It’s 2044 and a 22-year-old Lebo is staying with her 5-year-old brother whose name is Blessing. Blessing was born HIV positive, and he is not aware, in fact he is clueless about it. Lebo is smart, tidy and sensitive. She is an introvert and also respects people despite of their age.
They are staying together at a small village in Limpopo Province. They lost their mother shortly after she gave birth to Blessing, because of cancer and since their mother’s death everything changed. When their mother was still alive they were not struggling because she was a hustler, and worked as a domestic worker.
Lebo did very well in Matric and she seriously wanted to go to varsity, but could not get a bursary because even in 2044 you can’t get anything without having connections. So nepotism blocked her right to get tertiary education.
She is working as a domestic worker at her village. She has been doing this since she lost her mom while she was still in high school. Her earnings are not enough, even added to her little brother’s grant, so she sells cookies and dreams of having her own bakery one day.
It’s 7 a.m. and Lebo is getting her brother ready for school.
“Blessing, come and take your medication.” says Lebo.
“But why do I have to take my medication every day?” he asks. “When am I getting healed?” he asks with a face full of curiosity.
“Buti, you have to take your medication so that you won’t get weak,” she replies. “You need them to keep being strong.” she says with a soft voice.
He gets more confused, and keeps wondering whether his friends at school also take the medication. Blessing is a smart kid, the kind who asks “who taught our teachers’ former teachers?” He likes finding out about staff. He finally gives in and Lebo hands him a tablet and a glass of water. He drinks peacefully.
“Now go and get your school bag.” She says.
Blessing runs to the other room, gets his school bag and goes out of the door. He is a very active boy.
“Bye Sesi.” he says while waving both his cute little hands.
“Bye, bye.” she replies.
As usual Lebo is all alone at home. She sits down on a chair; her eyes are teary and red. She’s sucking her right hand thumb with her head facing down.
“How on earth do you tell a five years old boy that he is HIV positive?” she shouts. Lebo starts blaming her deceased mother. “Mma, how could you leave us in this mess?” she says with a lower voice. But quickly comes around and realises that every single mistake her mother did, has led to the birth of her smart little brother. At last she smiles and forgets about her problems for a few seconds. Blessing is her smile keeper.
Lebo has aspirations that go way beyond being someone’s wife, an employee or even a business partner. She dreams of building a legacy. She wants to call the shots, she does not even dream of being a major shareholder but owning 100% of the shares. Yes, Lebo dreams big. She gets inspired by people’s success stories.
She is only working three times a week, only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She sells cookies house to house on the days that she is not working. It’s Thursday and her phone rings. She knows it’s a text massage from her boss.
Hi Lebo, I’m not feeling well but I’m seeing a doctor tomorrow so don’t come to work this Friday.
Unfortunately that is bad news for Lebo because it means she won’t get the R150 for the day. It means that her budget is in trouble because she needs that R150.
“My day is ruined already by my little brother’s questions and as if that’s not enough now this!” she says. She is so sad and disappointed and also feels useless. “I think it takes situations like this to turn my life around,” she says, talking by herself, it’s not weird for her anymore, she is used to it. She starts wondering if it’s time for her to take risks by hustling harder and working for her dreams.
She thinks of getting a student loan to study Psychology, since she also aspires to be a psychologist. But then she knows that nobody would take care of her brother while she’s at varsity. Not even their relatives, they were never there for them even after their mother’s death.
It is after school and Blessing is already back from school.
“How was your day at school?” asks Lebo.
“It was fine like every other day.” He replies. Lebo is worried about her brother. She realises that she has to tell him about his status so that he will know and not infect other kids at school if he happens to bleed. She is also worried about HIV related stigmas in the community, but she has courage.
“Blessing, earlier today you asked why you are taking your medication right?” she asks. Blessing looks at his sister with a very curious face.
“Yes, I want to know.” he says. “When am I getting healed?” he asks.
“You are HIV positive and you need your medication to stay strong.” She replies.
“What is HIV?” he asks. “Am I going to die?” he asks with a worried face.
“No, you are not going to die,” she replies with a forced smile on her face. “You are not different to me or anyone, just take your medication on time,” she says.
“And if you happen to bleed, don’t let other kids touch you, OK?” She says.
“OK Sesi, I have heard you, I will not let other kids touch me while bleeding.” he replies.
“Remember you must not tell people that you are HIV positive OK?”
“OK I won’t.” he replies. She asks him to not tell people because she is preventing him from being bullied by other kids.
It has been four years and a few months since their mother’s death and things haven’t gotten any better for Lebo. She feels stuck and has run out of options to create a bright future for her and Blessing. She is full of ambition but doesn’t know what to do. She is now relieved and happy that she got to disclose the issue of HIV to her brother and he took it very well. Blessing goes out to play with other kids while Lebo is preparing their favourite, garlic samp and freshly home cooked beans for supper.
Someone knocks at the door. “I’m coming.” she replies and goes to open the door. It’s the owner of a big supermarket near their village.
“Mr Sebone,” she says with a wondering face.” Welcome to my home Sir, please come in.” she says while fixing a chair for him.
“Thank you, though I’m not staying for long,” he replies. “I have a proposal for you, you are the baker right?” says the short and dark businessman. “Lebo Diale?” He asks.
“Yes Sir, that’s me,” she replies.
“Well, I would love to sell your cookies at my Supermarkets. Do you mind baking twenty buckets every week?” He asks.
“What? Yes Sir, of coure,” she replies surprised.
Lebo is surprised because she never thought her cookies were that good. She had no complaints from her few customers but only two compliments. Hearing such good news for her is a pure surprise.
“I will send my drivers to come and collect them every Friday morning, starting from next week.” Says Mr Sebone.
“No problem Sir.” She replies.
The businessman leaves the house immediately. Lebo knows that her day is full of surprises; she got to tell her little brother about his HIV and now a big business deal that will change her life.
A few months down the line, more Supermarkets order her cookies, even well-known supermarkets. She gets her big break. A few rich business people ask to buy her recipe for millions but she does not want to sell her recipe. She now knows that her cookies are special and she is not willing to sell her secret recipe. She recently registered at her dream university to study Psychology part time, so she hired five people to help her baking business.
Lebo is now a student, successful business woman and she is also taking care of her cute and healthy little brother. She is a role model to young girls in her community and around the country, as she was featured in a well-known national magazine and a lot of people admire her.