Monday, November 8, 2010

Life in the Slums: Part I "How did I get here?"

This is the first in a series telling stories of "Life in the Slums."

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” - Mother Teresa

"How did I get here?"

My name is Dorine and I am from Bungoma, Kenya (a rural area far outside the city of Nairobi).
I finished 6th grade but could not proceed for lack of school fees.  I was married at a young age and was my husband's first of two wives.  Life was always difficult but we managed to make ends meet living off the land and helping each other out.  My husband died on the 13th of April 2005 after a prolonged illness from HIV/AIDS complications. That same day his family cast my boys and I off of our land which left us homeless for some time.  My in-laws have disowned me and blamed me for his death.  Without any choices we were eventually forced to move to the city to find some work and a new way of life.

I live with my boys in a rented room in the Kiambiu slum.  "Kiambiu" is a Swahili word meaning "on-the-run."  I am HIV+ and have lived with this condition for over 5 years now.  I am still afraid to tell others of my status for fear of being shunned.  I am currently taking medication (ARVs) to help monitor the virus.  In order to survive and to keep my boys accepted I must keep it secret.  I always feel like I am running away fearing something.

My greatest struggle is to provide for my boys.  They do not have HIV.  For income I do some casual labor like washing clothes or beadwork for which I get very little (Kshs. 1000/ approx $12 per month).  I really can not afford to send them to school.  I have to make choices between the necessities like food and giving my boys an opportunity through education.  I do not feel safe.  There are always numbers of thieves trying to take advantage.  We just survive and look out for each other.  I worry about my boys and their future.  This life along with my poor health leaves me hopeless and forgotten.  I don't think I will make it out of here alive.