it’s difficult to sleep after experiencing what we did this afternoon. ctc has the privilege of hosting chelsea dee thom, a professional photographer from colorado over the next few days here in kenya. today chelsea and i spent the day visiting women from our hiv support group at the nearby idp camps. idp stands for internally displaced people…thousands of individuals each with their own horrific story who were displaced after the post election violence in kenya 2008. most of these people were forced from their home areas after having their houses burnt, family members killed in front of their eyes, raped, beaten, etc.
we spent the day with a group of these women all living with hiv, listening to their stories, touring the camp and brainstorming on ways ctc can support their efforts towards empowerment and opportunity.
ctc recently received a substantial grant in partnership with the distinguished kijabe hospital to start an hiv/aids clinic in the rift valley. kijabe provides the medical support while ctc provides the communal support to boost opportunity, empowerment and sustainability in individuals lives.
today was an eye opening day of research seeing how these women live…how far they travel for basic necessities like medical care and the desperate conditions of their homes. we met individuals like susan who was forced from her home area with her family. she lives in a tiny hut with her a 32 year old son who was beaten so badly that he now suffers from brain damage from the beating during the post election violence. the brain damage is so bad that he often lashes out at susan leaving scars on her arms and legs.
what struck me was the compelling contrast of the desperate conditions these women live in and the incredible spirit of their character. one woman named esther shared how before the violence she was a business woman and owned a three bedroom house. she now lives in a tent about the size of a small western bathroom with a worn bed sheet partitioning the room where a badly used mattress is shared by esther and her four children. however, despite these conditions esther was proud to show us her home, laughing and thankful to be where she is.
don’t get me wrong it’s far to easy to romanticize poverty. there is immense pain in these women’s eyes, but you cannot meet them without feeling the power radiating from within them. how is this possible? where does it come from? as we walked i commented to chelsea how random life can be. how chelsea and i were born in america and these women and their children were born here in these conditions and painful circumstances. it makes no sense, but adds fuel to the fires that burn reminding me what life is all about. how we must remember we did nothing to have what we have, to be born where we are born, to live where we live.
today was one of those awkwardly beautiful painful days that shakes you up, spins you around and rattles you to a clarity that can only be found when your life is sharpened by another. when your circumstance is held in contrast to anothers and you realize regardless of where i am born, no matter where i live or what i have…what matters is that we share our lives, that we give life and that by simply giving we are restored in a way that moves us beyond words.