This is the first of three cases studies of participants in the Survivors Fund (SURF) and Foundation Rwanda Youth Camp programme.
Case of U.C. Participant in Youth Camp 2017, 2019
I grew up sickly, had poor performances at school, took medicines without knowing why; and my mother then became worse. When I asked her why I took tablets while healthy, tears always rolled down her cheeks, and she immediately went to sleep and probably stayed in bed almost all week long eating irregularly. And she also used to take tablets.
Now grown up, I have seen that where we live is not our home place. Worse again, we are still without a home of our own, and this has always made me sad. In the meantime, I used to ask my mother about my father hoping that he would extricate us from homelessness, and instead of giving me an encouraging answer, she became affected with grief. As I grew up more, Foundation Rwanda supported me to afford my primary schooling and my mother was also offered the opportunity to join a counselling group. She started to look healthy, but she did not tell me why I took tablets. But after some time, she told me how she was raped during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and infected with HIV/AIDS, leading me to taking ARV’s due to the fact that I was born HIV positive. She also told me that the one who raped her escaped. I immediately avoided taking ARV’s. Then, my mother and I started fainting. Luckily, I later became partially recovered, but feelings of committing suicide started to develop within me because I found nothing good in being alive. Once, I took an overdose of ARV’s and used to avoid them with the intention to commit suicide.
I have been invited twice to Youth Camp. First, I used to sit speechless listening to the stories of others. But I never listened to anyone with whom we shared the same story. In the evening, we were told that any one of us who was not open to sharing his/her feelings was invited to participate in Individual Counselling. I accessed it, but I decided to meet with a counsellor who did not know my case (I avoided the counsellor who knew my case). I talked to the latter one about our problem of homelessness only and pleaded with her advocacy to be offered a shelter.
I was invited back to Youth Camp, but this time I was lucky because I met here another orphaned young person who was also born HIV positive and whose mother died of HIV/AIDS recently. I felt pity on her because her case was heavier than mine, and we used to talk to each other even at night. This made me decide to speak to the counsellor who knew my case, and I told her the plain truth – the heart cloud seemed to fade – and this counsellor comforted me warmly. I remembered that she asked me about the positive resources I have, but I found none. She told me three positive resources and asked me to choose one from them I considered as my resource. I recalled that even though mother is sickly, she is still alive; Foundation Rwanda is my supporter; and my peers in Youth Camp. Furthermore, beyond all this, there is God. She counselled me to take ARV’s well and in time. Since then, I have developed greater self-esteem despite that I sometimes become self-absorbed if some opportunistic infections (OLs) affect me. But I think that even though it is not easy, I have to stay alive – I am still trying to build up my self-esteem, feelings of loving others and being loved. Youth Camp has made me think that life goes on. I love and take care of my mother more because she is sick. In addition to HIV/AIDS, she has also been affected with Hepatitis C. I now have friends. If my mother is in hospital, some of my peers whom I met in Youth Camp come and visit me, and this boosts my feelings of confidence because I am no longer alone.