The COVID-19 pandemic has made lives incredibly difficult all over the world, with Faustina being no exception. Faustina lives in the Mukuru Kwa Reuben informal settlements in Nairobi County. When the pandemic struck, she was already struggling to put food on the table. As a single mother of 4 children, the responsibility of taking care of her family fell solely on her shoulders. She and her daughter are living with HIV, which even made her situation look grimmer.
The death of her husband marked the beginning of one misfortune after another. His family turned against her and abandoned her, leaving her alone to take care of her children. "Paying my children's school fees became impossible as I had no job. Their school would sit my kids separately from the others at lunchtime as I could not pay for tuition and food," Faustina says. The children were later dismissed from school ultimately.
The pandemic made the already bad situation even worse when she could not find a job. Subsequently, she couldn't pay rent and had no money for food. Porridge became the sole meal they could afford. She had no choice but to move into her sister's house with her children. Her stress was multiplied even further by her inability to obtain anti-viral medication due to a lack of income. "I hadn't disclosed my status and that of my daughters to my sister, and so, I found it difficult to ask for financial help to get medication. It was tough," She says. The lack of medication resulted in an increase in her daughter's viral load to 89,000 copies/ml.
One day she decided to visit the Mukuru Health Centre within her neighborhood, which became the genesis of a complete and positive turn. After receiving treatment, she was referred to the MWENDO project at the HOPE worldwide Kenya community center in Mukuru, a step she took at the right time in her life.
She was immediately enrolled in the MWENDO Project and began receiving support. Her children went back to school, and in collaboration with the Mukuru health center, she and her daughter received support to ensure they were following the doctor's advice and drug prescription. Her daughter's viral load is now completely suppressed, and she lives a full life. She also receives cash transfers which she uses to buy medication for her and her daughter.
"Now, I am no longer stressed about my children's school fees. I don't panic whenever they are sitting for examination because their education is sponsored. I am very grateful to God that I found MWENDO; I have received so much help," Faustina says with a smile.
Faustina now shares her story with other caregivers as a testimony of how the MWENDO Project has completely changed her life and supported her when no one else could. She also mentors others on effectively supporting their children living with HIV to adhere to drugs for viral load suppression.
When asked what she wishes to see in the future, she says that she wants every parent to see their HIV-positive child thrive and all children succeed. She also wants to be financially stable.
*MWENDO Project is a USAID-funded project through sub-grant from Catholic Relief Services that supports Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) to address the social determinants of health to improve the well-being of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.