Meet Esther: child of God, mother of two, business owner, and a recent graduate of the CARE for AIDS program in Mathare. At the launch of Mathare’s 2018 class of clients, Esther shared with the group how the skills she learned through the program enabled her to start a business to support her family. She is making and selling soap, yogurt, and mats (used as home decor) and with her profits is able to pay school fees for her two children. By giving to CFA, you’re empowering men and women like Esther to learn skills that help them provide for their families!
"We were left out to die," says Njau. "Our family stopped caring about us when they found we were HIV-positive. They refer to us as The sick Family. We have been living our lives abandoned. Most of our family resources were taken away from us. Now we live in dire poverty and struggle to put a single meal on the table.
All this caused me to be bitter with life and I desired to inflict pain on others. At some point, I almost returned to my former life as a thug. But somehow I was afraid to die and leave my father hopeless.
My life changed after I was enrolled in the CFA program. To me, it's not just a program but a Family that loves and cares for me the way I am.
The counseling sessions have helped me cope with a lot of issues and now I love my life. In the program, I have met other men who encourage me. Now I know I can live a long life even with my condition. I have learned some skills that I and my sister can use to bring income. I have also come to love the Lord Jesus. The word of God helps me see his hand in my life.
I know God still has another plan in place for me. Your work is not in vain. I am living proof.”
In 2015, Mary Nakhungu now in her 50s and HIV-positive, made a decision to head to Nairobi from her rural home in Western Kenya. She was coming to the city to find a better life and work. When she boarded her bus she didn't know that was about to be a turning point in her life.
Seated next to her, was a stranger, a man she had never met before in her life. When she narrated her story to me she referred to this man as bishop Earnest. Somewhere along the way, the bishop received a phone call and the person on the other end of the call was making inquiries on where to find help with HIV orphans. The conversation went on and on and it caught Mary's attention, she started overhearing-this time paying attention to everything the bishop was talking about. When the bishop was finished with his call Mary couldn't wait to take the bold step to engage a total stranger. She introduced herself to the bishop. After breaking the ice she got into her main question.
She told him that she overheard him talking over the phone earlier and she couldn't help but realize that he was in the business of helping people living with HIV. She told the bishop that she needed help, and he told her that he knew of an organization she should connect with. They exchanged phone numbers and their conversation ended. They both went their way when the got to their respective destinations.
Days later Mary received a call and the voice on the other end was the bishop. He kept his word! Mary was astonished. He told her that he would connect her with the organization he told her about. It was then that he asked her to call a phone number of one of the employees of that organization.
Mary called the number later and the voice on the other side said..." Hello, this is Fred, CARE for AIDS. How can I help you?"
She joined the program in Githurai in 2015 and her life changed drastically. She became physically healthy and was connected with a community of people who she remains close with today. She learned marketable skills that allow her to earn a living, and she faces her future with confidence.
Esther* was the youngest client in the 2016 class in Githurai. She was 20 years old when she joined the program and has known about her HIV status for years. When Esther was a little girl she was sexually abused by a relative who lived in the community near her family home. Traumatized by this abuse, she began sleeping with multiple men in her teen years and eventually found that she was HIV-positive. When she entered the program she was extremely depressed and harbored a great deal of resentment toward her former abuser. A few months into the program Esther confided to Rose (the center’s Health Counselor) that she was planning on contacting the man who had abused her when she was a child and meeting up with him. Her goal was to infect him with HIV. She felt that this was the only way she could feel peace after all she had been through- she wanted to cause him as much pain as he had caused her.
When Rose heard Esther’s plan she pleaded with her to reconsider. After hours of conversation with Rose and Frederick that same day, Esther accepted Christ for the first time. Esther ended up not contacting her former abuser. Thanks to the extensive trauma-informed counseling she receieved thorught the nine-month program, Esther began to heal from her hurt and resentment. She is an active member of the church, and we are excited to see the Lord continue to work in her life.
*Esther is not the client’s real name. Because of the sensitive nature of her story, we would like to keep her identity confidential.
Several years ago, Mary fell ill. Her husband had left her with their three young children, so she asked her sister to accompany her to the hospital. At the hospital that day, the doctor told her she was HIV-positive. Mary was devastated.
When her family found out, they rejected her. When she tried to visit their rural home, her brother beat her and didn't allow her to share a meal or even drink from the same water source as the rest of the family.
