When you walk into The African Impact Foundation’s Khula HIV Support Group, you are sure to be greeted by the smiling face of one of our most committed members, Happy Girl. As her nickname very appropriately describes, and despite the many hardships she has faced, Happy Girl is always sure to be just that, happy. She always walks in with a big smile on her face, a joyful “hello,” and her arms ready to hug everyone around.

Happy Girl was born in a small village a few hours away from St. Lucia, called Machibili. She had three children from her first marriage, two of which died from chicken pox at the ages of 1 and 3. Her husband was then shot in a conflict during the political violence of the 1980’s in South Africa.  That same year, her daughter died while working as a nurse. In 1994, she married again and had another son, Qinisio.

In 2004, after her second husband passed away, Happy Girl moved to Khula village, where she lives now. From 2004 to 2007, Happy Girl noticed she was losing a lot of weight and had lost her appetite. She sought help from a friend, who told her about African Impact and how they were looking for people interested in joining a new HIV Support Group. Happy Girl decided to join the group, and after talking about her symptoms, she was encouraged to get tested for HIV. After finding out that she was positive for the virus, she says that the Support Group members helped her a lot by supporting her and showing her that “a positive HIV status doesn’t mean ones life is over.”

Happy Girl describes how the Support Group has helped her in so many ways. She says that whenever she has a problem, she “can talk about it in Support Group and they will give her advice.” Also, when her son was ill and losing a lot of weight, Happy Girl discussed her concerns about him at Support Group, so African Impact staff members decided to add him to our nutrition program. We now visit him every week, and he is doing very well.

Happy Girl also says that the Support Group has helped her a lot by teaching her new skills. She has learned about saving money, and is now able to save money every month to help her son in the future. She also learned how to make beaded jewelry, a skill that she has perfected. A few years ago, an AI volunteer did a jewelry-making workshop for the Support Group members, so that they could make their own jewelry, and we could help them sell it to volunteers and at a local store in town. Happy Girl embraced this lesson, and became the best jewelry maker in the group, being able to make beautiful and intricate bracelets, necklaces, pins, earrings, and other such curios. She says that this new skill has helped her a lot because she doesn’t have a job, but she knows that “at least through the jewelry [she] sells through Support Group, [she] can make some money to buy food for herself and her family.”

Happy Girl is the longest consistent member we have had in this Support Group. She has met many different staff members and volunteers and gotten to know many different members of her community, but she says that despite the changes in members, her favorite part of Support Group is that no matter who is there, she feels that everyone there cares about her and each other. She says, “everyone at Support Group makes me feel important, loved, and cared about.”

To join the team in St Lucia, South Africa, or to find out more about this program click here.