When Oscar Ewaa visited a small family of 3 in Kwania District in Northern Uganda to deliver ART refills to them, all seemed well. The two children Janet Aboki* and Allan Ongom* aged 12 and 8 respectively lived peacefully with their grandmother who had taken care of them since they were orphaned. They thanked him kindly and welcomed the delivery. Fast forward to last week when Oscar went to deliver their monthly refill and the story drastically changes.
“I reached and found that the children had lost their grandmother. This made Janet the default family head, to provide for her brother” Oscar said.
The community in which these children live was at wits end. They had been supporting the children since their grandmother’s death, but now their supplies were running short given the scarcity of food. To cap that off, no one had a clue of where to find the relatives of this child family.
Oscar started by doing the important things first. He wrote a letter to the District to source for food for the children. The response was swift, with the district COVID19 task force providing 50kgs of food, alongside mats and mattresses. Oscar then moved to tracing the children’s relatives, and has so far found one, who lives in Lira District.
“There is a certain level of joy you get from knowing that you gave hope to someone else, even when the task looked too big and impossible for you. I have that feeling now” Oscar concluded.
Like Oscar, many other ambassadors have registered success in their voluntary initiative to sustain the lives of their peers living with HIV during the lockdown.
In Kasese, Micheal Ssenyonga managed to lobby for food supplies for 300 adolescents and YPLHIV, while Peter Kabagambire and Ismail Hirerimana have supported Kabale District to deliver ART and TB treatment to 5 nearby districts of Kisoro, Rukiiga, Ntungamo, Rubanda and Kanungu. This gets more interesting considering that at first, the belief in the possibility was low.
“Yes we were concerned that the lockdown would get many young people living with HIV missing their apportionments, but the idea of delivering drugs to clients seemed crazy” Peter Kabagambire from Kabale remembers. Well, look how far we have come!
Currently, there are 62 peer leaders doing this great work in 35 districts. As of last week, they were able to reach 376 clients with ARVs drugs, 12 clients with TB drugs as well as 11,664 condoms distributed in different communities.
Indeed, young people have the power to change the narrative. As Samantha Osoru, an ambassador from Arua District puts it, “As a young person, you don’t have to wait for something to be done for you, you need to lead in doing something that serves your community – that is why I chose to deliver these drugs to my peers”.
*Names of minors have been altered to protect their identity.