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South Africa

Population: 55,380,210
Percentage Under Poverty Line: 16.6%

After a long history of colonialism that began with the Dutch in 1652, South Africa became a republic in 1961. However in 1948, the Afrikaner-dominated National Party was voted into power and instituted apartheid. Apartheid is the state-sponsored policy of segregation between the races. Apartheid officially ended in 1994, but South Africa has since struggled to change apartheid-era imbalances in areas such as housing, education, and healthcare.

7.2 million people in South Africa live with HIV/AIDS, the most of any nation on earth. 94.4% of South Africans is literate, and 86.6% are Christian.

Read through the tabs below to learn more about how you can make a vital difference in South Africa today.

Sisters of Nazareth Impact Johannesburg in Big Ways

About
Sister of Nazareth with group in South Africa

The Sisters of Nazareth were originally founded in 1861 by Victoire Larmenier. The original Nazareth House opened in Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom, in 1857, while Victoire was a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Sisters of Nazareth eventually became its own order.

Today, there are 37 Nazareth Houses around the world, including the UK, Ireland, Australia, Zimbabwe, the United States, and South Africa.

The Sisters of Nazareth have committed themselves to the service of God in caring for those who are most in need. They do this specifically through Nazareth House, where they provide hospitality and care to all who come to Nazareth House, irrespective of age, color, race, or creed. The sisters care especially for marginalized and disadvantaged with a spirit of love, compassion, and justice.

Nazareth House works to be an active part of building bridges for the local poverty-stricken and ill communities. Nazareth House works to provide opportunities for the poor to lift themselves up through good healthcare and by offering programs whereby local residents can learn long-term sustainable skills and strategies that will allow them to find jobs, care for themselves, and improve their quality of life.

Catholic World Mission’s work with Nazareth House Johannesburg began in 2018.

Programs

The Sisters of Nazareth run four extremely impactful programs out of Nazareth House Johannesburg:

  1. The Children’s Projects
  2. Care of the Aged Project
  3. Hospice & Clinic
  4. Community Outreach Program
A Sister of Nazareth with children at Nazareth House Johannesburg

The Children’s Projects

Nazareth House provides a safe, loving place for children of all ages and backgrounds to call home during times of crisis. Specifically, Nazareth House provides:

Long-term or permanent care for orphaned or abandoned children, most of whom have very special needs, including living with HIV and AIDS;

Short-term, emergency care for abused or abandoned children who have been removed from their homes for their protection;

family reunification program with the intention of reuniting as many children as possible with their immediate families or extended family members, when possible and when in the child’s best interest.

Every child who comes to Nazareth House is able to receive education, medical care, and support for any condition or trauma the child may have.

There are currently 40 orphaned/abandoned babies and children at Nazareth House. They all attend normal, mainstream schools or daycare centers. They get to enjoy various activities throughout the year, including picnics, field trips, sporting events, baking cakes, reading, and other special events. Some children even get to receive horse riding lessons!

Care of the Aged Project

Nazareth House lifts residents out of the disadvantages of poverty, isolation, and neglect, and enables them to live with dignity as valued and respected members of society.

Nazareth House Johannesburg provides full-time residential care for 117 frail and impoverished seniors. Most of these residents also battle other ailments, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and diabetes, and require full-time nursing care. These patients are poor and have no family support systems.

Although some of the residents contribute financially toward their care through the use of pensions, this doesn’t entirely cover the cost of care. The cost of medication, clothing, food, and transportation to and from hospitals and check-ups is enormous.

A Sister of Nazareth hugs an elderly resident at Nazareth House

Care for the elderly is a big priority for Nazareth House. Similar to children, the elderly are often also abused and abandoned or have no financial resources. 

Nazareth House provides a loving, family-like environment for these seniors. In addition to medical care, residents are also given the opportunity to see hairdressers/barbers, have movie nights, go on library outings, and go on assisted shopping trips. They greatly enjoy going on shopping trips and spending pocket money on trinkets, treats, and items they need.

