Siphiwe Hlophe

When she went off to secondary school, Siphiwe was the only student without shoes, an offence for which the headmaster could have dismissed her. She hated this visible sign of her poverty, and after a few weeks she walked to town, to the office of the aid agency Save the Children, in through the door and right up to the director.

"I said, 'You know I'm poor, and I need to continue my education.' Impressed by her spunk, the director found a family in Finland to pay for shoes and the cost of boarding school. The Finnish family continued to sponsor her until she graduated from university in 1984. Back then she thought, "Maybe when I grow up I will take care of some orphans to pay back what they have done for me." She told me this with an amused little snort—funny how that worked out.

Siphiwe Hlophe's life with HIV