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.
For Jumwa, that battle started after her husband Karisa died
in 2002. Two years later, Jumwa herself fell ill and finally decided to test
"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."
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.
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
"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
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
"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."
more than 30 countries with Catholic Relief Services.