By Communities with Heart BLOG | September 10, 2011 at 09:23 PM EDT | No Comments
Aaron Maluwa of Museums of Malawi sent us this personal story of a woman who attended their unique cultural programming about HIV.
Mary Banda’s Story
In spring of 2011 Mary Banda of Kamwendo Village in Mchinji District of Central Malawi met Aaron Maluwa and Mike Gondwe of the Museums of Malawi. Her husband died three years ago leaving her with their five children to raise. He seemed to suffer from several different diseases. She continued to farm to support her kids after losing her husband.
She had learned about HIV/AIDS from health workers during ante and postnatal exams when her five-year old was born several years back. Like most women in villages she was not tested due to fear and the stigma of discrimination. Many in Malawi think that only prostitutes get the dreaded disease. When her husband died at age 35, she did not consider HIV/AIDS as a potential cause.
In July of 2009 she was searching for firewood when she heard a baby crying in a large pit dug to make bricks. Being winter, she found the crying baby in the pit covered with a piece of cloth. She carried the child and inquired at a nearby house, but no one knew to whom the baby belonged. She was referred by her village chief to the police who gave her permission to look after the child. This healthy two-year old still lives with her since no parent has been located.
She began to suffer from several ailments earlier this year and she learned of the upcoming presentations by Museums of Malawi in her village at Kamwendo Model School. She attended to enjoy the cultural dances and see the HIV/AIDS video being shown. She later said that the program changed her life completely. She learned how HIV is transmitted and realized that AIDS might be what took her husband’s life. She decided to be tsted at the program.
Mary was found to be HIV positive and at a well advanced stage. She was referred to Mchinji District Hospital the next day and started treatment on that first visit along with counseling by both the museum and hospital counselors.
Unlike many who learn of their infection for life, Mary treated her knowledge as a positive turning point. She offered to give personal testimony at a program at Nkhwazi School and gave it with all of her energy. Many had tears streaming down their faces as they listened to her story. She expresses her gratitude to Museums of Malawi and donors in the U.S. who support these programs by museum staff. Museum staff helped her with clothing and food supplements for her children.
Aaron Maluwa and Mike Gondwe continue this work and Mary’s story is one of thousands each year in their programming. Mary will continue to care for her six children and get treatment through her local hospital, but museum programs broke the psychological and cultural barriers to her being tested for HIV. The trip to her village from the museum in Blantyre was about 400 miles on rugged terrain. These gentleman are in a different community each week with their own cars, health care workers, HIV positive individuals who will tell their personal stories and donated funds for gas, meals and medical resources.
You can support their work through National Association for Interpretation in Fort Collins, Colorado. All funds are put toward their programs and no administrative funds are taken from contributions. To give CLICK HERE.