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Story Time :)

June 22, 2011

It is said that it takes two weeks to either break or form
a habit. I say it takes a month. I woke up Monday morning ready for
the week and excited for day to come! I have developed a project that
focuses on building sustainable small businesses for HIV positive
children in Peer Support Groups living in two different sub-counties.
I have the opportunity to visit all of the members in their schools
and visit homes to meet their guardians. Over 70% of these children
are total orphans and they are all HIV positive. Being in their homes
and spending the day with each child has shown me first hand how much
of a struggle a single day can be. I decided to do this post a little
differently than my previous ones. Instead of describing a daily life
here being followed by children, piglets and goats, I want to share
the stories of some of the truly inspiring people I have met here in
the past month. And sorry in advance for terrible writing! Enjoy ☺

TEO’S FAMILY (Picture #1)
Teo is a17 years old, HIV positive, beautiful girl in seconday-4 at a
school in the Bisanje sub-county. When I went to visit Teo’s home I
was greeted by a cheery 85-year-old women holding a baby. She was so
grateful to have Kitovu visit and insisted that I sit on nicest chair
in the room. She explained that she and her sister, who was in the
next room, had no children of their own, but had taken in the children
of their family members that had died from AIDS. Currently they are
taking care of four children. They only know Teo’s status, but judging
by the appearance and heavy breathing of the baby, she thought that
the baby might be positive as well. After a wonderful and heartfelt
conversation, I was brought to meet this women’s 96-year-old sister.
She was lying on the floor on a mattress with a huge smile on her
face. She explained that she hasn’t been able to walk for six years
and is blind in one eye. She suspects that she has polio, but
exclaimed “ My arms still work, and I have one good eye, so I’m fine!”
I had a strong connection with this woman for some reason. We spent
about 45 minutes together holding each other’s hands and communicating
without speaking the same language. She was fascinated with my skin
and I couldn’t help but laugh every time she held my face. I know I
will never forget this time with her. For the first time I saw a
person with actual wisdom. It was an indescribable feeling, but she
made me so comfortable. These two elderly women let the orphans live
with them, they feed them and sell crafts to pay for their school
fees. But Teo and her ‘siblings’ have learned from example and work
equally as hard to bring home what they can and contribute as much as
possible to the fees.

BRIAN (Picture #2 – at his school)
I have to admit that this little man is my favorite. He is so focused
and determined to make a profit from his crafts, he discusses
materials as if he were investing in the stock market. He was living
with his uncle after both of his parents died of AIDS, but soon after
his uncle passed away. He is left living with his uncle’s wife, her
three children, and his younger brother. The part that got to me the
most was when his aunt explained to me that she got Brian and his
brother tested and found that Brian was HIV positive yet his brother
was not. This is a child that you can tell will succeed. He showed me
his report card and is 5th in his class of 30! He was so proud!! When
I told him that we were going to give him some materials to help him
learn what to do with a profit, he just kept saying “thank you, thank
you, thank you madam!” He handed me jack -fruit and sugar cane as I
left and waved until we couldn’t see him anymore. He attended the
first workshop loaded with small crafts to sell and looked so proud
when I bought a broom from him. Not sure exactly what to do with it,
but its helped keep the spiders in my room at bay!

BRENDA & JOAN’S FAMILY (Picture #3- 8 children not pictured!)
Brenda and Joan are both HIV positive, total orphans that live with
two women who care for their 6 children and 12 additional orphans!
They had to move to one of their brother’s house (2-room house)
because their large house left by one of the husbands was wrecked
during a windstorm, and is in the way of a new road that is being
built. They never asked once for money, food or clothing. They simply
introduced me to all 18 children, showed me their pigs and explained
that problems they encounter having enough room for all the children.
In American terms, this family has nothing, but they were all SO happy
to play and show me around. It takes such strong women to take on so
many orphans, but they explained it is because they have nowhere to do
and that “God would want them to help.” I could go on and on about
this family, but I feel like the picture shows it all!!

ISAIAH (Picture #4)
Isaiah is 15 years old; he is the one in the pink shirt. He ran into
the house when I asked to take a picture to put on his best shirt. I
couldn’t believe he was that old judging by his stature, but my
facilitator explained that he was malnourished as a child and HIV
positive so his growth has been permanently stunted. He hasn’t been in
school for the last five years because he hasn’t been able to gather
enough money for school fees. He lives with his aunt; she is in the
center of the picture. Still, even with everything working against
him, he has planted on a small portion of his aunt’s property and
sells his goods. With the profit he has bought chickens and is hoping
to afford a pig soon. He gave me a mini tour of his garden as we ate
mangos from his tree. He explained what he wants to do with his life
and how it has been having HIV his entire life. He was so positive and
determined to find a solution.

JOYCE (Picture #4- the one on the right holding her groups box. They
put 100 shillings in each at every meeting- equivalent to about 9
cents. They haven’t decided yet when to open the box, but they keep
records of their payments and have group rules and even a little
mission statement!!!)
Last one, I’ll make it short! Joyce is 12 and in Primary-4. Out of
her siblings she is the only one that is HIV positive by way of
mother-to-child transmission. As a result her father refuses to pay
her school fees (while paying all 4 of the others) because he believes
there is no point in supporting a child that he think will die soon.
It was really hard to watch Joyce’s face as her father walked in and
introduces himself to me. You could tell it really affects her. Her
mother, on the other hand, is completely committed to Joyce and works
with Kitvou mobile, and by selling her personal crops to pay for the
school fees. Joyce is also part of an excellent peer support group
with two other girls her age. They are very official with their
business and work hard planting crops, selling produce and they are
looking into investing in more hens. It obvious that she’s had to grow
up faster than everyone.

Sorry for the non-action packed stories, but these are real people
living day to day!! They are amazing and truly beyond inspiring!!!
Being with them really makes you put your life in perspective and see
what your priorities should actually be. I wouldn’t trade these
experiences for anything.
– Margot ☺

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