The soil of Limpopo’s farmlands teems with life. Roots and vegetables swell below the surface, while rich fruits dangle from above. But as labourers sweep through fields and orchards, a striking imbalance plays out: many who pick are less healthy than the fresh produce in their baskets. Farm workers in the north of South Africa represent the highest concentration of HIV/AIDS carriers within any workforce in the country, with a prevalence rate of 40%.
Former nurse Christine du Preez is the Founder and Director of the Hoedspruit Training Trust, an NGO dedicated to reducing this alarming statistic. Realising that the only way to curb the transmission of the disease is to increase the spread of knowledge about it, she set up the Hlokomela Health Project to facilitate the support and education of labourers and their families. Having now been in operation for well over a decade, the clinic has saved thousands of lives.
“I want to create a culture of caring that empowers all people,” says Du Preez. For her, that not only includes but prioritises the one in ten South Africans living with HIV/AIDS. To develop a project that could be sustained, Du Preez trained women from the area as caretakers who could sow hope in their villages. By tending to those who have the disease and educating the community to prevent its spread, the Hlokomela clinic is bringing dignity and quality of life to Hoedspruit.