Justice is 20 years old. He lives in the province of the Zulu people, near a city called Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. This main city is home to a quarter-million people, maybe twice the size of the City of Barrie.
Justice was one of six children born to his family: mom, dad, brother, four sisters. In the back yard of his tiny home are six gravesites… when he was 10, the family buried his mom. When he was 10, he and his siblings buried their dad. And also in the tiny yard is the gravestone of two of his sisters, graves dug while Justice was in his teens. Recently, Justice dug into the soil to bury a third sister.
Justice has lost his brother to the streets and his remaining sister is just not there. He is alone, orphaned by AIDS.
When we read about people like this young man who has lived a lifestime in one score years, it’s all we can do to bring sadness up in our hearts, turn the page and go on, thankful that we’re in Canada rather than the multi levels of economic affluence in South Africa.
But right here in Barrie we have someone who could not turn the page. And as I think about Good Friday and Easter and what it represents, I think about the gentle gift that this woman brings every time she buys an airline ticket and heads to Africa.
Carol Warnica will be 50 shortly. And for the past 15 years she’s been juggling her modest life. She works as a teacher for half the year, usually teaching science at Central Collegiate. Then, with the other half of the year, she takes a sabbatical, gathers up a few resources to share, and goes to be with Justice and hundreds of children just like him.
Carol Warnica was born and raised in Barrie. From the family hereford farm on Coxmill Rd., she and her twin sister lived their lives and grew to pursue their careers. Her mom Marg was a popular teacher at Warnica School until she retired. Warnica School is named after the family. Dad Murray was a skilled hereford farmer. And their farmhouse on Coxmill Rd still stands, surrounded now by subdivision homes.
She leaves for South Africa at the end of August, arriving in Pietermaritzburg in time for African winter.
Carol goes not because she’s affiliated with one organization or another… she goes because she cares. Alone in this Zulu province, Carol finds a little cottage to rent. She sets up her laptop and hopes to find a phone line so she can teach kids how to communicate with the outside world. She looks at the magnitude of the AIDS pandemic where one of three people are infected with HIV and reaches into her heart and does what she can.
“I go. I go and I care. I develop a rapport with the kids. Many of these children are heads of families by the time they’re 10 or 11. They are struggling to go to school, to write exams, to find money for uniforms, to buy food to feed their siblings with.” Carol takes her bank card with her, too. In her account in Barrie is money gently given, money she collects on her own and deposits so she can draw on it to buy groceries for one family, school fees for another.
Carol says it’s labour intensive to distribute money properly and so she chooses to help child-headed households. She uses the money as an emergency fund.
She pays her own air fare. She pays her own accommodation when she’s there. She works at building rapport with orphans and children living in vulnerable conditions. In many homes, people lay dying, turned away by medical care because there is absolutely nothing that can be done. When the breadwinners die, the children remaining need help. Grade 10 students are begging food from neighbours to feed their siblings. At the same time they’e keeping up with their school work so life can be better.
“That kind of teenager is very vulnerable. The support structures in South Africa are very shaky. I listen to them. I make calls and find solutions for them. I find money for school fees.”
There are many children with AIDS themselves, contracted during the birth process from an infected mother. The overwhelming age group most infected right now is the young working population… the 20-45 year olds. In comparison, that’s Barrie’s main population group, the 20-45 year old. Imagine if 1 in 3 Barrie residents was dying of AIDS.
That’s where Carol goes.
While Carol goes on her own quiet mission, she says there’s a promotional campaign which has worked well in Uganda… It’s called ABC. A is for ABSTINENCE from sexual activity, B is for BE FAITHFUL to one partner for life. C is for CONDOMIZE. And while billboards proclaim the ABC’s (in Zulu, of course), many faithful wives are the first to die of AIDS because their husbands aren’t faithful. It’s a gender issue and South Africa has a long way to go before female empowerment is a right, rather than a privilege.
Today, Justice at age 20 is in a community college in Pietermaritzburg. He’s studying electrical engineering there. When he looks at the abandonment BY his neighbourhood during the illness and deaths of his family, he talks about stigma and alone-ness. And he is grateful for Carol’s gift.
“North Americans are so project-oriented,” says Carol when she speaks of her activities in South Africa. “What would have helped him when he was little? Somebody who cared. It’s that simple.”
Carol cares. She takes goodness to a region where often the lights of life go out. She offers nourishment that includes food, but goes far beyond food. She takes hope.
Thank you, Carol.
Many of you have called and written to ask how you can help Carol Warnica with her work in South Africa. (see This is Sunday, Advance, March 27, 2005). Carol is quite firm that she wants her efforts to be in Africa and so she has not registered herself as a charity. That means that any donations to her work are truly that… donations. No charitable receipts, no monthly newsletters, none of the promotional and tax benefit efforts that a non profit with staff would be able to offer.
Carol simply puts donations in a project bank account (the Nkosinathi Fund) and uses a bank card in South Africa to draw out money to help people in need.
If you’re interested in contributing within those guidelines, Carol’s
mailing address is 104 Buchanan St, Barrie, L4M 6B6
Cheques should be made out to “Nkosinathi Fund”.
Be sure to include your email address so Carol can add you to her group list for updates and activities she’s experiencing in Africa.
Siyabonga! (That’s thank you in Zulu)