From AIDS Orphan to Aspiring Doctor

AIDS orphan
Nandi was orphaned by AIDS at a young age, but thanks to the support of friends like you, she now has more opportunities than she ever dreamed possible. Photo by TEAM

Most AIDS orphans couldn’t dream of becoming military doctors or getting into politics. Most don’t get to lead Bible studies or vacation Bible school classes.

But because of friends like you, 17-year-old Nandi is dreaming big and using her gifts for God! Read on to find out how you changed Nandi’s life!

Orphaned at 3

Nandi lost her mom and brother when she was just 3 years old. And though she was young, she treasures her memories of them.

Her mom was an elementary school teacher. Her brother was smart and a good friend.

And tuberculosis and HIV killed them both.

As if losing her family wasn’t enough, being orphaned by AIDS carries a heavy stigma in South Africa.

Girls like Nandi are bullied, told they are stupid and lazy or cursed by an evil spirit. And in a struggle to provide for themselves, many sell their bodies for sex.

Fortunately, friends like you found a place for Nandi at Rehoboth Children’s Village, a community of family-style homes for children affected by AIDS.

Her house mom taught her about God, encouraged her in school and helped her grow in maturity.

“She’s very honest with me, and she basically knows everything about me, even my secrets,” Nandi says.

But securing a safe, healthy childhood for Nandi was only the beginning of her fight.

Facing a Fragile Future

AIDS orphan

Through your support, TEAM missionaries helped establish a water bottling plant that not only provides income for the children’s village, but also wages and job experience for local teenagers like Nandi. Photo by TEAM

When Nandi graduates, she’ll enter an economy with a 26 percent unemployment rate.

In practical terms, that means it’s extremely difficult to find a job without work experience. And if she fails, Nandi doesn’t have the safety nets most young adults have.

“I think there’s a lot of fear in the fact that if they don’t succeed, they’re on their own,” says TEAM missionary Kara Richstone. “… We all need that security to know it’s gonna be OK, and they don’t know it’s gonna be OK.”

That’s why your help is so vital.

Through your support, Rehoboth invited Kara and her husband, Brett, to help start a water bottling plant. The plant would provide income for the orphan village — and provide wages and job experience for worthy teenagers.

While Brett and Kara applied for various licenses and worked on machinery, Kara started a Bible study with some of the teenage girls, including Nandi.

“At first, she was very skeptical of me,” Kara says. “How long am I going to stay? Is it worth my time getting to know you? … It did take me a while to build up my credibility.”

But through your support, Kara kept reaching out. Gradually, Nandi began to open up. She began asking Kara questions about God — and then asking other Christians to see if their answers matched up.

As Nandi grew in Christ, she also grew in her desire to share Him with others.

Hope for Adulthood — Because of You

AIDS orphan

Working at the water bottling plant has given Nandi a new-found confidence and the chance to dream big. Photo by TEAM

Nandi and the other girls volunteered at a local vacation Bible school program. And when Kara went on maternity leave, Nandi rallied her peers to take turns leading the Bible study.

Kara remembers asking Nandi, “Do you think everybody can do it?”

“I know everybody can do it,” Nandi replied.

By the time the water bottling plant was ready, Nandi was a seasoned young leader. Now, she was ready to take on more.

Nandi says she spends most of her free time studying. But during school holidays, you can find her working at the water bottling plant or selling the water at local festivals.

Not only has that given her work experience, but it’s also built her confidence.

“It’s cool because I remember my teacher had a Rehoboth bottle, and … I was like, ‘Oh yeah! That’s our bottle. I did that!’ It made me feel better about myself,” Nandi says.

When Nandi graduates, she dreams of becoming a military doctor or going into politics. And those dreams are real possibilities because of you!

For that, Nandi gives her deep thanks.

“I’d like to say thank you and that I’m grateful. … I’m proud of who I’ve come to be, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own,” Nandi says. “It’s because of the support and the love.”

More kids like Nandi are waiting for your help. You can give them loving care — and the Gospel — by giving to TEAM today!

The names of people you’ve helped may be changed to protect their privacy.

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About the author

Bethany DuVal

Bethany DuVal served as TEAM's marketing manager and editor. She is passionate about helping others tell their stories, whether they're missionaries on the field, new believers or part of a missionary support team. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading books and hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

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