We went with Sister Helen, a nun at Kitovu Hospital, who is also a dietician and has worked in Africa for many decades. With Joseph and Stella, local social workers, Sister Helen does outreach in the villages, making regular trips out to visit with widows, the elderly, disabled, and people who are sick, most often with HIV/AIDS. They talk to people about their diets and other health needs.
This child has lost both her parents and is being raised by her grandmother. Stories are getting blurred in my head; I think that her father died from AIDS, the mother died in childbirth, and she was premature.
We encountered a great deal of obeisance that day; I found it terribly uncomfortable. This woman is the wife of a local minister. They both have HIV. She welcomed us to her home, directed us to sit on benches, then came to us on her knees, clasping our hands in hers and greeting us each in turn. We witnessed this same knee walking in a couple other homes as well.
This woman has been living with a man for 20 years, they have 4 children and have lost two. The husband has HIV/AIDS and TB. They have never had a legally recognized wedding, so if he dies, which he will, his family could, and probably will, come in and take over the house, displacing her and the children.
She makes baskets to supplement the family’s income.
Everyone we met that day was carrying a huge burden, either illness, lack of food, or loss of a family member. One woman had lost her husband to AIDS, she was also so sick that she could no longer work, yet she was caring for her children, plus the children of her husband’s brother who also died from AIDS. She had something like 14 people living in her house.
Even in the face of so much hardship, everyone was welcoming and cheerful. They brought us into their homes and let us take photographs. The contrast between what we saw in Uganda and the luxury that we have here in America struck us hard. We swore that day that we’d never complain about slow internet again.