Before deciding to make this documentary, I heard many stories of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa but what affected me most was the vast number of children afflicted by the virus. South Africa is among the hardest hit nations in the world, with more AIDS orphans than any other country. South Africa also has one of the highest incidences of rape and child rape in the world.
There are currently two million orphans in South Africa, 1.2 million of whom have lost one or both parents to AIDS. In 2005, AIDS was the cause of parental death for 48% of all newly orphaned children in South Africa. These numbers are expected to rise over the next seven to 10 years. The most serious and lasting consequence of the African AIDS pandemic is its impact on children. Historically, African orphans have been taken in by grandparents, extended family members, friends or neighbors but the magnitude of the AIDS crisis has simply overwhelmed these traditional safety nets, leaving orphans to fend for themselves. Many live in child-headed households, where the eldest raises the younger siblings; others end up living on the streets. Without parents or caregivers to provide for and protect them, orphaned children often suffer from abject poverty, hunger and poor health and are victims of violence or sexual coercion. Many lose access to education, thereby furthering this cycle of poverty and deprivation, often for their lifetimes.
These reports and statistics made me very angry. Then I found the Boikarabelo orphanage. My film centers on the compelling and charismatic founder of the orphanage, Marion Cloete and her incredible young charges, orphans suffering from AIDS and the terrible effects of all the afore-mentioned ills. Marion and her immediate family chose a spiritual world over a material one, devoting their lives to this orphanage so that these children have a chance at a better life because of it. The Cloetes walked away from a privileged life in Johannesburg over 15 years ago to found this orphanage and have experienced tough times but never regretted their decision. The Cloete family demonstrates courage, tolerance, forgiveness and a love of humanity that I have never encountered anywhere.