Nazareth House lifts residents out of the disadvantages of poverty, isolation, and neglect, and enables them to live with dignity as valued and respected members of society.

Nazareth House offers assistance to their elderly residents at all levels, including emotional and medical. Some of the services they provide include:

  • Ongoing health monitoring and personal hygiene assistance;
  • Frail care facilities for those who require more specialized care and attention;
  • Preparation and provision of nutritious meals;
  • 24-hour nursing care and spiritual guidance;
  • Give each resident love and the best care possible;
  • And many other facets of caring for the whole person: body and soul.
A Sister of Nazareth and staff member sit with hospice patients at Nazareth House Johannesburg

Hospice and Clinic

Nazareth House also plays a vital role in the community for the care of people with HIV/AIDS. Nazareth House operates St. Basil’s Hospice and the Clinic of Hope and Love to care for people battling HIV/AIDS.

St. Basil’s Hospice provides antiretroviral therapy for patients battling HIV. For patients who can regain their health, St. Basil’s ensures they do so. St. Basil’s Hospice also provides compassionate care for some patients until the end of their lives.

The Clinic of Hope and Love was founded to provide for the many local residents, especially immigrants, who are HIV positive or living with AIDS. In the last year, the clinic has tested 8,237 patients. 1,073 are now on antiretroviral medication.

Community Outreach Program

This program was begun in 2002 after more and more patients were being admitted to St. Basil’s with preventable conditions. The Outreach program provides quality care to the destitute, poor, and ill in the Yeoville area of Johannesburg.

One of the key aspects of this program is preventative measures for HIV positive persons, such as education, counseling, nutrition, medication, and the promotion of adherence to treatment plans.

More than 60% of the patients and people who benefit from this program are women. Less than 40% are men.

Sr. Bridget Ambrose runs the Community Outreach Program. She is a Sister of Nazareth and registered nurse. Sr. Bridget visits 4-7 patients every day, as well as their families and other poor families in the Central Johannesburg area. She looks after people’s healthcare needs and their spiritual needs. She distributes blankets, food, and clothes to families and patients in need whenever possible.

Sister Bridget distributes goods to women and mothers in need in Johannesburg as part of Nazareth House's Community Outreach Program

Nazareth House also provides Sr. Bridget with a vehicle so she can visit these patients. She sometimes must also transport them to hospitals and clinics in emergency situations because the ambulance services in the area refuse to assist refugees.

The community outreach program established a support group in 2009. The group currently has 123 members and teaches members various skills such as sewing and beadwork that will allow them to support themselves and their families when their health improves (many of the members suffer from diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.)

The outreach program has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. Through the outreach program, these patients’ quality of life has vastly improved. While progress is not always measurable, one concrete statistic speaks to the importance of this program: the mortality rate has decreased dramatically over the years. Currently, only 30% of those cared for through the outreach program pass away. While that is still a high mortality rate when compared to developed nations, that equals thousands of lives saved through the work of Nazareth House!

A man stands outside his rundown apartment complex in Johannesburg. This is one of the communities Sr. Bridget and the Sisters of Nazareth work to help in South Africa.

Learn more about Sr. Bridget, and other members of the Nazareth House Johannesburg family in the “Testimonies” tab.

Testimonies
Sr. Bridget, 83, leads the Community Outreach Program of Nazareth House Johannesburg

Sr. Bridget, 83

I am from County Limerick, Ireland. I am the eldest of 12 children—seven girls and five boys. My father was a farmer and my mother looked after us all.

The Sisters of Nazareth came to my school, which was how I first learned of them. Soon after my Confirmation, I received literature from them. Once I got to know them well, I felt drawn to the life of the Sisters of Nazareth. I made my first profession of vows in 1952, at our motherhouse in Hammersmith, London. I felt drawn to the old people and orphans, so I cared for them until I made my final profession in 1958.

Since then, I have served in Ireland, London, and at various Nazareth House locations throughout South Africa. I have run the Community Outreach Program in Johannesburg since 2002.

