Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Spirit that Cannot Be Broken: Esther (part 2)

We received a call this week from our friend, Ester, an openly positive public speaker from the Stepping Stone group (see below) in Kendu Bay. She was now in Nairobi, so we arranged to meet her in the center of the city, quite a change of scenery from our last meeting at her small rural village. After being extremely late to the meeting because of John's worm (see above), Esther greeted us with a glowing smile and sincere excitement to see us. As we sat and talked over some Kenyan fast-food, we were amazed that she had been able to keep her spirits through some extraordinarily tough times.
Her husband recently left her because of her HIV status and the way he felt she "put it on display" in the community through her outreach work. He remarried and left her without financial support for her 3 children. This past week, she lost her youngest son, who was HIV positive. Her husband became irrate over the loss, and the stress of the matter forced her to flee her rural home and come to stay with relatives in the city. She has left her 2 daughters behind under the care of her brother and has come to the city with a load of omena, minnows from her fishing village which she hopes will gain a higher price in the city.

After all of these devastating events, Esther continues on with her work. She proudly showed us the lesson plan she was using with her HIV positive groups on how to make "memory letters". Memory letters, she explained, are written by group members for their children to learn the story of their lives and have remembrance of them after they are gone. It includes disclosing their HIV status and how they became infected, as well as teaching their children how they can avoid the same fate. Most importantly, it shares their life story with their children. Inherent in these letters is an acceptance that death will be coming from HIV.

However, acceptance of death does not mean giving up on the fight to live. Despite being in Nairobi, Esther plans to travel back to Kendu Bay (across the country) for her monthly supply of antiretroviral medication, a feat she is struggling to afford without her husband's financial support. "All I want is 10 more years to watch my children grow up" she told us as she was leaving. She hopes to one day see her youngest daughter, whom she considers her "personal doctor" because she ensures she never misses a dose of medication, complete school and reach her goal to become a medical doctor that changes the course of the disease that will end her mother's life.

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