Hey everyone, It’s 9am, Monday morning, and I just got back to NY last night. I’m incredibly jet-lagged, sore, and tired. It was quite a few weeks.
The last few days especially were incredible.
Friday, Dec 1 2006, was World AIDS Day, and the Hope Centre held three simultaneous marches in Kenya. Two in Nairobi, and one in Maseno. Henry and I spent the few days beforehand making the posters that were to be set up by the candle table, where people can light a candle in memory of a loved one who died or who is “living with living with living with, not dying from disease.”
The day itself was wonderful. We woke up bright and early and headed out in busloads to Kibera, where the march started. There were a few speeches of inspiration, and Maboyz got a special shout out.
The first 10 minutes were rather slow. We just walked. When after a few minutes a few of the ladies began singing, and it ended up with us singing for the entire march, through the streets of Nairobi. Many of the people didn’t know each other, but there was such a sense of camaraderie. Some in the march were people from the Hope Centre’s HIV support group, some were local youth groups, and organizations that refer people to the Hope Centre.We marched through Kibera, onto Ngong Road, people were directing traffic around us, the guys from Maboyz were handing out fliers to oncoming vehicles, reaching their hand over to the hands of passengers in buses and matatus who wanted a pamphlet, to know more about World AIDS day, and about getting tested and knowing your status. We drew quite a crowd by the end of the march:
We marched from Kibera all the way back to the Hope Centre. Nadia addressed the crowd and introduced a woman named Rachel, a member of the HIV Support group, who gave her heart, and shared how because of ARV meds, she was able to live long enough to see her grandchildren be born. It was such an inspiring speech. There was such solidarity in that gathering, to know that everywhere around the world, similar marches were being held. Just to know that there are victims of this terrible disease who are no longer labelling themselves as victims, who are standing up, to get people educated, inspired, and hopeful.
I lit a candle for Massimo. He has been adopted by a family in Rome. He is my hero. He is living, not just surviving.
After the march, we had some eggs, sandwiches, and Abouna put us to work :) By us, I mean, the whole group of Maboyz. We worked cleaning up a bunch of storehouses. There were about 15 of us altogether, working at what seemed to be an impossible job, organizing heavy medical machinery, donated by people in the US and Egypt. Much of it was unusable, but could be made to good use with some repairs. We cleaned up 3 storehouses in 3 hours. You should have seen these rooms before we began, it looked like days of work, but with 15 of us. These guys are amazing. Some of them had no problem jumping up balancing themselves on mounds of metal, knowing that one wrong shift in weight would cause them tumbling into what would be a painful visit to the ER, or worse, stacking things in high places. Me, the American, I’m all thinking about “hey be careful!!” But we worked, and worked, and worked, and by the end – we were exhausted but proud of a good days work. Here we are basking in the glory of a job well done:
But now I’m home, back in the USA.
I did leave out one important detail, however. Remember Tony, the young man I mentioned in the last post? He got accepted by the school! I am so proud of him, and I am so honored to have been his witness at the school, where he got accepted.
His whole life, from this point onwards, is going to be different. Please send him your prayers! Change is possible. Life is possible!