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Abigail Malinga’s story is one of survival against all odds. Softly this single mother of four recalls the events that make up her life. Although she constantly has to wipe away the tears, her eyes reveal an inner peace and her smile radiates a heartfelt joy.

Born into a large, poor family in Zimbabwe in 1983 Abigail finds it difficult to recall anything but destruction and abuse during her childhood with the resultant deep-rooted, daily heartache and tears. A life without love cultivates a hard heart and a smile-less face. “At an early age I lost the ability to feel and to care; my laughter and smile were viciously stolen from me.”

The birth of a first baby should be the most joyous occasion of a young woman’s life but for Abigail this was not so. Abuse led to pregnancy at the age of 15 and although she named her twin daughters Privilege and Perfect her life now became a daily struggle to cope and to survive. As a vendor buying and selling clothes on the streets Abigail tried to make a living. Her miserable existence was exacerbated when her parents and family evicted her and she and her babies ended up living on the streets and sleeping in abandoned buildings.

One of the twins did not survive the hardship of street-life and this left Abigail devastated. At an age where most girls should still be enjoying their teenage years Abigail was trying to cope with the death of one of her two children while struggling to take care of the other.  Desperate and alone the only option she had was to accompany her sister to South Africa where they hoped to find the life they were dreaming of.

Years of unimaginable trials and tribulations followed.  Abigail found herself in a maze of hopelessness moving from one squatter camp to another and from one forced relationship to another; from the overpopulated streets of Marabastad to Lusaka in Mamelodi and on to Thembisa and Oakmore. She tried her best to sell anything from clothing to fruit and vegetables just to survive.

In her search for love and acceptance as well as a pressing need for financial security, a few disastrous, loveless and abusive relationships followed and the birth of two more girls Sandile and Selena. Abigail’s plight had now become totally desperate and even though she managed to secure employment as a domestic worker she was finding life extremely difficult trying to survive as a single parent.

“The disease” came without warning but the force with which it hit her physically was far worse than anyone could imagine. The cold, clinical confirmation; “You are HIV positive” shattered her emotionally causing far more damage than the pain and the suffering. Her life became a living hell.

A body on the pavement. No pulse. The frail frame of “the deceased” Abigail Malinga was covered as though this was the end. What she experienced there on the pavement that day Abigail describes as a dream. She says; “In my dream I was walking through a desert. It was tough and I felt like I could not go on. Suddenly I was on beautiful green grass and there was a man with a long white gown. I could not see his face but I heard his voice and he asked me which way I want to go…back towards the desert or forward to the green pastures ahead?”

The next few months were not easy, but Abigail refused to lose hope. By a strange confluence of circumstances, a couple living in the affluent suburb of Waterkloof in Pretoria became involved in her life. Jacques and Lurè actually cared about her and not only made sure that she and her children were taken care of but also took them to church. For the first time in her life Abigail was confronted with the reality of a God she had only heard about.

The decision that Jacques and his wife made to take Abigail to POPUP (People Upliftment Programme) proved to be a life changing experience. She experienced another “first” in her life – she enrolled as a learner to study at the POPUP Training and Development Centre. It was during the Life Skills Programme that Abigail’s relationship with God was given a real boost. She became aware of the fact that she was a special person with specific gifts and talents and that her life has a purpose. She gained self-confidence and learnt how to forgive as she dealt with her past. Although her health had not yet improved she experienced an emotional and spiritual transformation. “I got my smile back!” she exclaims and the smile is not just on her face!

Sponsored and supported by Jacques and Lurè, Abigail devoted herself to her studies at POPUP. She completed the Adult Education & Training Programme and followed on with the Sewing Skills Programme. She excelled! Her value as a person with God-given talents added real meaning to every day. Wilma Lindecke (Skills Manager) and Agnes de Klerk (Sewing Facilitator & Enterprise Village Manager), two staff members at POPUP, played a vital role in the miracle that was taking place as Abigail moved from being “nothing” to being “somebody”.

Abigail and her children live in their flat in Sunnyside. Since 2013 she has been in the employ of Bespoke Interiors in Lynwood, Thabathswane Creations in the Military School and at MEMS Embroidery. She has gained invaluable experience as a seamstress and embroidery machine operator.  Currently she is working at POPUP, teaching and helping the learners and sharing her expertise.

Abigail is a very active member of the Impact Word Church in Nelmapius (Extension 7) next to Mamelodi and has been the treasurer of the church for the past 4 years. She is also involved in community upliftment work and says, “It blesses me when I can help and pray for others. Sharing my past with people brings hope and that gives me great joy and fulfilment”


Restoring dignity

through Hope and Increased Opportunity

By Alistair Westcott

“I had nothing!

I was nothing!
 Life robbed me

of everything!"