April 12, 2011 11:22:00 AM
Editor''s note: This is the third of three articles by Karen Overstreet detailing her 17-day visit to Kenya where she worked in an orphanage partially supported by Global Connections, a nonprofit created by the Puckett family of Columbus.
I must tell you about our visits to the home of the women who are HIV/AIDS positive. We went along with the counselors of the Care for AIDS organization. They do not have cars, so we walked on cobbled hillsides to five women''s homes in the nearby village. Each team had a man with them for protection and the people in the village know the counselors, so having them with Wazungu (white people) was taken better.
The best way to describe this experience is one visit at a time.
Lucy is a mother to a newborn baby and school-age children and a 17-year-old daughter, who has graduated from Form 4 (high school). Lucy''s husband has no job. She is praying that he and her daughter get a job soon. The counselor, Eunice, says Lucy is very faithful to the Care for Aids Program. She attends the weekly spiritual one-on-one counseling and health education classes. Also, she is working with a counselor to discover a means of supporting herself through some cottage industry.
She is very careful not the tell anyone that she has AIDS, for she will be shunned. Her home is much nicer than the next three we went to. Hers is a two-room apartment about 12x12 total space for six of them. She has electricity, but the government had turned off the electricity in the whole area. The government cuts off the electricity to save money, no warning, no explanation. We talked with her through a translator and prayed for her and moved on to the next visit.
We then went to the worst habitats we have visited yet. Tiny hovels, dirt floors and walls, no electricity, no plumbing. Children in the dirt, just like the ones on TV, snotty noses and eating off the dirt floor. One baby had a garbage bag for a diaper.
Ann used to work at a gas station, but she had a stroke three years ago. Her left arm and hand are useless. Her son, Dennis, is 13 and does everything for his mother, washing, cleaning and going to the market. He is a good boy, the counselor says. When we got there, he ran from house to house borrowing stools for us to sit on. (It is a big deal to have Wazungu to your house and our visit was unplanned.) When we asked why Dennis was not at school, the counselor said he was required to take the National Exam and Ann did not have the $6 required to take it. We paid the exam fee.
Friends from home had given me over $1,100 to distribute at my discretion. With those funds I was able to purchase two much needed and appreciated bicycles for workers at LCC. I was also able to pay a year''s tuition for a special needs child to attend a special school for developmentally delayed children. I was amazed by the impact of what we consider a nominal amount of money could have on people''s lives.
A beautiful lady
Finally, we climbed a huge hill to a beautiful place, probably six acres of land, well-kept and planted with corn, sukuma (like spinach), and potatoes. Jane came running out of her house to welcome us. The house was the nicest of the five we visited, still dirt floors, tin wall and roof. Jane inherited this land from her mother, so she has no rent or mortgage.
She has used every inch of it to provide for her family. She sells these vegetables at market. She just got a cow who will give milk to sell. She has two school age children and a daughter who is married and nearby. She, too, has told no one she has the disease, no one but her daughter.
Jane is so dynamic. She was the most joy-filled Christian, spilling over with love and gratitude. She was so open that we asked her how she felt when she learned just a year ago she was infected. She said she was upset for a little while, but then she said she remembered that God gave her life and He could be trusted to take her at the right time. "It is my job to make this time I have as profitable to God as possible."
She fills in for her pastor to preach when he must be away. She is a beautiful lady. Her prayer request was that she is trying to get paperwork to show she owns this land, but it must go through the legal system here and there are many papers be signed and much to be done. I was glad we ended with her visit. So refreshing, like drinking cool water from a well.
Now home and back into my daily routine, I think often of the dear people on the other side of the world who opened their lives to us for a short time. While we were able to help them in significant ways, the experience has enriched us, their so-called benefactors, beyond measure. I am forever changed.