Devastation of AIDS
Today God took us to see first hand how HIV/AIDS has had a devestating impact on families. He showed us this in two families of people we love. We left Eldoret heading for the next concert in Siaya district. Siaya is in Kisumu – Nyanza region which is the second largest region in Kenya after the Rift valley region. The HIV/Aids rate here is 15.3% – the highest in Kenya. I didn’t tell you yet that we have a TV, radio reporter with us called Elly. We met him during the last Eldoret sports mission. He is a young Christian man who works for Sayare, a Christian TV, radio station which partners with GOD TV. He loves the worship team and is marketing their CD now from their station. He also likes the work of Partners for Care. He joined us on the bus and he will be producing a feature story for TV on the What If? Concert tour. He was with us yesterday recording by video as we met and saw first hand AIDS in Kisumu. Pastor Omondi had earlier asked me if we could stop to deliver Christmas gifts to a widow group he helped form and had been helping in his rural home Ugunja town in Siaya district Nyanza province which is highly infected with HIV. We bought bar soaps, kangas (wraps), sanitary pads in Eldoret before we left for the visit. Our tour started well though the group members looked tired from their previous performance, they were excited to get to Siaya. The journey wasn’t that easy as anticipated by many. We travaced through hills, valleys, poor unpaved dusty roads. In about four hours we arrived in Ugunja where we met this wonderful group of women called Widows ‘Moyie’. meaning “widows who have accepted their status and are ready to move on with life” It was fun to watch Pastor Omondi’s excitement at the anticipation of delivering the small gifts we brought them. There are 20 members in total, and 14 of them were present..The widows had gathered and waited for us in a small hotel in the rural area in the outskirts of Ugunja town.
When we arrived and greeted the widows, Pastor Omondi introduced them. He introduced the organizer of the group and said, “this is Eunice my sister”. Eunice is also a widow and has four children of her own to take care of. It was then that I realized that is why he had helped with this group – Eunice his sister is infected. Pastor Omondi had co-ordinated with her to start the group. The purpose of the group is to find ways in which the widows in the area can become self reliant and earn a living and boldly carry the message of HIV prevention to the community. Most of these widows are deserted and stigmatised because of their status. Many of them are infected with HIV. They need someone to show love just as we did. It was difficult to understand how many tribulalions they were going through. The question that kept running through my head was, “What If? there was someone to stand with them when they needed help the most? What made me cry is that these women have no one to turn to when in real need. Worst is that they have either children or grandchildren to provide for regardless of their health status. “That is what touched my heart and I felt the need to do this” says Pastor Omondi. As a group, they practice small scale farming, work in people’s farms, sewing children’s clothes with a machine which Pastor Omondi bought for them. They were all dressed so beautifully and most appeared healthy in spite of their povery, the hardships in their life and the diseases they suffered from: AIDS, TB, malaria. We gave them their gifts and they loved them but mostly, they loved meeting the Partners for Care staff. We gave them bracelets written “Remember Me” as we told them we would remember them as they remembered us. The Temples of Worship sang Remember Me for them before we left. We promised to visit them again. Next we went to Nick’s family ‘boma’ (small piece of land with houses for family members) or what is left of it. Nick the first born in his father’s family was born in Thika a town a few hours drive from Nairobi the capital. The family moved to Mathare the second largest slum in Nairobi after Kibera slums but his family is from the village of Ligega in Nyanza. His grandmother has lost 10 of her 12 children – many to AIDS. Nick stood and introduced all of us to his grandmother. He told us how death stole his whole family. He told us at one time he used to come home for Christmas to a large family. Now it is just his grandmother and the children left behind. So many children – orphaned. Nick had ealier this year taken six of the children to community Transformers rescue center in Mathare so he could raise them. He told how he had to choose some of the children because he couldn’t take them all. The last orphan from the deaths in this family is little 2-year old Elizabeth who has AIDS. Her daddy died four months ago. She now lives in the rescue center. Nick’s grandmother humbly served us tea and bread and roasted corn cooked outside over an open fire. We brought her food – Nick had said that was best gift we could give her.
Charles is the the co-director with Nick of Community Transformers. He too grow up in Mathare. Nick and Charles did not know their families lived in walking distance from each other until after they began to work together helping people infected with HIV/AIDs. We were able to walk to see Charles’ father. We called Charles on the phone so he could speak with his dad. His dad has been sick for several months. He had refused to test for HIV the last time Charles was here. I assessed him the best I could with my limited nursing skills. His left leg is swollen and painful with an open sore. I suspected he has cellulitis. The best was for him to go to the clinic. We arranged for transport on a motor bike and for someone to take him. The team left funds for him to be transported and assessed at the clinic. He agreed to test. Faced with this challange of how to help not only their families but other families Nick and Charles have started Community Transformers here in their village. They have identified volunteer leaders and trained them on how to run Community Transformers. It was very humbling to see these young leaders in this village devastated by AIDS trying to transform their village.. Just like Community Transformers in Mathare they have organized volunteers to visit those infected with HIV/AIDS. They are seeing 15 clients. And just like Community Transformers they have an afternoon program for children to tutor them in their studies. They have reached into the schools teaching a program called “Choosing to Wait”. At the conclusion of this program cross necklaces are given to those young people who choose to wait. We saw a young girl with her necklace – she has chosen to wait. Does she knows how important her decision is? The change begins with her. She is begining the transformation that will occur in this village as other young men and women choose to live pure for God. They can create an HIV-generation. We left in the dark travelling on to our hotel in Siaya. Nick and Charles have taken their anger at the disease of HIV/AIDS, their compassion for those infected and affected and moved to action – to do something to change this next generation. I envision a time once again when Nick can go home for Christmas to many people celebrating the birth of Christ. Please continue to pray for us as we complete the What If? concerts. Pray we stay strong both physically and spiritually as we focus on the mission. Fighting the disease of HIV/AIDS, Connie
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