Pictured above is Rose and her famous smile.
In Uganda, 7.4% of the population suffers from HIV/AIDS. In Rukungiri District, 17.6% of the population suffers from HIV/AIDS, almost 3x the national average. From that 17.6%, around 30% of them are children who are born HIV positive. This issues affects Monic and her family. Monic’s story was disheartening and I feared for her and her niece, Rose.
I have met Rose twice now. When we meet, her smile takes up half of her face and her tongue sticks out between her teeth. She looks strong and normal. One could not tell by looking at her that she suffers from HIV. As she sits on my lap, she shows me all the good grades she has gotten in primary school. When she recieved a 73% on one of the homework pages she covers the score with her hand and turns the page quickly, as if I did not notice. She held my hand as she gives me a tour of her small house, made out of red mud and a tin roof. She shares a bed with her little cousin, Precious. And in the corner of her room, there is a suitcase that is filled with her clothes. She took me out to the backyard and pointed at the pig in the corner for me to see. She stood under the roof because it was raining and she did not want to get cold. As I went over to see her pig she jumped up and down with excitement. We went back inside and read English sentences together. If I spoke slowly and simply, we could have a conversation. And if I tried to speak Rukiga she would smile so big that I could not help but giggle. She is very smart and loves school. She has three best friends and she tells us they do not care that she has HIV even though she fears one day they might care.
I brought her pens, animal stickers and a notebook the next time I saw her. She sat on my lap and didn’t pay anymore attention to me after that. She was way too busy testing out all her new pens and writing English words with them. Something so simple meant so much to her. When I started to leave, her mom (Aunt) Monic asked me to come back tomorrow. She then thanked me and squeezed my hand so tight, I thought my pinky was broken but I did not mind. I could tell her and I would become very good friends in the next month and a half. As I said bye to Rose she came over to me and gave me a light side hug. I told her that I will se her again next week. I’m planning on picking her up from school.
This is not a story of a white savior or a story to make my MANY readers (just my mom) sad. Instead, it is a story of hope. A story of the power of education. A story of the power of both medicine and religion. A story of humanity. Or in other words, the strength of humanity. Rose, the beautiful little girl she is, holds the power of hope and strength in her hands regardless of the fear of death that sits inside her. This is a story that should inspire you.
Thanks for reading!
When wifi works, more will posts will come!
P.S. In Uganda, being gay is illegal. So illegal, that if the government catches you, you are put to death. Today me and my host dad had THE GAY TALK. And as we strongly disagreed he ended the conversation by saying, “I am an African conservative and you are an American liberal.” Although I do not think political views has anything to do with it, that is how our conversation was left and I felt a bit worried that the conversation may have gone too far too fast. When he left to check on his pigs. I asked my host mom, “are you mad at me over my perspective on gays?” And she said “It is not fair to please one side. You have a preference. I like matoke (bananas) and you like avocado. That doesn’t mean you have to like matoke and I have to like avocado to be in the same family. We cannot please everyone and that is okay. We do not mind. We will always care for you.”
Pictured below is Rose and I’s favorite animal. I finally got to see one at Queen Victoria National Park. I showed her the picture and she touched the screen and started to giggle.