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The Road Less Traveled By Serving to systematically document my travels on my journey to self-disovery. In reality, thoughts, musing, and experiences as I attempt to travel to as many worldly destinations as possible.

Day 1: Working With HIV/AIDS Program

KENYA | Sunday, 17 February 2013 | Views [602]

So, here I am, in Nairobi, Kenya! I ended up getting in around 10:30 pm. There, I was picked up by an N.V.S. [National Volunteer Services] employee named George. He was fantastic, giving me and the one other volunteer who had arrived a bottle of water, a roll of toilet paper, and keeping us entertained on the drive to our temporary accommodation. Walking in, the first person that I met was another volunteer, and Irish woman named Carrie. She helped me with my obscene amount of luggage and then, as she was departing in an hour, imparted to me all of her knowledge and tricks for getting around. As I was still on airplane time, I ended up waking up about once an hour until I finally just dragged myself out of bed at 5 am. The sun rises early in Kenya, so sleeping late is difficult.

In the morning, I went with some other volunteers to their placement, as my orientation was not until the next day. The few girls left were involved in the HIV/AIDS program. As our housing was a pastor’s house located on a slum road, we had to walk down it to get to the bus stop. The traffic was crazy!! In Kenya, there are no stoplights or road signs – everyone just walks when they please and cars come barely an inch from pedestrians and other vehicles alike!

After making it to the main road, we got on a bus to get to the office where we would begin work with the program. Here, we were told that we would be going to the homes of 3 different women suffering from HIV. In Kenya, the government provides free drugs to inhibit the progression of HIV for all who carry it. However, it is still seen as a death sentence in Kenya – many give up living, despite the ability to live a relatively healthy life, and in some areas can be ostracized from their community.

The first woman that we visited was inspirational. Along with HIV, she also had a son with a mental disorder, who had to remain in the hospital. She explained that she could not take him out of the hospital without paying, but she also did not have enough money to visit him. Like many in Kenya, she made her living washing clothes for others, not lucrative enough to even make rent. Despite all of her difficulties, she welcomed us into her home as friends, and laughed with us and shared her story. She was incredible.

The next woman that we visited was 25 years old and living in a one-roomed “house” made of the cheap iron sheets commonly used for housing in Africa. It was so small the director of the program had to stand outside while the 6 volunteers crowded around. Her husband had died of the disease, and she had given birth to her third child, a daughter, a mere 6 days ago.  She had given birth at home, completely alone, as the hospitals are expensive and she did not have the money to go. However, she had gone after the birth to ensure that she got the drugs that would prevent transfer of the disease through her breast milk to the infant [these drugs are also subsidized by the Kenyan government]. Her story was heartbreaking, especially as her new child seemed to her more of a burden than a blessing.

The third woman we visited had a similar situation. She told us that she had been married to well-off man but when he died, she chose to leave his family house rather than marry one of his brothers. Due to this, she was completely alone, attempting to raise her 4 children. She talked about how there were days that she could not go out to work because she felt so sick, and those days she could not buy food for herself or her children. Since the HIV drugs make one very sick if not ingested with food, the families entire well-being depended on her being able to go wash clothes. All three of these situations were very moving, and it truly makes one wonder about the world and those who have so much, in comparison to those who cannot even feed their families.

Tags: aids, arrival, hiv, kenya, volunteer

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