Irene’s Story: Evidence-Based HIV Prevention Interventions Support Vulnerable Children
CDC IN KENYA BLOG
November 29, 2012, 3:00 pm ET U.S. CDC Kenya Office
Tears rolled down Irene’s cheeks as she narrated how she had watched her mother die in her bed.
For years, the 17 year-old had struggled to care for her ailing mother and two siblings. Irene could not afford the drugs prescribed and the nutrition required by her mother. With no ability to save the only parent she knew, Irene could barely express her anger, helplessness and hopelessness. A resident in Mukuru Slums, her mother finally succumbed to tuberculosis in August 2009.
With little education and no skills, Irene has grown up in abject poverty without a father figure and without adult support. She was the sole provider for her two younger siblings. She turnedto sex work in 2009 when she was 16 to be able to supply basic needs to their family. “It was not my wish but fate pushed me that far. I can’t express enough the extreme emotional turmoil I have undergone but all I know is that life was full of frustrations and weariness,” said Irene.
In March 2011, she stopped sex work and started selling peanuts where she made a profit of approximately one dollar per day — not enough to cater for basic needs and pay for her house rent in the Mukuru Slums. A Hope WorldWide Kenya (HWWK) program volunteer met Irene on the roadside selling peanuts during a household identification process. Looking at her innocent face, one could see life’s potential regardless of her current situation. After listening to her sad story, both she and her siblings were enrolled into the program for psychosocial support, protection, economic empowerment, and care and support.
HWWK’s HIV Prevention Program took her through Healthy Choices II, an evidenced-based HIV prevention intervention supported by CDC through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. She also went through entrepreneurship training before joining the vocational skills training where she is undertaking a certificate course in information technology (IT) at the Mukuru Center of HOPE in Mukuru Slums. The center offers IT, and hair and beauty courses. Irene believes that she has great potential in graphic design and IT, and can bring change in her life and that of her siblings through employment or self-employment. Her biggest desire is to join college or university to obtain a degree in IT and open a cyber café and a graphic design business.
Irene says: “I want to prove to all slum girls that with determination and a positive mind, life can still have flavor that no one can imagine was in existence. I want to become the strongest in my weakest place because I believe I can creatively do a lot with my own self.”
Currently, Irene is engaged by HWWK as a Healthy Choices facilitator and trains other youth in the community where she lives. She receives 3 U.S. dollars for each session. Each session lasts from one to two hours. Both of her siblings are in school. Irene has also joined a community youth group that has economic empowerment projects like selling second hand clothes and running a community toilet project. HWWK continues to monitor her progress. She attends her IT classes regularly and is able to meet the most basic needs of the household.
“HWWK is a God sent organization. I have my confidence and dignity back. I wish you can reach many more children like me since I am sure I’m not the only one,” said Irene.
You can read more here about Hope WorldWide, one of the CDC’s partners in implementing the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.