Born into a very poor family in rural Kenya, Joyce barely completed elementary school. Her mother was a single parent without the means to even feed her family. Sometimes she did menial jobs for other villagers; sometimes she resorted to sex work to make ends meet. Eventually Joyce’s mother died of AIDS.
The death of Joyce’s mother left her, the oldest of five, bread winner of the household. She was 17 with no skills or education and, like her mother, soon found herself relying on sex work to survive. By the age of 20, Joyce was no longer engaging in sex work to provide for her family, but to afford alcohol. She often spent the night passed out in a ditch, unable to get home. Joyce was repeatedly raped.
In 2014, Joyce discovered she was HIV positive — devastating news. Joyce wanted to commit suicide. As she struggled with that choice, she thought of Rosemary, a lady from her village. Rosemary is a volunteer facilitator with Stepping Stones, a part of the Ng’enda Sexual and Reproductive Health project, funded by World Renew.
The Ng’enda Sexual and Reproductive Health Program began in 2013 as a joint effort between Anglican Development Services and World Renew to help community members address the sexual and reproductive health issues that affect women in their community. Stepping Stones is a curriculum that uses peer counseling to build relationship and communication skills within in marriages, families, and the community. With an emphasis on avoiding judgement, Stepping Stones groups create safe environments in which participants can freely share their life situations and seek solutions.
Joyce reached out to Rosemary and soon joined a church-based Stepping Stones group led by Rosemary. For the first time in a long time, she felt accepted and safe. Through the group, Joyce received peer counseling on how to live differently. She was introduced to a local church where she became a born-again Christian. Rosemary introduced Joyce to a local health center where she is receiving medication and support for her HIV-positive status. Joyce is recovering from alcoholism, and has been clean for a year.
Last year Rosemary introduced Joyce to Kiganjo Community Bank, a community savings and loans program supported by World Renew. Joyce began steadily saving her earnings from menial jobs, depositing them with the group, and this past January she received a small loan of $200 US to buy farm tools and seeds. She is receiving training and plans to grow crops to sell at the local market.
When asked how she felt about life, Joyce now says, “I am hopeful and ready to live. I thank God. I cannot believe a person who was sleeping drunk in ditches two years ago can now be trusted with such an amount of money. I will make the best of it.”
World Renew Kenya