“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world” -Malala Yousafzai
Marion is six years old. Her face is set with a determined, confident, “don’t mess with me” expression. Occasionally, she breaks into a smile, but she turns away and covers her face to hide it. Normally, Kenyan children start going to school at age three. Marion had watched all of her friends going to school and desperately wished to join them. For three years, she was unable to go to school because of her mom’s financial situation.
Grace is Marion’s mom. She is twenty six years old and a mother of four. In 2009, when Grace was pregnant with Marion, she discovered that she was HIV positive. She told her husband, and he went to get tested and found that he was also positive. They both reacted as well as they could, and started taking their treatment and encouraged each other that they could still live a long, full life. Unfortunately, the stress and the shame got to be too much for Grace’s husband. He started drinking and stopped taking his medication regularly. He started getting sick, and in 2010, he passed away leaving Grace with two children.
According to the tradition of her tribe, Grace became the wife of her brother-in-law. In this case, all that meant was that he was now responsible for taking care of her and her children. In the years after the death of her husband, Grace gave birth to two more children. This angered the brother-in-law and he stopped providing for her. She started to struggle even to find food to eat, and her oldest son was sent to live with his uncle. Marion was unable to go to school and stayed home to help run the household and take care of her younger siblings.
Grace was doing as well as she could as a single mother with no income living with HIV. She was going to the clinic regularly to get her treatment, she would do whatever she could to get money to keep her children fed, and she was proactive in seeking out other women who were living with HIV to find friendship and emotional support. One thing that gave Grace stress and sorrow was that she was unable to educate her daughter. All their money had to go to rent and food.
A few months ago, Grace was looking for an HIV support group and heard about a program at the Baptist Church in Mamboleo. She visited the church and met CARE for AIDS staff members Frednant and Lucy. Grace immediately enrolled in the program.
Among the many benefits from the program, Grace was excited about the food packets she received, as it meant she could put aside money to eventually send Marion to school.
A month into the program, Frednant and Lucy came to Grace’s home for the monthly home visits. As they were talking, Frednant noticed Marion and asked her age. Realizing that she was of school age and at home, he asked what the situation was. Upon learning Grace’s financial situation and about the situation with her brother-in-law, Frednant was moved with compassion.
In Kenya, school fees are paid monthly, but there is a high initial cost for books and uniform and a one-time enrollment fee. Frednant asked Grace if she would be able to pay the monthly fees if someone helped her with the initial cost. She said yes. The initial cost is what was keeping her from enrolling Marion in school.
Frednant wanted to help out, but also wanted to make sure that Grace and Marion were in a better, sustainable position. He encouraged Grace to reach out to the brother-in-law and attempt to reconcile with him. He suggested that she ask him to provide money for the books or uniform, and Frednant would provide the rest of the initial costs. After Grace agreed to this, they prayed together and Frednant and Lucy left.
Next time they saw Grace, she had the good news that her brother-in-law’s heart and softened and he was impressed with her efforts to get help through the CARE for AIDS program and he was happy to hear that someone was wiling to help out with school costs for Marion. He agreed to the deal and also committed to renewing his support for her and her children.
Just a few weeks ago, Marion proudly put on her blue Primary School uniform. She walked proudly to school accompanied by her mom, Frednant, and Lucy. Frednant took a “first day of school” picture at the gate. The CFA family is so proud of Marion in going to get her education.
Our goal at CARE for AIDS is orphan prevention. This does not end at keeping parents from death. We want the children of HIV to be healthy, to be educated, to be loved and to rise above what most of the world sees as a hopeless, helpless situation.
When clients come to a CFA center, they are not just coming to a counseling session or an empowerment seminar. They are coming into a community. They are being welcomed in the church, into the family of God. What Frednant and Lucy did was above and beyond their job description as CFA counselors, but it was natural for them as members of the family of God reaching out to the needy. This is what the church is supposed to be. This is part of the vision of CFA and why we partner with local churches.
Thanks to the love and dedication of our staff for their clients, Grace has been empowered. She has been reconciled with her brother-in-law and is now in a more stable financial situation, and her daughter is now being educated. This is truly something to celebrate.