Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hope and Despair

June 10, 2012 – Mombasa, Kenya

I am so glad it is the cool season here right now!  With temperatures still high and humidity that threatens to drown out a population, the breeze feels good and it is possible to stand outside for five whole minutes before the heat starts getting to me.  Having been here during the hot season, I know I have come at the perfect time and am grateful.
Kids Day at the Mikindani Clinic yesterday.  Speeches, games, lunch, snacks, poetry reciting, plays, singing, and gifts make up this fun day for the kids.  This is a time for HIV+ children to be together without the fear of stigma or rejection.  These kids, ranging from toddlers to 19 year olds, have known each other for long years and are comfortable with each other, teasing and laughing the day away.  I am astounded to see some of my kids…how they’ve grown!  Christopher is almost a man, as is Benson and Omondi. Abraham is now six years old – a little man who shakes my hand and smiles shyly.  Beverlyne, Lydia, Defence and the other girls are looking and doing great.  I just can’t believe that those who were babies or young when I started here are now six and seven, thirteen and eighteen.  Amazing to see them well.

I jump in a sack race against staff and guardians and forget that I am a mom, a director, an adult.  I laugh get ready for the spoon and potato races.  Then, there’s the relays.  Finally, I am moved from contestant to giver of prizes to winners.  Fun, fun, fun time.

I miss those who are no longer here, whether because they had to find another home due to a guardian’s death or because they had to move to an orphanage.  I am grateful that not one of my kiddos has been removed from the program due to death.  Even though I keep tabs on them throughout the year, I am never sure until I come and see them…seeing them makes me believe once again that what we do is good and right.

Seeing them, along with the string of new, young ones added to the programs also shakes me to reality of the sheer volume of work we must keep doing in order to keep this next generation doing well. 

I have had tough meetings this time around.  I’ve discussed reporting in Congo and new needs which we can’t handle at this time, but which will save lives and which will make children self-sufficient.  How can I refuse?  But, how can I agree?  In Kenya I’ve been hearing about all the programs left as gaping holes due to cuts in budgets due to many reasons – reduction of grant money from US government, the death of a beloved worker whose organization is moving on now that he has moved on to glory and higher costs in-country due to inflation, higher food costs, and a poor economy.  We are dreaming today, writing a grant, doing some thinking about a self-sustainable plan, visiting gardens meant to help children today and the clinics tomorrow, as well. 

I so wish that for once, we had an influx of funds that would remove the terrible stress of this calling.  We need more Kilimanjaro climbers, more 5k organizers (Betsy, I hear your 5k was PHENOMENAL!!!), more churches, businesses, schools, and individuals to see that HIV/AIDS will not go away on its own, but that we need to work together for these little ones who didn’t in any way ask for what they’ve been given.

I am often asked at home how I am doing, how I feel with this work I do.  Today, I’d answer that I am heart- broken, sad and frustrated and that I am searching, reaching, feeling blindly for faith and hope.  My throat is choking as I write and my eyes sting. Yesterday was hopeful, seeing happy children.  Today is scary and heavy, very heavy, meeting about needs and gaps and starvation for some.