After being rejected by family, Mary moved to the Githurai community with her children. She began to collect plastic bottles to resell for income. She barely made enough money for her family to survive and she and her children often went 2 or 3 days in a row without food.
Mary learned about the CARE for AIDS program from other clients at the clinic where she got her medication. She joined the program in Githurai at the beginning of 2018. When she began the program, she still had a lot of internalized-stigma and shame because of her HIV status. Through the counseling she received in the program, she has found a new sense of pride and purpose. She has regained her confidence and is now willing to talk freely with close friends, her children, and people in the church about her status.
Mary has learned a variety of skills in the program- her favorites were business marketing and cake baking. She attends a savings group in hopes of having enough money to start her own business baking and selling cakes and samosas soon. Mary's life has changed completely since joining the program and she is now able to support her children and live a life full of confidence and hope.
Henry is a 47-year-old father of five. He joined the CARE for AIDS program at Central Baptist Church in 2017 after being fired from his job as a waiter at a hotel in Kisumu Town. Complications and opportunistic infection related to his HIV status made him too weak to work, and he was struggling to make ends meet. When he joined the program, he told Ann, the center’s Health Counselor, that he had been experiencing searing pain in one of his legs since 2007, and the pain was becoming unbearable. Ann immediately took Henry to a local hospital to get his leg checked, and he was prescribed a medication that helped ease his pain. Ann guided Henry through the process of enrolling in the Kenyan National Hospital Insurance Fund, and now he is able to regularly visit the doctor and receive prescription medication without fear of bankrupting his family. Henry graduated in March of 2018 and is thriving. He now sells produce at a small kiosk in town and is able to make enough money to support his children.
Isaac was born HIV-positive. He never met his parents and he assumes they died of HIV-related causes when he was a baby. His two older brothers raised him and an uncle paid his way through most of school. Isaac is now 18 years old. He has not yet finished high school but is working as a cook and saving money so he can go back to finish his last two years.
When Isaac joined the CARE for AIDS program in January this year, he was underweight and malnourished. Our staff soon found out that, because of the stigma he felt, Isaac had stopped taking his ARV medication. A few of the CARE for AIDS staff pitched in money to sponsor Isaac at a 2-week camp in Kijabe for young adults living with HIV/AIDS. Isaac was so weak at this point he could not even carry his own bag. Jude, one of the staff of Mathare center, carried his bags and accompanied him on the journey to Kijabe to drop him off for camp.
Tragically, a large section of the Mathare community burned down in a fire soon after Isaac returned from camp. A stove exploded in one of the homes and quickly spread. Isaac’s home was one of the hundreds that burned completely to the ground. Overnight, Isaac was homeless.
Isaac was one of three clients in the CARE for AIDS program in Mathare who had their homes destroyed in the fire. The center staff purchased a few weeks worth of supplies for each client. Isaac is pictured alongside the goods provided to him by CARE for AIDS when he received them in January.
After recovering from the shock of the fire and implementing some confidence skills he learned at camp, Isaac started his ARV treatment again and his health began to improve. He has attended each counseling session and empowerment workshop throughout the eight months he has been in the CARE for AIDS program and Jude does weekly check-ins to ensure he is adhering to his medicine. As you can tell from his most recent photo, he is gaining weight and strength again! His viral load is now undetectable and his immune system is healthy.
When Zihurra found that she was HIV-positive, she wanted to die. Her husband had left her to care for their 1-month old baby alone, and she had no way of making money. She was lonely and feared for her son's future. Her anxiety about the future overtook her life, and she stopped taking her ARV medication. She quickly became very sick. Eventually, her sickness drove her to the local clinic, where she was referred to the CARE for AIDS program at Christ Church Tassia.
When she first joined the program, Zihurra's viral load was high and her immune system was weak. She told the center counselors truth about not taking her medications, but that she was ready to change and that she wanted to get better. She wanted to live and be the one to raise her son.
Zihurrah now has many new friends who she shares life with. She is an active member of a savings group, and she now fellowships at Christ Church. After hearing the Gospel from Dominic, Tassia Center's Spiritual Counselor, she accepted Christ as her personal savior. Zihurra celebrated her graduation from the program in mid-November, and she has a great deal of hope for the future of her family.
