A grandmother’s love

As anyone who has spent time in Africa can tell you, grandmothers are the unsung heroes in the fight against AIDS. They may not discovery a cure, headline a benefit concert, or legislate for sex education, but they are doing the hardest part – raising their orphaned grandsons and granddaughters whose parents have died of AIDS.

Celeste Sitoi, a 59-year-old woman from Mozambique, is one of those heroes. She’s raising five orphans, plus her own mentally-handicapped young son, while surviving on the small amount of money she earns selling vegetables on the street. Every night and day, she asks God for help.

“I say, ‘God, help me. Help me to understand my life. Help me to get more strength in order to help my children. Help me live longer because I am alone.”

Celeste Cistoi, 59, has become the primary caregiver for her grandchildren since their parents died of AIDS.

Celeste Cistoi, 59, has become the primary caregiver for her grandchildren since their parents died of AIDS.

Celeste’s faith sustained her family while they lived in two poorly-constructed one-room shacks with a door that wouldn’t close, roofs that would leak, and barely enough space just to sit down and say a prayer together.

But today, Celeste’s prayers are being answered through our Cross Catholic ministry partners in Mozambique, who provide monthly food rations, school fees, medical care, and Christ-centered counseling for her grandchildren, and recently gave the family a brand new home. The larger, sturdier house, funded by our generous donors, has given Celeste and her grandchildren the peace of mind they need.

“The first night I went to sleep in the house, I thought I was dreaming,” Celeste says. “I have prayed a lot for God to help release us from our suffering. He has done this now—Jesus himself has given us this house.”

Celeste has made education a top priority for her grandchildren. Too often in Mozambique, children are forced by their desperate circumstances to work instead of going to school. But thanks to our Cross Catholic ministry partners, Celeste’s grandchildren are attending school regularly. She understands that education is the key to her family’s future, and she told us how much it means to her: “I know one day I will go because I am getting older and older. I want them to finish their education and get a better job so that if I am not there, they can continue to sustain themselves.”

What an encouragement to meet people like Celeste who are taking the initiative to overcome personal tragedy and give their loved ones a better life.