Tuesday, July 23, 2013

GROWing Hope

Four years ago, thirteen dedicated people from various health related fields and facilities in Mumias came together to form WOPLAH, Western Organization for People living with HIV/AIDS. The founders of WOPLAH call themselves the Ambassadors of Hope. After one week here and two days in the field, I think we are just beginning to understand the significance of this name. In the past two days, we have met with a support group, visited a school for children orphaned by HIV, visited and worked in kitchen gardens, and joined Edwin on a home visit to deliver medication to a patient. As we have moved around Mumias with the Ambassadors, we have seen and heard over and over again that their message is truly one of empowerment, love, and hope. 

Today we went with Edwin, the director of WOPLAH, on a home visit to a HIV+ woman to deliver medications. Edwin started the visit by saying “We love you and we care about you” and introduced us with, “These are our visitors, who are here because they also love you and care about you and care about your life.” The woman welcomed us warmly, and Edwin’s words brought tears to her eyes. It was a powerful experience to accompany Edwin as he delivered this simple yet meaningful message and to see how it impacted Mama Rosa, who thanked us for visiting and invited us to come again when she is stronger. During the months we spent preparing for this trip, and during the past week we have been here, I have been thinking a lot about the concept of coming all the way across the world in an effort to help other people when there are so many similar issues close to home. Moments like the one we experienced in Mama Rosa’s home remind me that the real value of our visit here is in the relationships we are building with other people. In simplest terms, maybe our visit is about caring- caring about people all around the world, some of whom we will meet and some of whom we will never meet, but whose lives deserve to be loved, and who deserve access to all basic human rights, including health care.

After leaving Mama Rosa’s, we walked to one of the kitchen gardens that is being established with the money raised by GlobeMed this year. At the garden, we prepared rows and planted tomato seedlings.  The garden is one of fifty that WOPLAH has helped establish in order to provide families with a stable source of nutrition. We had the chance to visit another garden in the Khangua area yesterday. Andrew, who is a member of the support group there, showed us his garden that he established this year, where he is growing kale, peas, bananas, pumpkins, and other vegetables. When we visited with an HIV support group on our first day here, one of the main challenges they identified was nutrition, which is critical to strengthening the immune system, and also plays a big role in mitigating the side effects of the Antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS. The goal of kitchen gardens like Andrew’s is to make sure people living positively with HIV do not have to be stressed about how they are going to provide themselves and their families with their next healthy meal.

In the short amount of time we have been here, we have learned so much about the work the Ambassadors of Hope do. As we head off to visit another support group today, we are looking forward to meeting and building relationships with more people who have been impacted by WOPLAH’s  message of care, love, and hope. 


Molly and Edwin planting tomatoes in the kitchen garden. 

Rory in her natural habitat!

Andrew, one of the kitchen garden beneficiaries. 

Yusuf and Patrick (from left to right), two Ambassadors of Hope. 

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