Today marks two weeks that I’ve been a member of Friends of Christ Revival Ministries’, FOC-REV, staff. Upon arriving in Busia, I was greeted by a group of men in pink shirts insisting on carrying my bags and taking me across the boarder into Kenya. It was a bit overwhelming but they soon backed off when they realized I wasn’t going to pay them to take me anywhere. Later, I learned they were Boarder Men and they earn their living by riding people on their bikes to various destinations. Soon after we arrived, Sandra, Andrew, and I were picked up by a FOC-REV staff member, checked into our hotel, and then dashed off to the FOC-REV office to meet the entire staff. Everyone was very kind and asked many questions about the United States. One of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with a FOC-REV staff member occurred this week. He asked me how long I had been in the United States because my accent was gone. When I told him I was born there he looked a little confused and then asked where other members of my family had been born. I told him they were all born in the United States, and though I knew as an African-American I had descended from African, I didn’t know which country. He was baffled and expressed how unfortunate that was. He went on to encourage me to research to find out where my family had descended because it is so important to know your family's heritage. I told him that I would do so.
The following week we were busy visiting various sub-counties and villages interviewing beneficiaries for a recently funded program. The interviewing process was a bit challenging at first because very few of the people spoke English, but, with the help of interpreters, communication became less of an obstacle. The first question on the interview page asks “Has the PHAS been tested and found positive?” I thought for a moment “What have they been found positive for and what is a PHAS?” Almost instantly, after I had questioned myself the answer occurred to me and my heart was filled with sadness. I looked around the room examining the women nursing their babies, young men sitting closely to their wives, elderly men and women, and realized that every person present was infected with HIV/AIDS. I was heartbroken and for the first time I could honestly comprehend the seriousness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.
We’ve been busy this week training groups for the Sustainable Livelihood Initiative. Through this program FOC-REV provides funding for local community groups in hopes that they will one day be able to sustain without their help. During the training sessions we discussed leadership roles, the proper manner to run a meeting and managing finances. The people in my group were extremely polite and made me feel comfortable. I introduced myself as Nafula Austin and they loved my efforts to be respectful of their culture. In Busia all people are given a local name in addition to their first name. My name, Nafula, means born during the rainy season. Although I wasn’t actually born during the rainy season, my Mother loves the rain and I decided if she had to choose a name for me it would be Nafula. At the conclusion of the sessions we handed out manuals containing all of the information we had discussed throughout the week. The participants seemed appreciative and hopefully they will take heed to what we discussed and become very successful. Before we leave we plan to visit the participants during one of their meetings to check on their progress. I’m excited about what next week entails.