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Anna Coutsoudis' story about starting iThemba Lethu, a ministry to abandoned and orphaned babies, is humbly short. A colleague at the University of KwaZulu-Natal received a Mandela Award and wondered where to give the cash grant, which had been designated for a nonprofit group responding to HIV/AIDS.

"Give it to us," she said, without thinking.

"You have an HIV/AIDS program at your church?" the professor asked.

"Now we do," she said.

Coutsoudis is the wife of one of the pastors at Glenridge Church, a professor of pediatrics at UKZN, a researcher on mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and a conference speaker. She is also the founder of iThemba Lethu, Zulu for "Our Hope," in Cato Manor, a slum of more than 100,000 in South Africa's upscale beach city of Durban.

Glenridge Church started in 1982 and today meets above Durban's main train station. "Every Sunday at 7:00 p.m., during evening service," says senior pastor Doug MacDonald, "a train passes under the church, and the building shakes."

While iThemba Lethu remains independent, the church provides a "spiritual covering" for it, says MacDonald, who sees it as a strong expression of the church's desire to impact the community.

The ministry currently cares for six orphans, offers HIV-prevention programs, teaches adoptive parents how to integrate AIDS orphans into their families, and, most unusually, runs a breast milk bank—the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.

'It Is Gold'

On Monday, iThemba Lethu staff prays together. Coordinator Glenda Algie leads. She is a Glenridge deacon who quit a lucrative marketing job to serve here. Another staffer, Liz Holley, presents children's needs. There are many, but one stands out: A child has outgrown the three-year age limit and ...

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hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2006

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