I first met Winnie Mabaso in 2004 when I was part of a team making a programme for BBC Television.
Winnie Mabaso lived in Finetown (an informal settlement just outside of Johannesburg). Winnie’s township like many in South Africa had been severely affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. Every week Winnie would cook for upwards of 1700 children– the memory of those little kids lining up at Winnie’s house with their little plastic bowls for the only meal they would receive that day is something I will never forget.
Many of these children had lost their parents and were orphans. When I returned to the UK Winnie and I stayed in touch and I began fundraising for her.
Winnie wrote to me to inform me of a dreadful myth that had begun circulating around the village. Men were saying that if they were infected with HIV/AIDS sleeping with a virgin would heal them. The only way of them ensuring that someone was a virgin was if they were a child, so many of the orphans were being raped. Winnie was desperate to find safe and secure housing for the children.
Through fundraising we were able to assist Winnie in getting a house in Finetown which has now become an orphanage for local children. Sadly just a few months after Winnie moved into the house she died very suddenly. The Winnie Mabaso Foundation (Reg charity no 1116037) has been established to care for the vulnerable and those affected by HIV/AIDS – in particular children. Winnie achieved her dream of offering protection to these children. It is now our turn to continue what she began.
Lisa Ashton MBE