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Empowered against HIV/AIDS

“When I discovered I was HIV positive, I knew I had to work extra hard to take care of my family” says 40 year old Harriet Kisenyi, a Nalongo (mother of twins).

That was more than 15 years ago and she thought her days on earth were limited. She started receiving treatment at Mulago Hospital and was later linked to Makerere University Joint AIDS Program. She would soon release that her HIV status had not affected her ability to work and better her life.

However, she had limited resources and children to take care of. She had three children before she met and married to Robert Kisenyi, who had four children of his own. Together they have two children bringing the total of children they have to take care of to nine. Through her frequent visits to the MJAP ISS clinic in Mulago, she found out about MJAP’s support for orphans and vulnerable children. Four of her children were enrolled onto the MJAP program.

MJAP has taken steps in helping Orphans and Vulnerable Children affected by HIV through providing HCT; HIV care and treatment for those infected, household economic strengthening (HES); parenting skills, psychosocial support, provision of information on child rights and protection, counseling and career guidance, and facilitation of access to education through provision of school materials.

To ensure sustainability and self-reliance of the families, MJAP started supports care givers of OVCs in setting up long-lasting income generating activities that can be managed by the orphans or their care givers.

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Harriet and Robert were lucky to benefit from this program, one year ago when they received 20 local chicken from MJAP. Through resilience and hard work, one year later, Harriet and Robert have over 400 chicken housed in premises owned by their neighbor and landlady who has been kind enough to also house some of their children at no extra cost. They get 4 trays of eggs every day and make a profit of UGX 80,000 per week.

Harriet and Robert have weathered the storm and are able to pay school fees for their children, provide their basic needs, and pay their transport to the hospital to receive their medication. Speaking during an income generating activity (IGA) training for care givers of OVCs under MJAP, the couple clearly demonstrated that they have become experts in poultry keeping and are willing to help other people on the program also earn income from the same. Richard Kilonzo, the OVC Program Coordinator at MJAP was one of the people that delivered the 20 chicken to Harriet and Robert’s home. He recalls leaving the chicken in a makeshift shelter and praying that it survives.

“The story of Harriet and Robert is an inspiration that what we are doing is indeed relevant and beneficial to our clients. They have demonstrated that you can achieve more with less and I urge all our caregivers to learn a thing or two from them,” Richard says. Hard work and corporation have seen the couple succeed.

“When I delivered the chicken, we actually handed them over to Harriet. Today I am proud that both Harriet and Robert are working together to improve their livelihoods,” Richard adds.

MJAP’s IGA training program that aims to empower caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children infected and affected by HIV economically has played a vital role in preventing beneficiaries from being vulnerable to HIV infection and other social problems. The project has benefited …caregivers that previously had no source of income. Today they are involved in activities like poultry keeping, small scale retail trading, agriculture and mobile money business.