Martine was a vibrant young girl who would often come to my door selling bananas and would stay for a visit as well. Her bright smile and energetic attitude caught my attention. She was around 14 years old and was learning to be a seamstress. Martine had never been to school but she showed me how she could read a few words that the other children had taught her from their lessons. I was pleased to hear that a missionary had offered to help her to go to the Nikki Girls School where she could learn to read and write as well as sew and knit. She would also learn more about God’s Word and how to read the Bible in her own language. The family declined the offer saying that Martine would continue with her apprenticeship to be a seamstress.
The following year, Martine began spending time with a doctor who was doing his practicum at the hospital. She became pregnant shortly thereafter, and the doctor moved away, full of promises to support the mother and child. Martine had a healthy baby boy.
In the months to follow she began to have some health problems and came to the clinic to be tested for HIV. She was found to be positive and after starting on ARV therapy, began to get her strength back. She was faithful to take her medication and come for appointments. We tested the child, at 18 months, and thankfully, he tested negative for HIV.
Martine began to get discouraged when the child’s father would not follow through with his promises. As Christmas drew nearer, the girls in the community began to have their new dresses made for the celebration. The doctor promised that he would send her a new dress with one of the taxi chauffeurs, but the dress never came. Martine’s spirits began to drop further as she realized that he was not interested in the welfare of either her or their child.
Her health began to decline and she came to the clinic more frequently to treat one infection or another. Within a few months, she developed an opportunistic infection and died within a week at the hospital.
Sometimes we see the ARV therapy work wonders with a patient, and at other times, the virus can move quite quickly for a multiple of different reasons. Discouragement is one of our greatest enemies when working to build a person’s immune system and slow down the HIV virus. Martine’s death was a shock to us at the clinic and a reminder to persevere in teaching and sensitizing our young people in the school and community about how to decrease the spread of HIV.
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Report Author: Miriam Stirling of The Alafia Project Benin
When Radical Grace first engaged with Elle, she had been living with HIV for a number of years and was experiencing many physical symptoms including eye problems and joint pain. She was frequently sick which impacted her capacity for independence, both physically and mentally. Additionally Elle was burdened by the emotional aspects of living with HIV; she was bitter about her past and prone to shut people out.
As Radical Grace came alongside Elle, we were able to assist in seeking medical help for her physical ailments and noticed improvements as she began to receive treatment. Furthermore, we quickly identified that a significant aspect of our relationship with Elle was when we could encourage her, help re-build her confidence and sense of self-worth.
Over time, Elle’s confidence and independence had been diminished and, doubting her own capacity and abilities, she had become reliant on others in many areas of her life. As we journeyed with Elle, our focus was to empower her and give her tools and means to begin to help herself. This included helping her explore opportunities to earn an income and seek finance for a vehicle which meant she could move around town independently.
However, a journey such as Elle’s is just that – a journey; a journey that continues…. slowly. Along the way, there are steps forward and then there are steps back. Yet there is progress and Radical Grace continues to be there alongside Elle encouraging her, caring for her and challenging her. In doing so we seek to see Elle’s life holistically transformed and Elle able to live with hope and purpose and a vision for her future.
Elle is one special person amongst the many we are working with. See more about our work on the Radical Grace page.
Updates from Zimbabwe’s Program Coordinator these days are starting to look more like Family Albums than cold unfamiliar data. Directly from Mutare, Caiphas Ngarivhume sends the following updates:
Thanks to gifts from Australia, the team has started working on developing irrigation for gardens to feed the orphans all the while planning a new system to divert water from nearby streams to help the aging volunteers gather the water easily rather than carrying tins back and forth every day.
The home-based care team reports that two patients urgently needing hospitalization after a cancer diagnosis have now been admitted and one has already been discharged after successful chemotherapy.
As well, the OVC team has had the privilege of witnessing the fruit of their work as they assist two orphaned youth (originally brought to the program in primary school) with university fees. Both are brilliant excellent students. They will be studying for degrees in mechanical engineering and Banking and Investing Management respectively.
Refresher trainings in physical therapy are starting this month of June to empower volunteers with skills to alleviate muscle pain; a side effect of taking ARVs.
A relative helps dig holes for bean poles at the home of a family living with HIV in Mae Dtaeng, Northern Thailand. The team from Radical Grace along with some boys from a local soccer team travelled to Mae Taeng outside of Chiang Mai to set up bean poles at the house of a family living with the effects of drug abuse and HIV. It was an opportunity to continue making the gospel real in the lives of people who have experienced true hopelessness and to talk about Christ and mentor young men. The HOPE for AIDS team uses creative HIV prevention strategies and models that actively promote care and destigmatization. They work to reduce the incidences of a symptom of broken relationships, namely, HIV and AIDS. By partnering with local agencies, they provide holistic training for faith leaders in the art of responding to the HIV phenomenon with the people living in Thailand. With an emphasis on community values, the team works to restore strong relationships in the self, family, community and country. Local workers visit neighbors regularly to provide home-based care. They meet with teens to play soccer and encourage mentorship and positive decision-making. When it comes to training local leaders, they are gathering mission communities, pastors (from Thailand and Burma), international schools and churches. Keep up to date with Radical Grace on their Facebook page.
This season marks one that we share regardless of the land mass we live on. In Africa, North America, Australia, if you’re one following the story of Christ, this week marks the mysterious turn. HOPE for AIDS Project Coordinator Amj Clapham shares what’s on her mind as we approach the remembering of that pivotal weekend.
Story written by: Amj Clapham/Edited by HOPE for AIDS
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the starts, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made hime a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.
Some people, such as the writer of Psalm 8, see God’s hand in the heavens, beautiful stars flung into space. I am different. I see God’s creation in green.
I am a child of the 70s. My parents were lovers of nature. Dad loved geology and mum loved plants and flowers. They would come back from holiday with hundreds of photos of every flower that crossed their path when they went bush walking. Consequently, I too am a lover of nature.
As I write, I sit at a tea estate. For the last two days, I have been marveling at the different shades of green. Just one word, green, doesn’t nearly do the color justice. Why so many shades of green? Did the creator do it for pleasure or was there something else? In this digital age, we see color charts that display some of these shades but God’s creation is way beyond any human digital color-chart. Is he showing us his power and glory?
Recently, I have been trying to learn to draw. I often struggle to start, as the pencil or pastel set has one or two or three greens. Where do you begin?
As a child, I thought there was just one green. Simple. Trees are green. Grass is green. As an adult, I see God’s hand in the infinite shades.
That God who created the skies, land, stars, life itself and, this one color with many shades also created us and gave us ownership over all of this is almost too much to comprehend.
Please pray for Malawi. Deforestation is a huge problem here, but it will continue until a sustainable energy source is found for the villagers, and even the city dwellers. Cutting trees has made the impact of the recent floods here much worse. As stewards of our greenspace, we are desperate for a solution. This week, will you remember us as we experience the impact of our own use of land? Prayers for innovation. prayers for continued relief and development after the floods. Prayers of thanks that we are not without hope.
Amj Clapham is a HOPE for AIDS coordinator for the central region of Malawi. She is involved in every part of the effort such as training volunteers and peer educators, encouraging and training day care teachers and working with youth. She has been in Malawi for four years and is based in Lilongwe.