By Annika McGinnis
When 20-year-old Namara Vivian was a child, she never smiled.
Born HIV-positive, Vivian also lost her father when she was young.
“I didn’t want anyone to talk to me, because I thought I was alone,” she said.
So her grandmother started caring for the young Vivian and her mother, eventually taking them to Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative to receive their antiretroviral drugs. The NGO also started paying school fees for the girl and her siblings, and when Vivian was an adolescent, she completed a ROM vocational training in hairdressing. Now, the young woman has a job as a hairdresser.
“Reach Out is the reason I can smile right now,” Vivian said. “At Reach Out, when they came to visit me in the hospital, they told me ‘you’re not alone – we’re all in this together.’”
“I’m an example for the little ones [who are HIV-positive]. They all say ‘I want to be like Vivian; she’s so happy, despite the positivity in her,'”
Vivian shared her story on 14th November 2016 at the Reach Out site at Our Lady of Africa Church in Mbuya. Despite the rainy morning, applauding enthusiastically before her was a delegation from across the world: seven Chinese citizens representing the Chinese community living in Kampala, Uganda.
The Chinese visitors, part of the Zhejiang Chinese Association of Uganda and the Chinese Embassy in Kampala, had come to make a generous donation to Reach Out Mbuya: 10 million UGX to support orphans in school whose parents had died due to AIDS. About six orphans could be supported in one year of primary school with the Chinese donation.
The group had come across Reach Out Mbuya through a Ugandan friend, Simon Lokodo – who happens to be the State Minister of Ethics and Integrity in the Cabinet of Uganda. Lokodo is also a parishioner of Our Lady of Africa Mbuya Church, which, alongside Reach Out Mbuya, is organizing a 6-km charity run in honor of World AIDS Day this 3rd December. All proceeds from the run will go toward sustaining HIV-affected orphans and vulnerable children in school; the church aims to support at least 1,000.
“You see my friends, the Chinese have been interacting with me on several occasions, one to help Chinese get into Uganda’s economy and contribute,” Lokodo said on Monday. “Then they said to me, ‘We’re looking for orphans, can you get us some orphans? This donation can reach out to those small children who are vulnerable.’ I said ‘What? You are just God-given! This is what I got from the Parish Priest today in church!’”
Lokodo brought the delegation from China to Mbuya on Monday, 14th November, when they were entertained by the Reach Out Mbuya Talents Club youth African dance troupe before hearing speeches from the parish priests, ROM’s Executive Director Betty Nsangi and the Minister. A group of schoolchildren supported by Reach Out also attended the gathering.
Shirley Liu, a Chinese woman managing Global Medical Equipment Ltd in Kampala, told the crowd that the donation was in line with traditional Chinese values of philanthropy and generosity for those in need. In April, the community had also donated to support orphans at Kololo High School, she said.
“The way you add meaning to your life is to devote yourself to others, devote yourself to the community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you prupose and meaning,” Liu said with a beaming smile. “Catering for orphans’ needs are the small things we can do to make the world a better place. Sincerely, we hope that they grow up strong and healthy and become the great contributors to our society.”
Father John Mungereza, a parish priest at Our Lady of Africa Mbuya, graciously thanked the Chinese visitors and urged for additional donations to the charity run to support orphans and children in critical need.
“In the world we are living in today, people are only concerned about their problems. Many people are indifferent, so you find that many orphans are without care, without education,” he said.
“So we are appealing to many more people to come and support the orphans, to come and support us in this fight against HIV.'”
Tickets for the Run to Stop HIV are available at the parish offices in Mbuya and any Reach Out Mbuya site in Mbuya, Kinawataka and Banda. Tickets cost 5,000 UGX for kids, 10,000 for youth and 20,000 for adults. The run will start at 6:30 a.m. on 3rd December at Our Lady of Africa Church in Mbuya, followed by a 2 km children’s run.
As the Chinese delegation left, the stormy sky had cleared and everyone was smiling. The Talents Club youth danced to the lively beat of African drums.
Liu said she felt “amazing.”
“It feels great! You know, that sense of satisfaction when you are helping out other people.”
“We cannot do great things on Earth; only we can do small things with great love,” she said.