The first time I met Ella I liked her.
It was as though time stood still for a moment as my eyes focused in on a little angel sitting on a blanket in the middle of our AIDS day crowd. Her emaciation was frightening, but her bright eyes and calm spirit caught my attention. Over 300 of my friends who are HIV+ had already gathered outside our clinic waiting for the doctors and nurses who were supposed to be coming from town. And that’s when we got word that they wouldn’t be coming from town because they couldn’t get any fuel for their vehicles.
Between classes this past week, we made a quick emergency trip to the village of Igoda to check on Dolla. Dolla started the AIDS medications three weeks ago. When we got there we found she had lost consciousness, her poor children and neighbors looking on, feeling quite helpless and afraid. Msafiri, who serves at our clinic, and I were also feeling quite helpless. Totally helpless in fact. Everything had been done right, her medicines were correct, she had no fever, no cough, no symptoms. She just simply wouldn’t regain consciousness.
“Mama Vinton, with Jesus, nothing can go wrong.” I found her words both encouraging and touching – and I saw faith written all over her face, wiping away fear. These sweet words were spoken by Steven’s wife as she prepared for her husband to leave their home in the village to go all the way across the country to the one and only cancer hospital in the country located in Dar es Salaam. Kaposi Sarcoma is a nasty skin cancer that attacks so many of my friends here living with the AIDS virus.
Even if Josaphat could not jump up to greet me, his whole beaming countenance soared to great heights. It was a meeting I never anticipated having with that little boy and that even now when I think back to him my heart is filled with such thankfulness …
“You told me to come, and now I am here.”
Violet had all the potential of being a great student. I first met her five years ago in our intensive English course that we offer for all of the kids when they finish primary school – in three months we teach them enough English so they can have a fighting chance in secondary school. Violet certainly was bright, and she was eager, and she was just sixteen years old. She was a great kid to have in school.
Then one day she didn’t show up for class.
The next day she wasn’t there either.
I was out visiting people when I stopped by the house where Nache lived. It was clear that we needed to get this kid to the hospital in the city, and that meant we needed money for transport for him and for his mom. But I didn’t have any money on me that day, there wasn’t any cash at the house, Steve & Godfrey & Emmanueli were traveling, and here I was in the land of no ATM machines. But just down the road was a church, and so I took off in shot to quickly see them. “They aren’t members of our church; we can’t help them.” I was devastated. More than devastated.
It was getting dark and we were still out on the search for all of our HIV moms with newborns and infants. The wonderful news had come that morning that the Mudabulo Hospital had received a supply of the special infant HIV tests and that they were willing to reserve 10 of them for me for children in our villages. What a blessing to have true friends willing to help!
He had just bought a new set of teeth. Oh and was he proud of that beautiful smile! But Garus was beautiful even without teeth. His face was simply so kind, probably because always wore a big toothless smile. When he was four months old, his mother, who was drunk at the time, rolled him into the fire and that is how he lost his foot. Growing up, he lost his teeth from falling so much. To make matters worse, Garus had severe asthma. I remember our first meeting six years ago – that was when I tried to teach him how to use my son Joshua’s inhaler as he gasp for air on my front porch.