me at IAC 2016. I decided to take a break from all the learning sessions and ground myself with the real work. I arranged to participate in one of the “Engagement Tours” that the conference offered. The Engagement Tour is offered to provide delegates unique learning experiences through interactive site visits to local community based organizations throughout Durban and KwaZulu-Natal. The goal is to exchange knowledge, best practices, successes, challenges, and innovative solutions through dialogue and hands-on activities. I chose to visit the Malvern Child and Youth Care Centre. From learning about it on the web, I knew this place was going to hold a special place in my heart. I knew that I was going to be touched in a different, loving way.

The Centre is located on the western side of downtown Durban. The area is called Malvern and it took thirty minutes to get there. On the tour with me were delegates from New Zealand, Philippines, India and Thailand. When we arrived we were warmly greeted by two staff members, Lee and  Francois. They gave an orientation about who they serve, how their agency works, who they get funding from, and their daily chores. They showed a very powerful video to us that “said it all.” After that, we did a tour of the facility. The cottages and homes were quaint and lovely. The bedrooms were all different from each other. Some had single beds and some had double bunks. Seeing those double bunks gave me a flashback when me and my sister shared a room with double bunks. I felt that special moment of love between me and my sister, and I wondered if that was the case here too.


As we all know, family is the foundation of who we become. It is from family where we learn how to love and appreciate everything around us. This is a principle that I am aware of, which we practice and instill with our standard of care at API Wellness Center. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the children at the Malvern Child and Youth Care Centre. Most of them who come to Malvern have been subjected to physical and sexual abuse, neglect, severe poverty, hunger, and have been orphaned after losing their parents to AIDS. Some are even living with the disease.

The Centre fosters over 120 youth who live everyday challenged and marked by pain. I got a strong sense that this would be the only space they would experience love and care. It might be the only home they would ever know their whole life. The Centre offers amazing programs such as therapy and counseling. They have den mothers in each home, sports and recreation, activities, educational support, and they make sure that each and every child gets to go to school. The children who are trans and living with HIV are provided with the best support around accessing medical care. Being trans*, they have a loving and supporting environment around them.


I was able to meet a few of the children. What I learned from my visit to this wonderful facility was that even though they had gone through tough life experiences, I left assured that they were cared for by the wonderful staff. I felt that they were in comfortable and warm homes, not alone and unloved. They gave me a brochure that contained a powerful quote from Mother Theresa. It read, “ The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” To learn more about the Malvern Child and Youth Centre visit