Disorientation and Shattered Dreams
‘I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost. I felt betrayed. I just wanted to die,’ these were the words Ms Christine Nakachwa used to describe her reaction after discovering that she was HIV positive. Christine, a widow with five children had just lost her husband to HIV. Her sense of betrayal and anger was compounded by the fact that that her husband knew his status, but kept quiet about it and went on to get ART treatment in secrecy. Perhaps privy to the cause of her husband’s death, some of her late husband’s friends advised her to take her children for an HIV test. Smelling something fishy, she decided to take the HIV test first. That is when her world fell apart. She agonized and was distressed, yet she knew she had to keep strong and fend for her children.
To make ends meet, she hit the streets and slums of Kampala to gather scrap for sale. She worked from sunset to sunrise, but she still couldn’t afford a decent living for her family. Often, they had one meal a day, and sometimes they would have to do with just porridge. Life became extremely difficult for her and her family. Besides struggling to literally put food on the table, there were other demands – school fees, clothing, rent and other basics. She had to start making some really painful and difficult decisions. Martin Mugarura, her son, who was in Senior Two had to drop out of school to join her in the ‘scrap for sale’ scavenging. It was something she had to agree on with Martin to quit school so as to redeem school fees for the younger siblings. Scavenging through areas of Mutungo for scrap, Martin had to duck now and then to avoid being seen by his former school mates as they went to school. For him, it was such a dehumanizing experience and his dreams of studying hard and helping to take care of his mother and his siblings was steadily becoming just that – a distant impossible dream.
A new lease of life
In 2012, MJAP extended its OVC service to Butabika Hospital which is one the MJAP supported clinics. Christine heard of the service, and she decided to give it a try. She was not sure that she would get enrolled because the demand for the service was too high. None the less, she registered at the clinic, went through the assessment process and then later had to patiently wait for the outcome. A few weeks later, she jumped up in joy on getting the news that she had been enrolled to the MJAP OVC program. Her prayer had been answered. After getting onto the program, she started receiving partial payment of the children’s School fees, Scholastic materials, some dry food supplements, trainings in Income Generating Activities (IGAs) and basic business skills.
MJAP social workers continued to offer psychosocial support to her. From the psychosocial sessions, her mind got unblocked and she started looking to the future. She realized that continuing to live in the slums of Kampala was not sustainable. For example, MJAP provided seeds for cultivation but she was unable to benefit because she had nowhere to cultivate, yet she had some piece of land lying idle in her village. She began looking at new possibilities and eventually the social workers helped her make a decision to leave Kampala. She made her new home somewhere along Mityana road. At her new home, she started receiving seeds from the MJAP OVC program. She grew some seeds Maize, Beans and Vegetable seeds like Carrots, eggplants, Dodo, Green Pepper that she got from MJAP and planted in this piece of land. In a short while, the burden of feeding her family was lessened. She was also able to now get a balanced diet.
She kept regular contact with the social workers and that is how she learnt of the MJAP apprenticeship program opportunity. She applied for her son to join. For Martin, the news was too good to be true. He only truly believed after doing the assessment. The most exciting bit however was that he would be able to support his mother and siblings. He also felt good because he would be able to meet and talk to his OBs and OGs without fear or shame and also wake up every morning to doing something descent. He pledged do this course to his best and promised never to let his mother down for the love she showed to him when she went out to look for support to help him live a better life. The OVC team continued to support this family with the CPAs that the MJAP OVC offers.
She is now a much happier woman, who gets all the meals in the day, healthier since she is no longer sickly and worried about the simple things in life. She also gets enough time to rest which she never had from her previous job of picking scrap and she meets all her appointments at the Clinic since she can meet her transport costs.
Christine and her family are full of praise for the donors through MJAP who have generously helped to improve her life and that of her children. She is also grateful to MJAP as an Organization for committing itself to support people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS a job it has done so well through a well trained staff both at the Clinics and the OVC Program. She believes that her life will never be the same as before and she looks forward to a brighter future for children.
Story told by; JosephineSanyu.
OVC Social Worker, Kampala.