Journey to South Africa Began in Minnesota
Jim Cassidy’s response to the AIDS epidemic began locally in 80’s…
Jim Cassidy was invited to be a part of the Episcopalian AIDS Task Force, as well as the Archdiocese AIDS Ministry Board of Directors.
Served as chaplain at Clinic 42. First AIDS designated clinic in the Twin Cities.
Served as original board member of Grace House, a residential hospice.
Jim and Pat participated in numerous AIDS fundraising bike rides. Instrumental in forming Team Oz, the largest team to participate consistently in numerous AIDS rides.
Jim experienced the deaths of many friends/colleagues to AIDS in the late 90’s. Pat lost a family member to AIDS, as well. Pat remembers there had been no funeral because of concerns of HIV.
Both felt the need to discover the impact of HIV internationally. Recognizing South Africa as the epicenter of the disease
Both Jim and Pat “felt compelled to do something”
Jim formulated a plan to visit South Africa in 2000 and invited Pat Murphy and Leone Flaa to join him.
The 1st Trip
Arrived Cape Town in October, 2000
Met Reverend, Dr. Spiwo Xapile and Dr. Jan du Toit
1st trip opened the door to discovering a new world in South Africa and the impact of HIV
Impact of apartheid
Discovering the disconnect of hope for democracy and the many challenges of life in the Townships.
“A very difficult and challenging first experience.” Saw a world very foreign to them and yet felt the love and joy of this community and the feeling of being very welcomed.
Key insight: Our focus could not be solely on HIV. Early awareness of the need to respond to inadequate housing, nutrition and education, “all colliding in the same intersection”.
The Journey To Becoming Family
Recognized the similarity between Reverend Xapile’s congregation – JL Zwane – and our own faith community.
30-50 funerals every Saturday in Guguletu – People living with AIDS could not be open and honest … said to have died of ‘pneumonia’
Reverend Spiwo and Dr. Jan du Toit awarded President’s Award for efforts in both Eastern and Western Cape of South Africa
Support began in education through the Rainbow School in JL Zwane, home visits within the community of Guguletu, visiting orphanages … New Rest Daycare, Tender Loving Care, Beautiful Gate, Sisters of Charity, Senior Center
Jim & Pat already thinking of return trip
Initial glimpse of ‘being family’ starting to emerge
The Journey Continues….
During an early visit, and after having interviewed the Catholic Archbishop and an Episcopal Archbishop, it became clear AIAIA would need to forge its own path, following a road of need wherever it would take the organization:
Distributing food parcels, starting with 10 families…then increasing parcels as donations allowed, now nearly 2000 parcels annually.
Identifying the need for a property as a training site for St. Luke’s Hospice. The purchase of house opened the door to hospice care coming to the townships for the first time.
Developed a relationship with children and staff at Tender Loving Care orphanage. Quarterly food parcels distributed.
Developed a relationship with children, women, men and staff at Sisters of Charity.
Providing clothing for infants and children in the Townships.
Supporting Itipini, a settlement originally built on a garbage dump. Providing feeding programs, food parcels, clothing and support as needed.
Supporting the Institute for the Healing of Memories – programs similar to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Memories Along the Way
Second year, 2001 a delegation of 12 returned.
In the years to follow, to date 120 delegates have gone. Some returning for 2nd, 3rd missions.
On our third mission trip we were honored to host reporter Harris Faulkner, a nationally prominent journalist and winner of 6 Emmys. Her nightly reports on camera were lit by the headlights of vehicles and transmitted live to Minnesota by satellite.
A mother, infected with AIDS, asked Pat to take her infant child back to the United States where she thought her baby would get better care.
A woman getting water in her bucket from a public water faucet in the Township spoke of being sad for us as we had no one to talk to or visit with while getting our water out of our own private faucets and how lonely that must be. “Truly, who are the poor?”
For the first time children of Itipini receive shoes which are required for them to attend school.
The annual ‘Spa Day’ where local women and men from Malungeni receive hand and foot massages from AIAIA delegates.