Jesuit Parish in Kenya Helps Those Living with HIV
Tags: Africa, AIDS, Jesuit, jesuits, Kenya, Society of Jesus
The Church of St. Joseph the Worker, a Jesuit parish in Kangemi, Kenya, has run a program called “Uzima” (“life” in Swahili) for those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS since 2004. Over the years, its original goal to provide support has evolved to include an emphasis on economic independence, thanks to new technologies and drugs that allow HIV-infected people to live full lives, said Jesuit Father Stephen Nzioki, the program’s director.
“At the beginning, the focus was on treating … and helping those who were dying to do so peacefully,” said Fr. Nzioki. “Now people are not dying. These people are healthy, so they need to do something to provide for their own lives and for their families.”
The program, which currently helps about 120 HIV-infected Kangemi residents, most of them women, employs two AIDS counselors and two social workers who create public awareness for HIV in Kangemi, assisted by Catholic families living there. Together, they locate HIV-infected residents and encourage them to seek antiretroviral treatment at public clinics.
The infected residents are counseled and offered membership in Uzima’s support group, which offers training in handicraft production, gardening and poultry-rearing.
Residents practice their new trades on Jesuit parish facilities and put a monthly percentage of their earnings into a common bank account, from which they can then ask for interest-free loans to expand, said Emily Night, a Uzima social worker.
When Everlyne Muchabi arrived at Uzima in 2007, she was poor, HIV-positive and raising five children alone. She joined the support group and took classes in bead-making, after being counseled by Uzima staff to start antiretroviral treatments at a public clinic nearby.
“I got a loan for 10,000 shillings and bought materials to make more beads and to pay for school fees for my daughter and to pay for daily needs,” said Muchabi. [Catholic News Service]