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Matthew Bell, VSO
"Aids is effectively killing development"
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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
At the heart of an epidemic
Dave de Mello (left) in his Zambian workshop
Dave de Mello (left) in his Zambian workshop (Photos: Liba Taylor)
By former VSO volunteer Dave De Mello

Over two years ago I was posted by VSO to Guardian Motors in Zambia, to train the local staff in mechanics.

It is easy to become de-sensitised - until it is someone close to you

Initially when I arrived in Zambia I had very little understanding of how the HIV/Aids pandemic would affect my work as a VSO volunteer.

I had been briefed by VSO on the devastating effects of Aids in Southern Africa, but until I arrived I had little idea.

Zambians are among the friendliest people I have ever met, and in my first six months I made a lot of very good friends both at and outside work.

Soon I had joined forces with other volunteer groups, and spent my weekends working with HIV/Aids sufferers in the compounds around Ndola on the Copperbelt.


We also organised Sunday afternoon football matches for the street kids in Lusaka, which attracted over 50 kids each time.

Workplaces face losing many of their best employees to Aids

We would invite local Zambian HIV/AIDS groups to come along and give talks to the kids.

We even managed to get the Zambian national team to come along and play against them, which was quite extraordinary.

Witnessing the number of funerals that take place everyday in Zambia, it is easy to become de-sensitised - until it is someone close to you, that is.

Shocking death

My boss at Guardian Motors was a lady called Chilufya Thompson.

She was an incredibly warm, sensitive and educated lady, and one I will never forget.

We worked together for about eight months before she died.

I had to take on a role in Zambia that I never expected to, as an HIV/Aids counsellor.

Not only did I not want my two years here wasted, but more importantly I didn't want to lose any more of my friends.

VSO volunteers like myself can have a key role to play in supporting their African colleagues do what they can to minimise the effects of HIV/Aids.

That is why VSO has launched an Aids intiative in southern Africa.

Over the next four years, 700 VSO volunteers will seek to tackle HIV/Aids by helping to raise awareness and by providing specific expertise to African organisations fighting the epidemic.

For more information on VSO's work click here

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See also:

04 Oct 99 | Africa
Africa on the Aids frontline
29 Oct 99 | Crossing continents
Zambia's orphaned generation
16 Jun 00 | Health
HIV drugs 'could save Africa'
12 May 99 | Aids
Aids Africa's top killer
04 Nov 99 | Aids
Aids up close
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