Speaking Swahili — Ambassador Scott Gration Shares Some Shade with mothers2mothers in Kenya
mothers2mothers staff are used to meeting U.S. Government officials. But a recent visit from U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration and his wife Judy to an m2m site in Kisumu, Kenya was different. Ambassador Gration speaks Swahili, one of Kenya’s two official languages. No translation was needed – he fit right in.
Ambassador Gration grew up Kenya and Congo, giving him unique insight into the difficulties sub-Saharan Africa faces. Part of the focus of his visit was to gauge the impact of the US Global Health Initiative (GHI) that is integrated with health services in Kenya. GHI is meant to improve the health and save the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Sitting beneath a tree that offered welcome shade from the scorching mid-afternoon heat, a small group of mothers living with HIV told the Ambassador how discovering their status had altered their lives. The women shared their stories of courage, hope, and fighting the stigma associated with the HIV. “My husband shouted at me, calling me all sorts of names, he threw my things all over the compound, my mother-in-law came out demanding why I was bringing disease to their home. The neighbors came out of their houses and looked at me as if I had brought death to that place. I really cried and when I left, I never went back,” Jackline Odongo said.
The mothers had an easy time sharing their stories with Ambassador Gration, as they could easily address him in their native language, Swahili. They shared how, through mothers2mothers, they found the strength to continue with their lives, and with all the information they received, were able to save their children from HIV. “The Mentor Mothers consoled me and they told me that it is possible to give birth to a negative baby if I follow the doctor’s orders. That’s what gave me hope in life,” recalled Odongo, who is herself now one of the program’s Site Coordinators, and is mother to a daughter who is HIV-negative “as of her last test,” a fact expressed by all the mothers in the group.
At the conclusion of the visit, the Ambassador made closing remarks that included his desire to see m2m scaled up nationally. His wife invited m2m to showcase their work at an event that she hosted, saying she would be happy to reach out to “some of the gals” to speak. We are happy to count them among our friends! Tunashukuru sana (We are very grateful)!