Vale families now in South African township helping children with AIDS

Tim Walker and his wife Maz with children from the town
Tim Walker and his wife Maz with children from the town

On Christmas Day 2004 the Walker family were sat around the table at home, tucking into their turkey with all the trimmings.

Today, they are sat around a table in South Africa’s apple growing region at a hospice where children are infected with AIDS.

“We were surrounded by all these gifts and things we don’t even need and thought what are we celebrating for? said Tim Walker, 46.

“You can see all the stuff on Comic Relief but until you have seen the plight, you can be very much removed from it.”

Former Grange pupil Tim and his wife Maz, who went to Quarrendon School, made the move from Whitchurch with their 16-year-old son Arron to Grabouw - an hour east of Cape Town.

The couple’s fully registered children’s unit - The Village of Hope - in the shadow of the Hottentot mountains celebrated its fifth birthday at the weekend.

More than 40 children infected with HIV have been cared for by the couple at their nine-bed unit while hundreds of children enjoy football and netball camps each afternoon.

“You can become very blasé about the needy and the poor and the plight,” Tim said. “We couldn’t believe that children were living with AIDS.

“I always think though if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. That could be from complaining about litter in Aylesbury but are you picking it up?”

“And you don’t have to be a doctor, a nurse, a car mechanic. You can be Joe Bloggs like me.

“Our hearts were so touched by the plight. We don’t think we have the skills to make a difference but we have an education, we are so more well equipped than we think.

“It definitely was a call, Jesus calls us to love our neighbour. And here our neighbour is someone living with HIV but in Aylesbury that could be, your next door neighbour, the little old lady, who just needs a hello.”

Tim, Maz and Arron were still finding their feet in the Western Cape when they were joined by another Vale family.

Rob and Emily House, along with two-year-old Isaac and five-year-old Rosie, knew Tim and Maz from the Vale of Aylesbury Vineyard Church.

Tim said: “They came out for two weeks and thought ‘I wonder whether we could do the same?’ We were so passionate about the work that could be done that they thought ‘maybe what Tim and Maz have done isn’t as crazy as it sounds.”

Now 21, Arron continued his adventures by taking a sailing course and then boating across the Atlantic in 35 days to the USA.

He finished school at Waddesdon aged 16 before spending two years in Grabouw for an experience which Tim thinks was invaluable.

Tim said: “Sometimes it takes a life-changing moment outside of the classroom. He saw the tin shacks with no medication or running water. It built him up a bit.”

Children arrive with Tim and Maz from the Red Cross children’s hospice where they are commonly left to die with no family members around them.

It is a far cry from the Vale where Tim and Maz’s parents have lived since the 1960s. Maz had lived in Whitchurch for 46 years before the move and the couple are still renting out their home in Ashgrove Gardens.

Tim said: “It was a pretty massive decision. I gave up a job I was well paid for. I was thinking about retirement and playing golf but now I’m sitting here in a hospice where people are dying from AIDS.”

The Walkers will be back on June 14 for the Big Bucks Bike Ride - the latest fundraising event from Thembalitsha UK, which supports the Walkers’ work in South Africa.

It starts and finishes at 10am from the Aylesbury Vineyard Centre. For more information email