Sunday, 9 February 2014

A strong stench of raw sewage, crowded tin houses, depilated roads and hoards of weather beaten faces welcome us into the heart of Mathare slums. In the crowd, we spot Beatrice beaming with joy. She walks towards us, her gait radiating strength, the only hint of her condition is the slight limp on her left. Beatrice is a strong woman who has defied great odds; being able to stand on both feet is nothing short of a miracle.
It is a Saturday afternoon, I accompanied a couple of friends to visit Beatrice, woman who has defied death. She leads us through a narrow street with mabati make shift structures line on the side. She asks us to hide all valuables as we walked past a group of 5 young men looking at us suspiciously. We later learnt they are members of one of the dreaded criminal gangs that operate in the slum. They run all kinds of illicit trades, cause mayhem and impose a ‘protection fee’ on all households and business.
We finally arrive at her place on the bank of a heavily polluted stream. It is a great house by the local standards; complete with a broken toilet, single electric bulb and a communal tap. Never mind water only runs on Saturday night. We all pile into her minuscule living quarters, separated from her ‘bedroom’ by some old bed sheet. She is so happy to have visitors over and even reveals it makes her momentarily forget all her troubles.
After exchanging pleasantries, she begins recounting her sad life story .Beatrice is a mother of three boys. The first and second born are in high school while the youngest is in lower primary. Her troubles began 14 years ago when she tested HIV+ (positive).       
 Like all newly tested positive people, She had to make a tough decision. Whether keep it a secret or go public about her status. She choose the latter. A tough pick since back in the late 90’s the society ostracized anyone who was tested positive. News of her HIV status spread like wild fire all through the slum. In no time, the people she used to hang out with would huddle together aside, point fingers and call her names. ‘Ako na mdudu’ (she is infected) they would say. Then they began segregating her. Friends disappeared. Neighbours would whisper in hush tones whenever she passed by. No one wanted to shake her hand worse dine with her. They believed anyone infected with HIV/Aids was receiving punishment from God for being promiscuous.
Preachers from all over the city came to her with all kinds of promises. They claimed all she need to do was to ‘plant a seed’ (give huge sums of money as offering) and have faith to heal. Despite receiving lengthy prayers and planting numerous seeds her HIV status remained unchanged.
I ask about her family, with a distant look she tells us how her mother is yet to come into terms with her condition perhaps longing for the much-needed love. The mother claims to be busy whenever she is bedridden and needs special care. Since she cannot bend, a selfless woman who happens to be a neighbour helps with the house chores. Another young man diligently refills her water jerry cans weekly out of benevolence.
When we ask why she limps, overcomed by emotion, she breaks into tears. The ladies in our group embrace her in effort to console. I ask about the Gor Mahia sticker on her cupboard in bid to get her mind off her predicament. Smiling again, she tells us of her kids’ undying love for this Kenyan football club. They are also into Tae Kwando. The youngest has a red belt.
The eldest son studies and stays with a family in Murang’a. The benign family took him in when she fell ill. The son was forced to repeat a class for studying less than a month in that academic year. He spent all that time nursing Beatrice as no one else was there for her.
After regaining composure, she speaks about her cancer. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December 2011. She has been receiving medication ever since from a medical facility sponsored by the Medicine Sans Frontiesres (MSF) in Mathare. She is on a list of those awaiting surgery to take out her ovaries. What frustrates her most is not knowing when this would happen and take away the unbearable pain. Sometimes after meals, her stomach swells. Goiter is not making things any easier. On her last doctor’s appointment, she learnt that the wound in her uterus is now 16 cm wide and chances of recovery are slim once it gets to 20 cm.

Before the cancer she could buy feminine accessories like handbags, decorate them with beads before selling them out at a profit. She would also visit other women living with HIV/AIDS encourage them on living positively. Having been bedridden for a greater part of the year her business has been severely affected. She can no longer work to fend for her family or pay her bills. She now relies on well-wishers for food. Her rent is two months overdue. Just last week the proprietor sent someone to evict her. Sympathetic to her plight he gave her a week to pay up the arrears.
We unpack the foodstuff and toiletries we had brought and filled the empty shelves. We then went ahead to raise some cash amongst ourselves to settle all her overdue debts and some to revive her accessories business. She was so gracious for this small gesture thanking us profusely. We promised to spread the word about her condition and find people to sponsor her children’s education.
After sharing some words of encouragement and prayers, she walks us back to the bus stop. We board a bus headed back to town. Waving through the window, I see tears running down cheeks. I hope this time they are tears of joy.
 By Mark Maina and Reagan Nyadimo

Share this article :

0 Replies:

Speak up your mind

Tell us what you're thinking... !

Support : Brainverse Technologies |07 13 396 827 |
Copyright © 2013. Reagan's Blog - All Rights Reserved
Intranets | Blogs | Websites | Office Networking |
Providing Quality Web, Software and Hardware Solutions.