About a month ago we had a visit from our ex-askari…. To give you some background, he’s the one who is HIV positive and left work at a private security company to spend two years training in HIV counselling, HIV testing, driving etc, all through AMREF initiatives. His wife, an ex nurse, was doing courses too. The only problem with doing all this training was that all the while he was receiving no salary; so during this time we helped him out with monthly rent, food, medical costs, a new pair of glasses for his wife (once), school fees for son (once) etc.
I will readily admit that over these years we/I did get donor fatigued (see previous posts) especially since he was in the first place an ex/part-time/indirect employee of ours. Also, it seemed his plans to get funding for HIV related projects in Kibera would never bear fruit but when push came to shove it was hard to say no, since he was being so pro-active and positive in the face of pretty adverse circumstances. To illustrate the point; five years ago he told us very quietly of his HIV status, but told us it was top secret because if anyone in his community got wind of it that he would be a pariah, no one would want to work with him, he wouldn’t be able to use the communal tap, he would be ousted from society – to today (thanks to AMREF) arriving at our gate wearing screamingly bright ‘Living Positively! Know your Status!’ t-shirts and waving lots of bits of paper saying he had graduated with this and that and had big plans for the future.
Eventually, about 8 months ago now, everything came good. Our ex-askari managed to get good funding for a project he’d thought up by putting together a team to raise awareness of HIV amongst Kibera’s youth. We attended one of his workshops in Kibera quite recently and it was impressive…. up until the point where we had to come up on stage and make a speech. Fortunately my husband said something quite good off-the-cuff but it was excruciating even so. A friend of mine also donated a computer and printer to him earlier this year, which was apparently a huge help in applying for a further two years of funding after the 6 month pilot was a success.
Which leads me to the point of his recent visit. Our ex-askari came to tell us that he was planning to stage a wedding (or rather renewal of vows). He’s been married for 15 years, ten of which both he and his wife have been living with HIV – he thought that a ‘wedding’ would be a positive statement for the community. Our involvement; he would like to borrow our car.
Of course we were invited too – as guests of honour. My husband hastened to say, ‘we’re not coming as guests of honour, just guests if anything.’
Anyway, we’re going to lend the car but have finally decided not to attend the wedding. Initially I was keen, if nothing else it would make great content for the blog!! Our ex-askari even told us that even the BBC were going to be there…they had been in touch. But in the end we knew we’d stick out like flipping sore thumbs and decided it might be more relaxing for our ex-askari if we were absent. We told him this morning and he was (funnily enough) absolutely fine about us not coming. My husband has asked his mechanic friend to drive our car to take the ‘bride’ to the church, so that’s all fine and organise too. The mechanic and the ex-askari know each other. My husband just has to lend the mechanic a tie.
Meanwhile, we will end up having our usual quiet sunday trying to get kids’ homework and music practise done as painlessly as possible, staring at the huge hole in our garden and other than that, relaxing.
The only question that remains is, what to get for a wedding present…?