SPOTLIGHT: Fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa from the Village of Nahant

5/5/2011

The members of Nahant Village Church have taken a personal interest in helping the people of South Africa fight against HIV/AIDS. The church has raised enough money for a year’s tuition at a hospital's nursing school. The first scholarship (also called a Bursary) was awarded to a student at the McCord Hospital in Durban, South Africa, so she can complete her education and be certified to help treat HIV/AIDS patients. 

“It is our privilege at Nahant Village Church to be part of the wonderful work of the McCord Hospital,” said Rev. Dr. Larry Titus. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to make a difference for a nursing student, her family and her community.”
 
The first recipient (as selected by the Principal of the Nursing School) was Cynthia Matiwane from Umlazi township and is the first of her family to seek higher education. She’s had a lifelong dream of becoming a nurse, and worked hard to save the money to complete her first year. She did not have the funds to enter her second year of training, so she was again working to raise the money. 
 
Nahant Village nursing student“I’d like to say that dreams really do come true, and mine has definitely come true today,” said Cynthia upon receiving her scholarship. She will now be able to continue her studies and become a nurse, help support her family, and assist the people of her community.
 
The scholarship was presented on behalf of the Nahant Village Church by one of their members, Dr. Bruce Walker, an internationally known infectious disease specialist who does research in HIV/AIDS in Boston and in Durban, and who brought the scholarship idea to the attention of the church’s members. Walker keeps the members updated on the student’s progress after his visits there.
 
The need for scholarships is great. It costs $2700 for the tuition for one student for one year. “What seems like a very low-cost tuition to us here can be a life-changing amount to someone in South Africa,” said Nancy Cantelmo, former chair of the Mission program at the church.
 
The Nahant Village Church funds this scholarship through direct contributions and through their Soup Sundays, held after worship service during Lent. Soup Sundays have been promoted in local papers and the community is invited to participate as well, sharing hot soup, bread and fellowship, as well as contributing to a worthy cause. Both members and non-members have been very supportive.
 
“Everyone is excited about this project because we have a personal relationship,” said Cantelmo. “The people from the hospital have come to our church and given a presentation, and one of our members is constantly in touch and working with the hospital. We have hung a storyboard in the hallway with photos and updates about the program, so this is not a faceless mission; we have a real connection.”
 
As Dr. Walker said at the presentation of the scholarship, “It’s an investment that will help someone realize their dream, and let them have a lifelong impact helping others and contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS, serving as a nurse in the epidemic’s epicenter-South Africa.”
 
“This is a good thing to do on several levels,” explained Titus. “It helps someone who is talented, dedicated and compassionate to achieve her aspirations and become a vital part of a team providing direct care to HIV/AIDS patients. It also brings hopes to others who have a similar dream, and can be an impetus for others -- churches or individuals -- to think about contributing to the scholarship program.”
 
“We hope to continue this relationship with McCord Hospital and support its training of nursing students through the Nahant Village Church Bursary,” he said. “Because this program also helps provide a way for our congregation and others to act in faith, to be people of compassion and care.”
 
 
Rev. Larry is currently on sabbatical through August, but information about the program can be obtained at the church office at (781) 581-1202 or secretary@nahantvillagechurch.org


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