Thursday, August 7, 2008

Guest Blog - Amy Auguston shares her experiences working with Uweza

Visiting the slums of Nairobi is overwhelming. You wonder if there is anything that you can do to help relieve the crushing poverty. During my most recent visit, however, I felt hopeful. Why? Because I had the pleasure of seeing Uweza Aid Foundation in action. I can attest to the enormous difference that Uweza, with your generous donations, is making in the lives of so many people. In this blog, I’d like to share some observations of Uweza’s projects, from my visit to Nairobi in July 2008.

The health project is a tremendous resource for the people of Kibera. In addition to dispensing invaluable advice about how to live healthily with the virus, the project fosters a sense of hope and community among the patients, who are often stigmatized because of their HIV-positive status. I was able to accompany health worker Daniel Ongoro on some of his home visits, and I saw the impact of his kindness and concern for HIV-positive individuals.

Daniel is a constant presence on the streets of Kibera. Riding his bicycle from home to home, he delivers home-cooked meals, medication, medical advice, and more to those in great need. With Daniel, I visited the home of an HIV-positive single mother living in Kibera, who did not have beds for her large family. With funds from Uweza, Daniel provided her with two new beds and sheets. I’ve also seen Daniel tend to HIV-positive orphans living at Mama Tunza Children’s Centre, who greet him with hugs and call him “Uncle Dan.”

Mama Tunza Children’s Centre is as lively and hectic as you’d expect the home of more than 70 children to be. The children who live at Mama Tunza’s have had invariably difficult lives, with many having experienced illness, bereavement, and/or abuse. But they remain some of the brightest, happiest, and most buoyant children I’ve ever encountered. Mama Tunza Children’s Centre truly becomes their home, and it is an extraordinary place where they can learn, play, and grow. To continue to thrive, the centre needs considerable investment to ease overcrowding, improve sanitation, and to better provide for the health and nutritional needs of the children. Your donations to Uweza, as well as the work of Faces of Kibera, will help to make Mama Tunza’s a better place for these children.

Attending practice sessions of the Uweza Soccer League is one of my fondest memories of my trip: the excitement and enjoyment of the boys as they play is absolutely palpable. The boys are also unbelievably happy about their new shoes, socks, and jerseys. As Meghann wrote, some of the boys sit down after practice to painstakingly hand-clean their new sneakers! It’s a joy to see the boys running around and being rambunctious kids, as they learn invaluable lessons of teamwork and discipline.

Upon my return from Kenya, I decided to sponsor a child through Uweza’s sponsorship program. I’m happy to know that the money I send will transform the child’s life through educational and health opportunities, and that through Uweza, I can track the child’s progress. I can’t wait to see pictures of my sponsored child in his new school uniform, heading off for his first day at his new school!

Uweza is doing amazing work, but there are still so many needs: for example, food costs are skyrocketing all over the world, and the slums of Nairobi are no different. I was shocked by how much the prices of staple foods like rice have increased. Your donations are needed—and appreciated!—now more than ever.

So, thank you for reading my thoughts and for your support of Uweza.

Amy Auguston

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