On December 2, 2017, 100 children gathered at Alive Medical Services for Children’s Day.
“Even though they’re children, they still experience stress,” said Lorna, a counselor with AMS’ youth and children program. “Children’s Day gives them a chance to be free and have fun together. They can forget their troubles for a little while.”
Throughout the day, youth peer educators led children in a number of different activities. They sang, danced, and played games, sometimes with their caregivers, other times with their peers.
The youth educators talked to children about the importance of adhering to their medication, along with other child-friendly health topics.
“Our youth educators really take charge of these events,” Lorna said. “They serve as good role models for the children, and encourage them to stay healthy.”
As children interacted with youth educators and staff, their caregivers participated in their own type of programming: music therapy. Our music therapy program was recently relaunched by two new members of our staff, both of whom arrived two weeks ago from the United Kingdom. These two staff members, Ella and Isabel, engaged caregivers in music therapy sessions throughout the day.
While in these sessions, caregivers were given the chance to unwind, share stories, and enjoy each other’s company. They talked about motherhood, care, and HIV, connecting over the challenges (and of course, the benefits) of raising HIV-positive children.
“A great part of today is the fact that children get to share love with their parents,” said Martin, a clinician at AMS. “We encourage children to dance, sing and spend time together, which is so important.”
One week from today, people around the world will celebrate #GivingTuesday. First launched in 2012, #GivingTuesday was created to kick off the charitable giving season, boosting the impact of organizations and connecting individuals with causes they care about.
To wrap up 2017 in the most impactful way possible, Alive Medical Services has teamed up with Global Giving to raise funds for our most vulnerable clients: HIV positive women, adolescent girls, and children. We’ve created this new project page to strengthen our programming for women and children, boosting our support for those most disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic in Uganda.
In addition, Global Giving will match every recurring donation made from November 28 to December 31 by 100%, amplifying your impact for HIV positive women, girls and children at AMS.
Every time we work together, we get closer to an AIDS-free Uganda. We are so excited for #GivingTuesday, and we hope you are too!
Across the world, young girls struggle to balance their menstruation cycles and their daily lives. Without the proper resources, a week-long period can mean a week out of school – and because in rural areas, sanitary pads can be expensive and nearly impossible to find, 30 percent of Ugandan girls miss class during their periods.
“I was an orphan, and when I was young, it was so hard for me to get sanitary pads,” said Carol,* a client at Alive Medical Services (AMS). “I had to rip my regular clothes and use those as pads.”
Remembering such experiences, Carol joined AMS’ Kisakye Group as soon as it was launched in February of 2015. AMS established the Kisakye Group for two reasons: the first, to help HIV-positive individuals earn a sustainable income; the second, to support girls and women with menstruation management. AMS trained six clients to cut, sew and create reusable sanitary pads – or “super kits” – for donation.
Each super kit contains four cotton pads, two “shields,” two Ziploc bags and a cloth drawstring bag. These super kits help women use their sanitary pads discretely and with dignity.
Since then, the women have continued coming to the clinic nearly every day to sew. The Kisakye Group produces approximately 200 super kits per quarter, each of which can last up to three years. AMS pays women for each super kit they produce, all of which are donated to vulnerable populations and other AMS clients.
“These pads are so important,” Carol said. “You can wash them easily, which prevents disease and infection.”
The sale of these pads has helped women like Carol change their lives: because of her income from the Kisakye Group – and because of her treatment at AMS for the last nine years – Carol’s health has remained under control. Her two children are HIV-negative, happy and healthy. And, Carol reports that her financial stability has helped her look past the stigma and misconceptions regarding HIV.
In addition, Carol’s husband left her last year. Instead of falling apart, the small family picked themselves up, built a new home, and started their lives on a healthier foot, all because of Carol’s savings from the Kisakye Group.
“I love being here,” Carol said. “Kisakye helped me build a one-bedroom house. It helps me budget for my children. Because I know how to make these pads, my daughter won’t have to deal with her period in the same ways I did.”
* we have changed the name of this client to protect her privacy
Growing up, Anthony had always been sick. His mother took him to clinics, hospitals and health-care centers all over Kampala, but it wasn’t until age 10 that Anthony’s mother revealed the reason behind those visits. Anthony was HIV-positive, a concept he could barely understand and barely believe.
“I kept asking myself, how could this happen to me?” Anthony said. “Where did I get this virus?”
Dealing with an HIV-positive status at any age is difficult – but at age 10, it can be absolutely unbearable. After years of searching for the right clinic, Anthony and his mother, who was also HIV-positive, started receiving care at Alive Medical Services (AMS). Anthony began attended counselling sessions with AMS staff, and soon joined the Victor’s Club, a youth-led support group for children age 11-24.
Now age 22, Anthony remains an AMS client. The support he’s received from AMS has been critical, Anthony said, particularly after his mom passed away. The Victor’s Club has provided a platform for Anthony to de-stress, receive advice, and grow a support system of peers and other HIV-positive youth.
“AMS has really provided great support to me and my family,” Anthony said. “After my mom died, I was left to care for my two siblings. AMS provided us with food support when times were hard.”
This past year, Anthony also engaged in a music therapy project through a partnership with AMS and Musicians without Borders. Anthony, who had always loved drumming, received technical drum training. He also participated in sessions to build leadership skills and boost confidence. Twice a month on Saturday mornings, Anthony taught HIV-positive children how to drum, dance and sing, an activity that helped him build his self-confidence and patience. He grew to love attending the sessions and interacting with children, as it was not only fun, but rewarding. After the program ended, Anthony and his friends continued making music by forming a band and recording their songs.
“Through that program, I realized I really enjoy working with kids,” Anthony said. “I think it’s my calling.”