By Geraldine Kauma and Annika McGinnis
On Wednesday, 5th October, more than 30 hardworking grandmothers were ensured a good night’s sleep.
Last Wednesday was the first phase of distribution of mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets to the grandmothers supported by the Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative Kasaala site in Luweero District, Uganda.
In rural villages in Luweero, 40 percent of grandmothers are the head of their households, some also the primary caretaker of their grandchildren as many of their family members have died from AIDS. Since 2014, the Stephen Lewis Foundation has funded Reach Out Mbuya to provide free health care screening and treatment for these grandmothers. Reach Out also constructs durable homes and pit latrines for the most vulnerable women and gives out farming tools such as hoes and pangas, food and nutritional support, and goods such as mattresses and scholastic materials for their grandchildren.
Many of the grandmothers supported by Reach Out Mbuya sleep on the hard dirt floors of their small houses and lack mosquito nets that are important for preventing malaria.
More than 30 grandmothers were reached in this distribution and more are to be catered for this week.
The bedding distribution on Wednesday was interrupted by heavy rains in the morning that disrupted the turn-up of most grandmothers, but by midday the preparations to distribute the items where underway.
One grandmother, 78-year-old Nabukeera Kate, talked of how she really appreciates Reach Out Mbuya because the services are free. Many other organizations only offer support if they contribute a certain amount of money to the group, and as a widowed and elderly lady, Kate said these expenses were difficult to bear.
“With Reach Out, the only money I spend is the transport to the Kasaala Health Center in case I am coming for treatment or anything like that. They (Reach Out Mbuya) have never asked me for any money, but I have so far received medical support, a jerrycan, a mosquito net and a mattress.”
The distribution process involved verifying the files of the grandmothers in the program to ascertain the situation in their homes, as well as the support that has been offered to them. After home visits and assessments, the chosen beneficiaries are then called to the Reach Out Mbuya center to receive their items.
On Wednesday, the grandmothers sat in the grass patiently waiting for the process to begin. One of the staff briefed them about the procedure for distribution and explained that those who had received items earlier were not eligible to receive again so as to enable all grandmothers to benefit equally.
Once the distribution began, grandmothers were assisted in documenting the various items to record in their individual files.
Najja Faith, 72, also a widow, is supporting three orphaned grandchildren who fortunately are all HIV-negative.
“It has been three years of receiving care from Reach Out Mbuya,” she said. “I even got a cervical cancer screening test and was referred to Mulago Cancer Institute to run more tests, which turned out negative.”
“I just appreciate all the support I have got from these Reach Out people. I even joined the savings group where we meet every Tuesday and am sure over time I will receive great rewards.”
She added that in the savings group, the grandmothers have been empowered to make liquid and bar soap as well as Vaseline, which they sell to earn extra income.
During the distribution, the receiving grandmothers ululated and sang praises to the sponsors, Stephen Louis Foundation and Reach Out Mbuya for always remembering them and striving to make their lives better.