Rose found out she was HIV-positive back in 1996. At that time, ARV medication was not free in Kenya and she could not afford the prescription each month. In 2008, when the government began to subsidize the cost of ARV medications and offer them for free to people living with HIV, Rose began taking the medication.
Rose joined the CARE for AIDS program in Mathare this year after being referred by the local clinic. After being in the program for a few months, Jude and Joan (Spiritual and Health Counselors at Mathare Center) noticed that she rarely spoke and that, when she did, she often mentioned a severe pain in her legs. She wasn’t able to stand for long periods of time and was visibly uncomfortable most of the time. After talking with her about these things during counseling, Rose described her pain as “fire in the bones of my legs and a burning in my throat.” She confessed that she even had trouble sleeping because of this pain.
Joan took Rose to the hospital to have both her throat and legs examined. The doctor diagnosed Rose with arthritis in her legs and prescribed medication to help with the pain. The doctor also ordered an endoscopy for Rose’s throat and quickly realized her pain was simply a severe acid reflux.
Her pain in her throat and legs immediately calmed after taking her arthritis medication along with some antacid, and she is now able to sleep through the night for the first time in years.
Rose is now strong enough to care for her granddaughter, Faith. Faith is also HIV-positive and Rose has been sharing everything she learns in the program with her. They are both connected to a community through CARE for AIDS and they are excited to continue learning and growing together.
Beatrice is a client at Ngando center. She is 40 years old and has one 18-year-old son. After finding out her HIV status over a year, Beatrice’s husband left her. She’s been adhering to her ARV medication since finding out her status and her health has improved. Beatrice currently lives with her 5 siblings. After the passing of their parents, life was difficult for many of her siblings, so they are living together to support and encourage one another.
Beatrice is a self-employed seamstress. She’s been doing this work since her son was born 18 years ago. She now has her own shop where she works and sells the clothes that she makes. Business goes up and down in different seasons, and she’s grateful for what she’s been able to learn from the CARE for AIDS seminars that she can use to improve her business, even in the slow times. She’s learned creative ways to market herself through the Business Creativity seminar and she’s also learned smart new ways to save money through the Budgeting and Saving seminar. She knows that from what she’s learned she’ll be able to get more clients, expand her business and save more money so that she can continue to support herself and her siblings.
Beatrice is currently working on a dress for Jennifer, the health counselor at Ngando and a suit for Nicholas, the spiritual counselor. She is grateful for all the counseling and support they have given her already through the CARE for AIDS program. She has a renewed hope and joy for life because of the program. We are excited to see the outfits that Beatrice designs and creates for them!
Alice and Ann are sisters. Together, they joined the CARE for AIDS program in Waithaka in 2015. Not long after enrollment, Ann had a stroke and had to drop out of the program; half of her body had been paralyzed. Her sister, Alice, unfortunately, wasn’t much better off. She struggled with an alcohol addiction and was drinking every day. She continued to participate in the CARE for AIDS program, but would often show up to the church drunk for her counseling sessions and group seminars. Alice was resistant to the Gospel at first, but slowly her heart softened. The teachings she heard at the CARE for AIDS program would stay with her and she would reflect on them for hours once she returned home. She would listen to the testimonies and transformational stories of others in the program and was encouraged that she, too, could change. Alice came to know Christ as her personal savior during her time in the CARE for AIDS program. She graduated as a very different woman than when she began the program nine months prior. “My life was completely transformed,” she says.
Knowing how the testimonies of others had impacted her life, Alice began sharing her testimony. One of the people she shared her story with was her cousin Priscilla. After learning that her cousin was also HIV-positive, Alice encouraged Priscilla to join the CARE for AIDS program. When Priscilla joined the program at Waithaka last year, she was bedridden. While she was in the program, Priscilla came to know Christ as her personal savior. She also received medical and nutritional assistance and when she graduated in December of 2017 she was able to walk and dance with her fellow graduates in celebration.
Ann has slowly recovered from her stroke paralysis in 2015. She is fully mobile again and the only thing still affected is one of her hands, which keeps her from being able to grasp things like pens, utensils or cups. Having dropped out of the program in 2015, Ann re-enrolled in the program at Waithaka in March of this year. Since she’s not able to write, Alice joins her for all of the activities at the center to take notes for her. Alice is also relearning some of the skills alongside her sister. They hold one another accountable in taking their medication, saving their earnings, and practicing the skills they learn.