Outside, the sun was beyond bright and the day was hot. Inside, sitting on a carpet of grasses, the main room of the two-room home was dark and cool.
Paul and I were in Tanzania as part of an 2004 ELCA Communicators visit. We were in Kagemulo Mukamwa’s home outside of Bukoba, Tanzania, to learn more about the HUYAWA (Services for Children) program that provides support for children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Three of Kagemulo’s four sons are dead. The fourth (see him pictured in the doorway) has advanced AIDS; he can no longer verbally communicate. Kagemulo, 67, is guardian for her four grandchildren who are part of the HUYAWA program.
“Look at me,” she says extending her work-worn arms and hands, “I’m old. I cry all the time. I have no hope.”
As we listened, though, Kagemulo revealed three hopes. She hopes her son will die before she does. Who would care for him if she died first? She hopes that, after her death, her grandchildren can continue to live in her house and keep claim to her plot of land. Indeed, the HUYAWA program provides services for a number of child-headed households. Finally, she hopes her grandchildren (the oldest is 10 years old) can live without her. “All they want to do is play,” she said. “If I’m sick and don’t tell them to do it, they won’t collect firewood or look for food.”
Kagemulo is grateful for the HUYAWA field representative who visits once a week. He brings the children bedding and school uniforms, and arranges for free medical care at the church hospital/clinic.
After such a sobering conversation, why is Kagemulo pictured with such a big smile? I took this picture right after Paul showed her video he had taken as we were saying goodbye outside her home. It was the first time Kagemulo had seen her own picture.