Late 1999, at home in Wicklow, we read a letter from Zimbabwe telling us that our friend, Matilda, is dead. From that point AIDS became personal. Not a vast pandemic that touches many others, but a disease that killed our beloved friend.
Matilda already had AIDS when we first met her, and she lived with the knowledge that she would die of it before long. Like the many other trials in her life, she accepted this with a quiet dignity. She talked about it with Wendy, and told her of a dream she had had, where a table was prepared for a meal, and she was invited, not to serve, but to eat.
If AIDS is too big for a few people to change, at least we could try to help those dying to end their lives in a little more comfort. We wrote to Stefan Germann to ask how we could begin to help. He wrote back saying, “The area where there is the greatest need for such support is packs for home care providers or home based care volunteers. They often work without the needed bleach, soap, gloves etc. Such packs would be an extreme help and motivation to hundreds of women providing on a voluntary basis such services.” An advantage of this, he pointed out, is that they already have administration, whether local hospital, clinic, church, which can receive the funds and buy supplies.
And so slowly the Matilda Project took shape. By mid-2001 we sent our first contribution to Howard HBC, and a dream started to have feet!