I spent much of the day with some of my heroes.
Thanks to support from @ThePocketSquareProject and the sale of
some lovely Kenyan handicrafts, we held an adolescent support day
at our largest HIV clinic. Our oldest pediatric patients -- young
adults who were born with HIV as many as 20 years ago -- gathered
to talk and share and be family for each other.
These kids. Wow. They are bright and articulate. They are brave
They talked about walking through fears, how they struggle daily
to ignore the many voices around them that tell them that they are
worthless and dirty and doomed. Instead, they cling to their
dreams, their faith, their laughter, and their hope for the future.
And their courage -- in the midst of sickness, poverty, and
rejection -- is incredible.
Matthew is the social butterfly of the group; he is an excellent
soccer player who jokes freely and teases everyone, but also quotes
Bible passages. He is quite good-looking, and I see the girls
stealing glances at him. He led the discussion time for the support
group, and when he talks about "living positively", he grabs
everyone's attention with his organized points.
Be open with the ones who are close to you. Be as active as you
can and find support from those who share your outlook. Be willing
to love and to be loved.Matthew gets the group to discuss their
emotions and fears and what it looks like to overcome them on a
To encourage his peers to move beyond their fears, he uses a
Swahili proverb:"A cowardly hyena lives longer, but it suffers the
most."These kids want desperately to live longer, but they do not
want their potentially limited number of days to be marked by
When I listen to these kids, I gather hope and energy for our
quest to provide medicines, to fight the constant illnesses, to
keep trying to fix the broken healthcare system. They give me
hope for their futures and for our work in Kenya.
"These kids are going to change Kenya," says Lucy, one of the
world's best nurses. For years, Lucy has taken it upon herself to
look after our HIV-infected adolescents at the referral clinic.
They call her "mother."
My hope and admiration for their bright and shining beauty is
dimmed just a bit by how it brings the depth of our losses into
such clear focus. Over 50 of the adolescents at this clinic died in
the last 18 months. We have lost far too many bright and shining
stars. The kids talk about their "lost brothers and sisters", and
we feel those holes in the midst of this assembled family.
And yet, the youth carry their mourning, their illnesses, the
frailty of some of their bodies, their experiences of pain and
discrimination. They walk on towards the future. They tell each
other to choose hope every day.
"We choose to shine," they say. "We choose to live
The youth are planning a special day in November (thanks again
to our supporters!) where they will gather just outside of town at
an outdoor conference facility. They are bursting with ideas about
exactly what they want to do for this special day: play soccer,
perform their own skits and poems and dance routines in a talent
show, eat, and spend time sharing their stories. Their eyes dance
in anticipation. They cannot wait.
These young adults shine with all they have. They choose hope.
It's an honor to walk beside these heroes.