The last two days were spent making home visits to compounds where A Call to Mercy supports children in the household. A child may be eligible for one or more of the supports which include food supplements, school fees, books, birth certificates and health care. All of the HIV children receive health care through A Call to Mercy, automatically. The visits were unannounced but we were always welcomed with open arms.
Regina Nih and her 12 year old son Clovis live on a family compound far off the beaten track. There is a sister in law and uncle who also live on the compound. Regina is HIV positive and had a stroke 3 years ago. She received no physical therapy after leaving the hospital and today cannot walk or use her left hand. She lays in bed all day. Clovis has not been in school for 3 years and takes care of his mother best he can. His aunt helps with food and cooking but spends much of the day on their farm plot, leaving the boy to care for his mother. When approached 2 years ago with school support, Clovis said he did not want to go. Perhaps he didn’t want to leave his mother. Yesterday, he expressed interest in returning to school. This child has received health care from A Call to Mercy but is in need of much more. We have asked Project Hope to send emergency food support to this family and to follow up on the needs of this very vulnerable child. His isolation was palpable. As we were leaving, the sister in law offered us a gift of 5 eggs. This family that could not feed itself was proudly offering all they had to their visitors. We were humbled beyond words.
We arrived at this compound to find only children, some of who receive support from A Call to Mercy. There had been a death of a child the night before and the adults were at the burial. It is not unusual for children of 9 or 10 to be caring for many smaller ones. The children are self reliant at a very young age.
Grace Nambu lives with her sister and they have 7 children between them. The grandmother also lives with them. Two of the children receive all of the supports from A Call to Mercy, which helps the whole family. All of the men have died or are gone. The two sisters work the farm plot which helps to feed the family. They also sell some of what they grow. Everyone we visited offered us gifts of precious food. To decline would be an insult. Here we received medicinal bitter nuts as gifts.
Chiawichi is the mother of Ciduanet who was at school when we visited. Cid receives school support and health care from A Call to Mercy. Cid and Chiawichi live with her mother in law and great grandmother who is bed ridden and over 100 years old. Chiawichi expressed “plenty gratitude” for the support of her child. Her mother in law offered us Kola nuts as a gesture of gratitude, telling us “She who brings Kola brings life”. There is a lot of tradition and folklore around the Kola.
Rhoda Nange has three children, age 4, 15 and 19, all receiving support from A Call to Mercy. When her husband died 3 years ago, the family was devastated. Without his income, the family could barely afford food let alone school fees. Melvis, 15 receives school support, fees, books uniforms. Flora, 4yrs old receives food supplements which helps the whole family. Emile, 19 is mentally disabled and requires a lot of care. Rhoda worries about his future. The family farms ground nuts and sells what they can. They also grow plantains to eat and sell. We were gifted with a branch of plantains.