Today started slow and got...interesting. Said took Mama E and me to Nakumatt, where we bought our family T-shirts. Thinking my family would appreciate something a bit more authentic than a T-shirts (which, at least according to the tags, were made in
I knew I was supposed to be giving a talk on HIV/AIDS at the Y, but I didn’t know anything about who I would be speaking to. I learned it was the Enlightened Support Group – a support group for HIV positive mothers. I was a little disappointed that I was talking to a group that was HIV positive, since I was hoping that I could focus my talk on HIV prevention. Instead of giving a speech, I had a conversation with them, and here are a few things that I learned:
** Fortunately, one of the mothers was able to get a C–section because she found out her status during her pregnancy
** Another was not so fortunate, figuring out her status when her daughter became very sick.
* All HIV tests and drugs are free in
** Free ARVs don’t necessarily help everyone. Since many people are malnourished, they don’t take their medications because they need to be taken on a full stomach.
* Bottle feeding is acceptable
** I was curious because in some cultures bottle feeding is frowned upon
** The government does not supply free formula to mothers in
* While domestic violence is illegal, men generally hold up the cases and they are very seldom prosecuted
* Desertion is common when wives reveal their HIV statuses to their husbands, but the village elders of one of the mothers forced him to take her back
I learned much more from the group than they taught me. Leah, their leader, is incredibly optimistic and driven, and determined to make the best world for herself and her sons. Her spirit is absolutely amazing. I was very inspired by all the mothers; the face that they were fearless about being open about their HIV positive status, and that they were not living as if they had been handed a death sentence. I gave them some seed money to open their own bank account so that they can do formal business. Since some of the women in the group are widows, they have dreams of starting businesses and finding other ways to support themselves.
The night ended back at the hotel where it was soul food night. That’s right, American soul food. The banner above the buffet entrance read “Big Mama’s Kitchen.” Hilarity, once again, ensued.
* Eating Tex-Mex and soul food in
* One way that Leah is planning to become self sufficient is by getting her counseling certificate. There is a scholarship trust set up in her name at:
With the Enlightened Support Group
Mama E with the Enlightened Support Group
With Leah, the group’s leader
Security outside the convent. Notice the broken glass on the top of the walls as added protection.
Said goes into the security gate
Sister Jennifer and BJ
The convent’s yard
The courtyard. I’m not the best photographer.
BJ’s room. About $20USD/night including meals
BJ and the sisters in the convent’s kitchen
Amid the rundown buildings and beggars in downtown
The ramp off the ferry dock. The grade so unforgiving I thought the undercarriage would rip out every time we got off the ferry.
The cargo dock
I couldn’t get this mosque photo to embed properly.