I had a couple of unexpected visitors this week who just showed up. One was very happy, the other rather sad.
The first happy visitor was our ex-askari, Cosmas who we have been supporting financially for the past few years. He lives in Kibera. I’ve written a lot about the donor fatigue I/we felt, but we could never bring ourselves to give up because he was so determined to improve his lot in life and never gave up. In fact he’s a really amazing character.
We first got to know him six years ago when he worked with us as a watchman. He needed our help as he and his wife were continually unwell and working nights was obviously not helping matters. Eventually he confided to us that he was HIV positive – the root of most of his family’s problems. His wife is also HIV positive, but not his son. At the time, he explained to us the struggle of keeping this a secret (he was certain he would be rejected by family and those living around him if they knew) but trying to get anti-retroviral drugs regularly and stay healthy with a diet that included plenty of fresh vegetables was putting a huge strain on him.
It’s a long story but since leaving the world of being a watchman/guard working for a large security company, he has got himself loads of training; he’s a qualified HIV tester and counsellor/he can now drive/is computer savvy/accounts savvy/can surf the internet etc. The downside was that none of this training helped him get an income. A real low point was the Jan 07 election crisis when not only did he lose all his possessions and fear for his and his family's life, he was put back to square one with his project funding due to the country-wide disruption.
Un-deterred though and after what has been years of highly tenacious pursuit of funding and endless disappointments and delays, Cosmas has finally, finally been granted funding for a project in Kibera which he and his wife put together called ‘Hope Life’. The project’s aim is to educate 10-18 year old girls in Soweto East (Kibera) on HIV awareness. He now has secured funding for a six month pilot scheme, which if run properly will be rolled out for a further two years. He also has a paid job at AMREF starting in Jan.
He told me that he and his wife decided to stop asking us for money since October because they have lately been just about managing without our help. They’ve been regularly receiving Nakumatt vouchers for food from AMREF for various HIV testing work and had received help from the Hope Life project backers with his rent. He looked so well, so happy and so hopeful. He said his wife and son are also doing well. His son has recently completed his school exams.
The second visitor was Philip the cook who I found a full time job for a couple of years ago. He’s an older guy who might normally retire but still has kids of school age, so fees and family costs to bare. When I met him he was working for a friend, then odd jobbing 'freelance' as a cook, which was unsatisfactory and to be honest, quite stressful for me as for a short time I was acting as his pa. Although he was an excellent, hard working cook and used to fill my freezer with delicious soups and other dishes – an invaluable help when we had visitors - I was very pleased with myself when I found him a permanent job. Problem solved.
In the new place he got a very good salary and lodging with a nice family. I gathered from the employers that the job went quite well for him for significantly more than a year. Sadly though there were issues later and after a while Philip left quite suddenly/voluntarily to go back to his home.
Unexpectedly he arrived at our gate this week for a visit. He said he’s been home and unemployed for a year. When I asked why he left his good job, he looked shifty. He could have been in contact over the past year if he had wanted me to help with finding more work but now he looks ill, thin and he’s lost a load of teeth. It was a bit of a shock to see him. Apparently he’s staying with a brother in Kibera and says he is starting fresh on the quest from work. It almost makes you want to cry.