- UN is ready to meaningfully engage young people
07 March 2013
Remarks by a volunteer against AIDS, Brigitte Syamalevwe
05 December 2001
Bonn, Germany: I would like to thank you all for this chance that you have given me. I am Brigitte Syamalevwe a volunteer against HIV/AIDS from Zambia, and I am a woman who has been living with HIV/AIDS for 10 years. I am a mother of 11 children, and I manage an orphan support group, which is made of over 200 orphans cared for by volunteers know as "Households in Distress", 60 Households in Distress. I am here as a United Nations Volunteer attached to the Ministry of Education, to support the means of HIV/AIDS and health education.
I think New Yorkers have been wondering why there is sunshine, I have brought sunshine to New York. Since I came, the weather has changed. Because, indeed like we have heard from the song [Tony Rebel: "Not All About Money"], yes, you bring some of what you are, what you have and what you have been giving people.
I think to volunteer [is] very much a spiritual thing; it has been put in a lot of glamour, its a spirit, it's a movement. But for a woman living with HIV in Africa, a mother of 11 children, in support of 200 orphans, a teacher in the civil service, volunteering is not dutiful, it is a way of life, it is a sacrifice. It takes leadership, someone with a vision to see the aims.
I am a volunteer against HIV/AIDS, not because someone appointed me, not by choice. But first and foremost, I became a volunteer to my eight nephews and nieces of my sister who died of HIV, when she gave them to me to look after because in my tribe there was no orphanage.
I did not become a volunteer by choice. And today, my statement to this house, is that volunteerism or, a volunteer, needs to be supported. To be a volunteer is to be leader, to give hope, to give life where there is no life… to do the impossible, because a lot is expected of you.
People don't give money to volunteers. Yes, it is not a matter of money, because my living allowance that I am given as a volunteer, I put all of it in my community of 200 orphans.
It is not true that those people are beneficiaries. I am the beneficiary because when you are trying to find medication for a person living with HIV/AIDS, you are addressing my issue. I am a mother of the children that you are going to look after. I am the mother of potential orphans. But I will tell you today, that I am not very willing to die so that my children can be a "programme". That is why I am volunteering. That I, together with the community, or the potential orphans, we can find solutions. What I need from you, is to acknowledge that I am there, and I am the grassroots. I am the person that you are targeting, and I can also be a benefactor as well as a beneficiary.
Thank you so much.
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