Just before my visit, materials for a vegetable garden had been bought and a garden plot donated by the town hall. Together with the members of the association of people with HIV, I admired it all as they planned the work to be done — as well as what they would do with the resulting vegetables. They decided to distribute the yield equally among those who had worked in the garden, minus some that would be sold at market so they could buy new seeds next year.
Also before my visit, the most vulnerable among them had received a nutrition kit with rice and oil. Several people told me that they had had trouble feeding their children because of the lean, pre-harvest season; they had felt so relieved to be able to feed their family.
One of the families supported by this program is the Ba family.
Mr. and Mrs. Ba (not their real name) were a young couple living in the north of Senegal and they were very poor. Mr. Ba wanted to change their precarious situation so he went to the southeast of the country where the gold mines are. Sadly Mr. Ba did not find gold, but instead returned home with the HIV virus. Back home, he then infected his wife, although she was unaware that he now had HIV. The couple had two children and Mrs. Ba became pregnant with a third. The two children were often sick but their parents did not know why. During her first two pregnancies, Mrs. Ba did not go for prenatal care. By the eight-month mark of her third pregnancy she was really sick, so she did finally go to see a doctor. This doctor referred her to a nurse who operates the HIV/AIDS program supported by World Renew and the Canadian Reformed World Relief Fund.
The nurse counseled Mrs. Ba to take a blood test for HIV. Mrs. Ba agreed to the test and it was positive. Then the nurse told her about the program that helps people living with HIV, and how it could help the Ba family.
Since Mrs. Ba was already 8 months into the pregnancy, it was too late to prevent transmission to the unborn child. After the birth, the nurse asked her to bring the baby and the other two children for the blood test for HIV. All three tested positive. Mrs. Ba was inconsolable. She was sure that all her children were going to die. But the nurse helped her understand that anyone can live a long life with HIV if they take their medication and follow the right healthy habits.
Mrs. Ba and her children are now participating fully in the program (the father goes for individual check-ups but, like many men, is not a member of the association). The government of Senegal provides the medication for free, but they do not live in the town where the doctor prescribes their HIV medication. Getting to town would be an insurmountable barrier for the Bas if the program did not pay for transportation to doctor’s appointments. But the program does pay for transportation and so now the two older children are no longer sick and attend the local school.
Mrs. Ba takes her medication every day and participates in all the activities that the World Renew-supported nurse organizes. Mrs. Ba likes the “cooking school” most, where women learn new recipes for nutritionally balanced meals using locally available food. Good nutrition is one of the keys to living a long life with HIV, so World Renew emphasizes nutrition in addition to consistent medication.
Two months ago, the program organized an educational field trip to a dairy farm and the Ba children had a great time and the chance to meet many other children with HIV. This field trip was thoughtfully planned not only to allow the children some fellowship but to show them that going outside the village is not a scary venture. Until this trip, the children only ever left the village to go to the doctor, but the organizers know that some day the children may need to move to town to attend middle or high school and so they are laying the groundwork for an easier transition.
Since joining the program, the Ba family’s situation has completely changed.
- World Renew will be organizing two adolescent health groups with YWAM Senegal this year. We just selected the educators and intern Melissa is working on an adapted curriculum so that the groups will be able to start in January.
- In Linguére, the Senegalese Lutheran Church Organization has started two adolescent health groups and three literacy groups, each with about 20 girls.
- The Linguére adolescent health program is planning to host information sessions/discussions in village assemblies on topics like early marriage, early pregnancy, sexual violence, and the importance of school. This involves much organizing and travel over dirt roads.
- In January we will organize a first session of the Timothy Leadership Training for village pastors in the Kédougou area. This training is appropriate for pastors with limited formal education and focuses on topics like leadership, pastoral care, and stewardship. Isaac from World Renew Mali will come to teach.
World Renew Senegal