Not known to many, Rosemary was one of the very first community health counselors at CARE for AIDS in Kenya, who was battling with HIV even as she continued to serve other clients at Imani centre, our first CARE for AIDS centre. She had become very active in her local church that her church pastor who was walking with her realized her potential of being a counselor and a social worker. The pastor recommended that she join a counseling school, which she did and its at the time that she felt the call to rescue many who were going through what she was going through. Some time ago, Rosemary shared her story with me:
“After great struggles in marriage, I separated from my husband who had proved to not care even after facts were showing that Henry was having multiple partners outside our marriage from in and outside of my country. My family went through domestic struggles which led me to having depression. My children went through abuse to the extent of them dropping out of school.
How l ended up becoming a care giver and a marriage counselor – its only God who can work through someone like me. I was involved in bringing hope to others after my only hope had been lost completely, and its sad to say I was counseling others while I had personally lost my hope for living.
Through church, I was given an opportunity to serve with our hospital ministry team and was tasked with encouraging many who had lost hope through family conflicts. During this time, not much was being done in our country about people living with HIV/AIDS, and especially knowledge on transmission. Through God’s help, USAID started a project of training community health workers who would offer services to many people who were bedridden and dying at homes of AIDS.
Having gone through the training, l was motivated on getting tested and it was not a surprise when I turned positive. I had witnessed a lady I had suspected was sleeping out with my husband die, and I had guessed it was through AIDS. I continued living in denial for four years and went for test again. Sarcastically, I was training people on adherence, and how they need to have good nutrition for their health, but I was doing the opposite since I was prepared to die. I never took the medication, and I never told anyone about my status.
From my hard work serving others, one day my pastor’s wife called me to her office. She had the news of an upcoming organization that was dedicated to working with people living with HIV/AIDS. Having known my passion, they were recruiting community health workers who would work with them. Inside me, I was laughing at her because she didn’t know that I was in the second stage of HIV and I was waiting to die and not to work. She went on and introduced me to the Kenyan director of the organization (Duncan), and it’s from that time that I changed my thoughts and decided to give life a second chance.
Talking with Duncan, who too didn’t know that l was a victim, his cry was that many children were being left suffering as the parents were dying of AIDS, while there was a chance of them living long and taking care of their children. He shared with me the story of a boy he had adopted, whose parents had died of AIDS. Duncan was very convinced that if somebody was there to support George’s parents, the poor boy would not be suffering as he had, through the slums without a father and a mother. It’s at that time, without Duncan’s knowledge that God was speaking to me through him, that I decided that I am going to live long to see my children grow and care for themselves. I got the opportunity to work for CARE for AIDS and today, I am a better person because of the impact CARE for AIDS had on me as l was caring for other clients.”
Today, Rosemary is back with her husband. They live together in their farm in Limuru, some of their children have finished secondary education while others are still in school, and they now live happily as a family.