Duration: 4min 36sec


KHOPOTSO: This is a game of talking stones, called Mmasekitlane in Sesotho. It’s a popular art of story-telling among kids. But psycho-social experts say it’s also a form of escapism into the warmth of the imaginary world for many troubled children. The narrator in this game is the youngest of the three sisters in the Baloyi household. She was caught up in her own little world, while eldest sister, Natalia, worried on her behalf.

NATALIA BALOYI: Ke utlwa ke imelwa ka baka la hore ha ke bereke ene ho ne dilo tse di ntsi tse e lo hore mothomongwe ke nyaka ho di diela baratho ba ka, bjale ka baka la ho se bereke o kgumane hore ka imelwa. Ene ke nyaka ho boela sekolong ha ke na tjhelete. Ke utlwa ke imelwa. Ha ho na thuso e ke e kgumanang. Yo a thusang batho ke Sister Sally. Kereke ya gona ke ya Roma. Le rena o thomile ho re thusa. O re thusa ka tsa ho ja le diaparo.

TRANSLATION: It’s difficult. I am unemployed and there are so many things that I want to do for my younger siblings. But because I don’t work it’s difficult. I also wish to go back to school, but I don’t have money. No one is helping me, except for Sister Sally of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Tzaneen. She helps us with food parcels and some clothes.

KHOPOTSO: That was in August of 2001. When I met Natalia, in Marironi village, outside Tzaneen, her mother had died a few months back. Her father had died some three years earlier. The cause of their deaths was something the family never talked about. TB is mentioned in hushed tones. Sister Sally Duigan of the Catholic Diocese in Tzaneen.

Sr SALLY DUIGAN: To overcome the problem of AIDS, unless the silence is broken, unless people come out and say that they have HIV/AIDS and that they’re living with it.

And I’ve seen people turn around and become better once they’ve declared their status and said openly that they’re HIV/AIDS. Even families, once they say, once they name it, I think there’s a peace that comes into that family.

KHOPOTSO: But whether the deaths of Natalia’s parents were due to an AIDS-related illness or not, is beside the point. What matters are the social difficulties that all child-headed households face. The only income Natalia got for her family was about R120.00, which, she earned by doing people’s hair. For months she struggled to secure social grants for her three younger siblings, including a brother. Eventual success has transformed the family’s life. Natalia has since blossomed into a confident and happier person with a positive story to tell about her family, in an acquired language.

NATALIA BALOYI: Since 2001, when you were meeting us in our family, everything now is alright because you helped me for going to the school and my two sisters and my younger brother. Now I’m already working and my younger brother is working and my two younger sisters, she’s at school at Bakitha, St. Bredan’s. Now we found some money from government. Every month we found R1000 for two children. This money already helping us because sometimes I’m take this money and replacing something at home and fix everything at home. I’m working here at Diocese of Tzaneen doing some sewing. And the Diocese already helping us. Sometimes where we don’t have something I’m coming here and Sister Sally she already helping me in everything.

KHOPOTSO: What work does your brother do?

NATALIA: He’s nurse at Kgapane Hospital and I’m coming from the school. And I’m finished Computer. This year I’m going to do Matric at INTEC College, this year and next year. So, I’m very happy because it’s something from God. I think so, I wish that God will help us until we are growing up.

KHOPOTSO: You’re earning a salary here at the Diocese for the work you do?

NATALIA: Yes, sometimes she gives me R800, sometimes she gives me R900, sometimes she gives me R1000. I’m very happy.

KHOPOTSO: How old are your younger sisters?

NATALIA: The first one, Kgomotso, is 13 years and the second one Mandy is ten years now Kgomotso is doing Grade 8 and Mandy is doing Grade 6.

KHOPOTSO: Tell us about the bags that you make here?

NATALIA: These bags I’m making for the orphans. We are going to sell these bags and I’m taking the money for these bags and putting in the budget for the orphans I’m giving back other people.

Khopotso Bodibe