I never imagined that my son would die of HIV. When he died 10 years ago, I thought he had malaria. His wife had already died before that, and their son, my grandson Francis Kalanzi, was just 3 years old and sick too.
After my son died, no one else in my family was able to care for Francis — not my brothers and sisters, or my other children. So I took care of him. I was 65 then. I was very, very afraid that he would die too because he was so, so small, and he was coughing up blood.
I spent a lot of money taking him to doctors. Eventually, they discovered he had HIV, and he began getting medicine.
Francis is now 13 and in grade 4. I never thought that he would get better, but he did. Now I realize that everything is possible.
While he gets medication from a hospital near our home, Dr. Edith Namulema brought us to Mengo clinic so we could get more assistance for Francis, such as clothes and school fees. (Dr. Namulema, who treated Francis at another hospital in Kampala, now is administrator of Mengo clinic, an MCC partner organization. Read more about Mengo’s work on page 4.)
I am very grateful to Mengo, because otherwise I wouldn’t get any money for his education. The clinic pays for his primary school fees. All the clothes Francis is putting on are from the organization; almost everything the boy has is from Mengo.
That has helped us a lot.
I get a little money for tending a stand in my neighborhood. Just recently, we got a loan of 50,000 shillings, about $19, at Mengo clinic. I buy eggs, and Francis and I resell them to get a little profit. Sometimes I get some money, sometimes I don’t. Eggs are very delicate. Sometimes you go without profit when they are broken.
Sometimes the money we get from the eggs, instead of putting it toward food, goes to pay rent, and we go without food. This is a problem because Francis must take his medicine with food. Sometimes, kind people see Francis and give him some money, and we find something to eat.
Most of our neighbors know now that Francis has HIV. When he was younger and had symptoms, like coughing or a skin rash, they would tease him about having AIDSand not let him play with them. I told him to stay away until he got better. Now they play and they are friends. They get upset when he is selling eggs and cannot play.
When I think about Francis and his future, I worry about secondary school. The stipend Mengo clinic gives is through primary school, which ends in seventh grade. I fear he will not be able to go to secondary school.
I advise my grandson to make good friends and study hard. If he makes good friends, maybe the good friends can help. I ask God for that.
Francis and I go to Mengo’s clubs for youth and caregivers once a month on a Saturday.
I go because I learn many things. I learned how to feed my grandson, how to keep him healthy and how to keep him clean, which maintains his health.
If I have problems, I can ask a friend at club, “How can I get through it?”
The friend can tell you because we have the same problems in the club. We have sick children. The mothers are sick. There is no need to hide around.
I have hope for my future because I have brought this boy from a very bad condition.
Now the boy is better, so I hope that one day the boy will be of help to me. I am 75 now. The boy already helps me. He sells eggs. When he goes out for a party, he brings food home for me. I know he will continue to help me as I grow older. He loves me.