By Paula Longo
Masindi, Uganda– It is very difficult to put today’s realizations, truths and emotions into words. I will try my best though.
Rachel Kamara, of The Aids Support Organization (TASO), presented a lecture entitled “HIV/Aids: No Barrier to Development, Education and Entrepreneurship.” We had already met her earlier during the week and visited the TASO Medical Center in Masindi, so we had an understanding of all the services this non-governmental organization offers to those who are HIV positive as well as children of those who are HIV positive.
You can certainly read up on all the statistics about Ugandans and HIV/AIDS, but to have the opportunity to meet a person who is personally delivering hope, educating the public, and counseling day in and out is invaluable. It brings the human element of this disease to the surface. Although Ms. Kamara used this quote in regards to her HIV/AIDS clients, it relates to any obstacle or life-changing event:
“One’s downfall can be a stepping stone for success and life.”
I have always believed that education is power. However, this education is creating much more. It has started a women’s liberation movement and assists people in accepting their disease.
This was evident when we toured the market stands and homes of several HIV positive women entrepreneurs. They were very informative, proud, and knowledgable about their businesses.
Our last stop was the Family Spirit Children Centre, an orphanage and school that serves poor, orphaned, and HIV-positive children. This is the part I can not adequately express in words. The sadness, joy, despair and wonder in the eyes of these children was indescribable. The small hands that reached up to us, the innocent eyes and the incredible smiles were overwhelming. It was all too much to comprehend. How could they be so friendly to strangers? How could they want affection from human beings after being abandoned and/or inflicted with this lifelong disease?
Many of them sang songs of peace, love and their concern for losing their elders due to AIDS. Other children snuggled in on our laps while some others watched on the sidelines.
Even more amazing is the woman, Sharon, who operates this orphanage and school with her husband Isaac Nyakoojo. She has endured being a war refugee and other horrific events, including a rape that left her HIV infected. Many people in her position would fall into a negative world of darkness. Instead, Sharon’s strength, positivity and perseverance guided her to save some of Uganda’s children. She is a true hero and inspiration for us to aspire to.