Release date
October 18, 2009

New Chances for Life and Education Renew Hope

October 18, 2009, —

By David Snyder

Arriving home from school, Katana Koya pulls a small stool

into the shade of a mango tree and helps his mother Jumwa split peas for the

family dinner. Theirs is an easy relationship. As they work together under a

late-day Kenyan sun, they are a picture of tranquility, betraying not a hint of

the battles both have been fighting: Katana for the chance at education and Jumwa

for life itself.

Jumwa Koya

Jumwa Koya appreciates the support she receives from CRS to help her two youngest children return to school. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

For Jumwa, that battle started after her husband Karisa died

in 2002. Two years later, Jumwa herself fell ill and finally decided to test

for HIV.

"When I went for that HIV test it turned out positive,"

Jumwa says. "When I was given a positive result I was in denial. I kept it

as a secret."

Difficult Times

Jumwa is the only breadwinner in her family—she earns a tiny

income from casual labor and from selling a few vegetables from her farm in the

Malindi district of coastal Kenya—and her illness hit the family hard.

Bedridden for most of a two-year stretch, she was unable to earn money to

support her seven children, including Katana, then 11 years old, and his sister

Mvera, just 7. Education became a luxury. Basic school costs like uniforms and

books were simply too much for the family. Eventually Katana and his sister

dropped out of school.

"They used to stay at home because they had no uniforms,

no scholastic materials," Jumwa explains.

Katana Koya

Katana Koya dropped out of school. But with help from CRS, he restarted his education and hopes to become a doctor. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Then Catholic Relief Services arrived with help. Working with

the Diocese of Malindi as part of the AIDS, Population and Health Integrated

Assistance program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development,

CRS helped provide the family with mattresses, mosquito nets, a home-based care

kit for Jumwa and some basic household renovation. The children met with

counselors to help them deal with the stress of losing their father and their

mother's illness.

"Through the…project, my children have been able to get

advice and support," Jumwa says. "They learned there were people who

cared for them."

Hope for a Better Future

Katana, now 16, and his younger sister also received uniforms

and school supplies. Both returned to school. Katana brought with him a new

perspective on life.

"For me the biggest impact has been my education,"

Katana says. "Because of the school materials we received, we have hope. I

had dropped out, but now I feel there is hope of becoming a better person in

the future."

With her youngest children now back in school, her home renovated,

and her health restored by the powerful antiretroviral medications from Gede

Health Center—a clinic linked to CRS for referrals—Jumwa feels like she can be a

mother again. Where once she hid her HIV status, she is now the chair of a

support group that encourages others with HIV.

And Katana now has dreams for the future.

"I am aspiring to become a doctor so I can help my

mother and the community," Katana says.

He says that by helping him return to school, CRS made those

dreams possible.

"I'm trying to work hard so that I can continue my

education," Katana adds. "My situation at home is not a barrier as

long as I have support."

David Snyder is a photojournalist who has traveled to

more than 30 countries with Catholic Relief Services.