As part of the Community Outreach Program, I am responsible for daily visits to the poor and indigent, who often live in shacks or derelict and neglected flats in poor conditions. I deliver food, bread, clothes, blankets, etc.—whatever is available. I also pray with those I visit and offer encouragement.

The greatest reward of being a religious sister, especially in this order, is this ministry—to be friendly and happy and give the poor and suffering something to smile about, to show them somebody does care. This is also the greatest challenge. But I feel fulfilled and needed, especially useful in my later years where I can encourage and lift the downhearted.

Harriet, 74

I was born in Cape Town in 1944 but was taken to Johannesburg by friends of my parents as they couldn’t look after me. When I was a teenager, my adopted family approached Nazareth House to care for me. So my life began under the care of Sr. Edward, who was responsible for myself and 19 other mentally challenged girls and boys at the time.

Sr. Edward taught us to knit and bake. I still can’t cook or bake, but I carry on knitting alongside the other residents. We knit items for Sr. Bridget to give out as part of the Community Outreach Program.

I have loved living at Nazareth House. I do get lonely sometimes not having any family. This will always be a challenge for me, but I am so grateful to the sisters and staff who have cared for me all these years. They have done so with great love. I see this as my biggest reward in life.

Harriet, 74, has lived at Nazareth House since she was a teenager
David, 65, has lived at Nazareth House for 35 years

David, 65

I came to Nazareth House when I was 30, as part of my hospital treatment for a mental health program and have never left since.

My main task is to assist Sr. Bridget with the Community Outreach Program. I help distribute food parcels to mothers and children, as well as other bits and bobs we have been able to collect for them.

I also make sure all the holy water is in place throughout the property, including the chapel and all the rooms.

I am a happy man, always keeping a smile on my face, despite bad days when my health takes over. But the spirit of the Lord keeps me strong. Life does get lonely when you have no family, but I try every so often to visit Nazareth House in Cape Town for a change of scenery.

Life has led me to be part of the Nazareth family. I feel rewarded to be among people who need me, and that I can still be of help. I have seen nothing but growth in myself since living at Nazareth House.

Updates

Thanks to a generous donor, 2018 had us busy laying the groundwork for what will be an incredible partnership with the Sisters of Nazareth and Nazareth House Johannesburg. Some of that “groundwork” included:

  • Repairs to buildings including elevator repairs and structural and equipment repairs
  • Food and meal preparation for the elderly home, orphanage, and hospice
  • Safety measures including day and night guards
  • Empowering staff to provide adequate care for the elderly and children, meaning that each resident received not only necessary care like food, water, and medicine, but also non-quantifiable care like love, family-like support, freedom from isolation and loneliness, and human contact.
The Sisters of Nazareth and Nazareth House Johannesburg provide not just care and services to residents but also love and human connection, truly honoring the dignity of every man, woman, and child they care for.

We’re looking forward to the completion of several new projects in 2019, including:

  • A new security fence to improve the safety of the children, elderly, and sisters who live at Nazareth House;
  • Installation of a new security camera system;
  • Replacing the current walk-in refrigerator/freezer. The current walk-ins break on a weekly basis, putting the food of all the children and elderly at risk of rotting!

Check back soon for updates on these items!

You can help with the completion of these projects by visiting the How You Can Help tab.

How You Can Help

You can partner with the Sisters of Nazareth as they work to make life better for South Africa’s poorest, especially the elderly poor, orphaned/abandoned children, and the HIV/AIDS community. A gift of any amount will help, but some starting points include:

  • $250 provides a blanket to 15 families in need
  • $100 provides nearly 8 tanks of gas for Sr. Bridget to distribute items to hundreds of poor families!
  • $75 provides antiretroviral (ARV) medications for 1 HIV positive patient for a whole year
  • $50 provides a haircut for 4 seniors living at Nazareth House

Give now to help Sr. Bridget and the Sisters of Nazareth uphold the dignity of children, elderly, ill, and poor in Johannesburg, South Africa today! Every dollar you give makes a direct impact on the lives of 3,000 people in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Help lift little ones out of poverty when you help the Sisters of Nazareth in their work in Johannesburg, South Africa!
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