While staying at the orphanage in Malawi, we decided to ask Thomas a few tough questions about the children he housed. When getting to know the children you can't help but wonder:
are they a single or double orphan?
do they have any other family living?
how long have they been here at the orphanage?
just how did their parents pass away?
With the last question, HIV/AIDS is obviously one of the prevalent epidemics in Africa, being a main cause of deceased parents, family members, and children in Africa.
We decided to ask Thomas if he knew if any of the 29 kiddos he housed, were HIV+.
He responded that he really had no idea, that a lot of the children he cares for, were dropped off by grandparents, neighbors, or siblings.
I guess it's just not something you inquire about upon taking in another child.
Where in America, everything you do requires 21098471097 questions, billions of forms, and fees.
You want a driver's license, financial aid for college, a grant for adoption, heck even a cheeseburger at a restaurant, you are questioned endlessly about every detail.
It's the American way you could say.
Everything has to have a 'rhyme or reason'.
We asked Thomas' permission to have them tested, and he was absolutely for it.
So, we walked to the nearest hospital the next day and made an appointment for the following week to get all the kids tested.
We were shocked to find out that the Malawian government has granted free testing for the virus, and if you're positive, free ARV meds as well.
The rate of infection/births has increased greatly- hence the government's allowance to free testing.
Some members of our team were really struggling with this reality of what these test results could and would mean. I on the other hand was either just numb to it, or in my mindset was-
"How can we NOT do something?"
It's free. Upon knowing the results, we can take ACTION with meds and educate the rest of the kids/Thomas' family on how to care for them.
Here's my journal entry I wrote in the "waiting room" at the hospital post-testing/results:
Our appointment for the kids to be tested for HIV was at 8am today. Of course, we didn't even start breakfast at the orphanage until 8:01a,, after we already had everyone loaded into the truck to leave.
This is Africa.
When we arrived at the hospital the kids were all sat down on benches, and the nurse gave a tutorial about why they were there, what was going to happen, and what exactly was HIV/AIDS, and if you're positive- what that means, and what the steps are after. The kids were SO ATTENTIVE. A lot of the ones that have been in school, knew a lot of the answers to the questions the nurse was asking them. I was so proud of their patience, knowledge, and courage. I stood in the back and just prayed as we went through this counseling session- for them to be brave, and comforted, and that they would know they were loved no matter the result. I don't care what the test said, I was still going to cuddle, hug, kiss, and tickle those kiddos.
I brought Jolly Rancers and Sillybandz on our trip to Malawi, and had been saving them for the 'right moment'. Who knew it'd before a morning of HIV testing in a hospital though. After the counseling session, we passed out a Sillyband to each child and one by one they were called into a little office. If there were siblings, we had them go in together, and for those of us who had "special little friends/kids" of our own that we had made bonds with- we also went in with them. (there were at least two of us Americans in the office with them at all times, holding their hands or having them sit on our laps) I went with the twins of course (Sammy & Foster), Rodrick, Chimwemwe, and Judith....They were all CHAMPS! A few jerks, shudders, and only a couple tears/whimpers upon getting their fingers pricked. SO PROUD of them!
I was most nervous for the twins, they're my little buddies for the time being at the orphanage so far...everyone on our team jokes (I'm not sure if they were really ever joking rather than being pretty serious) that someday I'll be their mom. These are the boys Beau and I should adopt, etc. I giggled at first for the first few times, but you really have to guard your heart on a trip like this with situations like we're presented with. I absolutely love these boys. All of the children at Thomas'....I definitely have made a special bond with the twins that's been different from the others- but I really had to put a stop to my team's joking about this- because it messes with a girl's heart who's passionate about someday adopting. Anyway, after they were tested, Katie came out of the office and said, "Kendra.....your boys are negative!". Praise the Lord! :) Sigh of relief.
Out of allllll the kids tested, all but one- were negative. All but the most jovial, sweet, singing all the time, playing jokes on us constantly, absolutely brilliant, dancing non-stop Miriam was the only one positive for HIV. She's seven years old and an absolute JOY to be around, a double orphan, who will now have to take ARVs for the rest of her life. She was the only one that cried and refused to be tested at first, having never been tested before- it was odd to look back and now know, she's indeed positive. Did she somehow know already? It was an eery situation.
I pray that God will give her the strength and courage needed each day, that she'll forever trust Him as her Savior- and that no matter how hard it may get, that he loves her more than anything and so do we! Thankfully the meds are free, and Thomas is fully aware of all that will be required for her health. Praise God that there was only one. Hallelujah. Father, will you please protect all of these children no matter where your will leads them, and that they always trust you first and foremost.
|one of the lessons on the board at a school we visited a few weeks prior|
|counseling session before testing!|
|Sammy being brave :)|