“There is this girl. I’ll call her Mary. She is a bright, beautiful, and witty Kenyan youth. This girl has been living in children’s homes for all of her life, moving often. Mary’s mother died when she was younger, and her father has been displaced. She was left an orphan, scared, unsure of who she is, and living with a secret. She was a child infected with HIV. Like many children in Kenya living with this ugly truth, they have this incurable disease by which they are now labeled for the rest of their lives. This girl is now 16 living in a home where she is the only youth affected by this disease. One night she and I were talking and she disclosed to me, with many tears, how alone she felt. It wasn’t because of any one person, but she was living in a home with over 40 other children and she was the only one who had HIV. Some would make fun of her, others would be fearful of her when she was sick or got hurt, and she admitted to me that sometimes she hated herself. I stayed up that night saddened by what I heard. Mary is a girl with dreams and goals, but is being stigmatized by a disease she has.
This is why I am passionate about Kutoa Project. Kutoa Project will be dedicated to giving girls like Mary a chance to be a part of a group where she is allowed to talk about her feelings and promote healthy coping styles for her. One of the therapy groups we would like to have is one for Kenyan youth who are living with HIV/AIDS. Like Mary, many children are living with HIV and deserve an opportunity to have a safe place to talk about their feelings, how they can support each other, and a place where they feel they can be free and open with one another because they all have something in common. Kutoa Project is going to create a safe space for youth like Mary. We can’t change their circumstances, but together we can provide hope for these youth by providing a place for them to find healing and restoration."