Written by Mwanzo with the support of Jennifer Porter
“Whoever dreamed that I too could be somebody? I thank you my fellow group members for your trust in me. I will give my last drop of blood to make sure I keep growing. I believe God knows me by name, and has continued to bless me beyond my understanding, thank you God!”
Millicent Opundo discovered she was HIV/AIDS positive when she fell ill after the death of her husband in 2011. HIV/AIDS was at its peak in 2011, with many people in the Kenya and the community of Rabour losing loved ones to the disease, and antiretroviral medication expensive beyond reach. Stigma and fear ripped communities apart – fear of the disease and of loss created huge distances between neighbors, friends, and families.
Millicent had two young daughters, ages two and four, and only an eight-grade education. As a single mother and with HIV, her options for employment were limited. But then she learned of the Mwanzo Energetic Proud Farmers group (MEPF) and reached out to the Chair, Janet Andar. MEPF was created in 2013 to support young people who suddenly found themselves as heads of household, caregivers to dying parents, and new-parents to their younger siblings. Janet, herself an AIDS widow and mother to four children, welcomed Millicent with open arms.
MEPF has a microfinance program, an agricultural and training support program, and catering and poultry enterprises – Millicent joined them all! She made friends and learned new skills, seeing how each piece fits into one another in a local social and economic ecosystem. In 2020, Millicent was elected as the leader of the Mwanzo Wetu Catering Group because of her hard work and willingness to share what she learned of accounting with others in the group. She was then chosen in 2021 by her peers to house the groups poultry coop on her land.
MEPF has sent Vista Hermosa beautiful videos, celebrating the generosity of a grant that helped to purchase chicks and helped the microfinance group weather a difficult year with COVID, and intermittent droughts and heavy rains that washed away animals and housing. But to hear Millicent say, ‘Let me talk about today,’ to be someone she never imagined herself capable of when mired by the stigma and fear of HIV/AIDS, to be a trusted member of leadership – one asks what is the deeper function of generosity here?
The women of the Mwanzo Energetic Proud Farmers Group and the Wetu Catering Group gifted a trusting, loving, and safe space for Millicent and others like her to grow into their leadership and potential. There is a profound gift to be trusted in this way.