Ruth Feigenbaum - Bulawayo's
Unsung Heroine 2006
Jewish assistance to victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern
Africa extends beyond the borders of this country, as the inspiring
example of Ruth Feigenbaum demonstrates. A former South African, she
has virtually single-handedly established and now runs SGOFOTI
("Support Group of Families of Terminally Ill), an organization
devoted to providing emotional and psychological support to the
families of HIV/AIDS victims in Zimbabwe.
SGOFOTI, based in Bulawayo, is a non-governmental, non-political
organization operating primarily on a volunteer basis. Volunteers,
women drawn from the communities in which they live, receive ongoing
training by MAC (Matabeleland Aids Council) and Hospice, as well as
training as counsellors by professional clinical psychologists.
An important area of SGOFOTI's work involves HIV/AIDS orphans, the
most seriously and directly affected. Through the vision and
inspiration of one of its counsellors, Patricia Tshabalala, an
orphan support group called the Vulindlela Guardians was started at
the Vulindlela Youth Centre in the western Bulawayo suburb of
Mpopoma. Assistance includes providing for such needs as school
fees, recreation and positive reinforcement (building a good self
image). To a degree, a sense of family has been created for those
whose families have been taken away from them.
Occupational Therapy is another important aspect of support provided
by SGOFOTI. >From donations of wool and material its beneficiaries,
mainly grandmothers with extra dependants and no breadwinner, sew or
knit articles which they then sell to generate a little much-needed
income. A small percentage of the proceeds of the sales go towards
running costs, which include providing tea and bread for the
Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader to the African Jewish
Congress, said that Feigenbaum, a former South African and now an
active member of the Zimbabwe Jewish community, was an example to
others through her determination to do good works no matter how
difficult the circumstances.
"I find it enormously encouraging that even under the difficult
situation in Zimbabwe Ruth Feigenbaum has taken up her
responsibility and actively become involved in improving the plight
of the disadvantaged" he said.