When Rose greets us at her door, the stern look on her face turns into a broad, caring smile. It’s the first thing I notice about her, even if I wasn’t able to capture it with my camera at any point in our meeting. Our Impact Team visiting is the first time wazungu (foreigners), have ever come to her home, and she says if she knew we were coming so soon, she would have prepared tea! After insisting that her welcoming us into her house is hospitable enough, we begin to talk about her family, how she came to find out about her HIV status and if the CARE for AIDS program is helping her.
Daniel, the Spiritual Counselor at Waithaka Center, tells us Rose always seems to be at the church. Without fail, she has been to every counseling session, empowerment seminar and Bible study since she started the CFA program 6 months ago. A few weeks ago, she became a Christian, and proudly displays her church membership certificate on the wall of her tiny 100 square foot home on the back alley of a muddy side street near the center of town.
After just a few minutes of talking with her, you can sense the equal parts of strength and compassion that Rose possesses. There is a tremble in her voice when she talks about learning of her HIV status in 2008, how her husband left her, saying, “There is no hope for you now, all that is left is for you to die”. Her daughter also left when she realized Rose’s status, not only shunning her mother, but also abandoning her daughter, Grace, leaving Rose with the doubly challenging task of trying to manage her disease and raise a grandchild with no friends, family or support system. "Isolation is hard," she says, “I had no one to turn to.”
Though the CFA program, she is able to fellowship with other HIV positive people in her neighborhood. They meet at the church to share about their struggles, help each other during hard times and celebrate life together. Rose still has a lot of challenges in life. Her hands are stiff with arthritis and she has a nagging problem with high blood pressure. Work is hard to find, but she is working for a local family part time doing laundry to help pay the bills, including 12 year old Grace’s school fees. But hope is visibly present in Rose’s life, and she’s quick to tell you about the blessings she’s found, not the hardship she faces.
Before leaving, we get the chance to pray with Rose, to thank our Creator for her caring heart, quiet grace and selfless outlook on life. I tell her how proud we are to know her, and her smile creeps back onto her face as she shyly turns away. I always feel honored when clients open up and tell their story to us, and Rose is no exception. Hers is an all too typical story that we encounter in this work, but God has given us the incredible opportunity to be a part of redeeming terrible situations into lives filled with hope, community and broad, caring smiles like Rose’s.