Our Mamas 2021
Meet Our Mamas
From a young age, Rehema was subjected to a continuous pattern of abuse and neglect. As a young adolescent, she became a maid in an attempt to become self-sufficient and independent from her apathetic parents. Unfortunately, while her new career did allow her the freedom from her parents that she always yearned for, she also had to experience daily abuse from her employers. As a last-ditch effort, Rehema married at a young age to get away from the toxic work environment. Yet her husband also proved to be abusive towards her whenever he indulged in alcohol. Throughout the course of their marriage, Rehema had four children. In 2007, Rehema became pregnant with her last child yet could not afford the doctor’s visits throughout the duration of her pregnancy. Four months after the birth of her baby girl, Rehema started to develop a bad cough and had to go to the hospital. She got diagnosed with Tuberculosis and discovered that her and her youngest child were both HIV positive. Afterwards, her husband refused to get tested and the abuse only seemed to get worse. Rehema finally left her husband and moved into a mud hut with her children. Last year, Rehema joined the Lifted Strong program. After her and her children started to fall ill from the mud that would seep through the roof of their house during the rainy season, some volunteers from Lifted Strong paid for a year’s worth of rent so Rehema and her family could move into better living conditions. Since Rehema was very ill for a few months last year, Rehema has decided to stay at Lifted Strong so she can continue to build upon her newly acquired skills. Even through all the years of extensive abuse and hardships, Rehema still proves to be a ray of sunshine in our program with her constant smiles and kindness.
Maria is a mother of four who separated from her husband before she found out she was HIV positive. At the same time that she was taking care of all her children on her own, she was also caring for one of her neighbors who was very ill at the time. The neighbor ended up being HIV positive yet withheld this information from Maria. One day, Maria ended up having to rush her neighbor to the hospital which was when she discovered her neighbor’s affliction and ended up getting herself tested promptly afterwards. Soon after Maria learned of her diagnosis, her in-laws also found out and immediately took the two children who were related to her husband. These two children were enrolled into a new school where Maria was not allowed to have any contact with them. With her recent diagnosis and the separation from two of her four children, Maria quickly became completely depressed. Luckily, while she was getting treatment at the hospital, Maria befriended a woman who encouraged her to not lose hope and to get her children back. Maria found her children at the new school her in-laws had enrolled them in. The reunion was nothing short of heart wrenching since both children had been led to believe that their mother had been dead the entire time while under their grandparents’ care. Maria also found out that not only were her children being physically abused, but that her daughter had been raped while away from her mother. After discovering all the hardships her own children had been through, Maria quickly took action into her own hands and went to the government to fight for custody of her children. Once she was reunited with all her children, Maria began her enrollment with Lifted Strong last year. At the beginning of her placement in the program, Maria was completely distraught and hopeless with the rapid succession of terrible events that had occurred in her family which had ultimately caused her to lose the will to keep living. Over the next year, Lifted Strong’s program really helped to uplift her spirits. Maria says that attending classes as well as participating in bible studies and prayers through Lifted Strong really helped in giving her and other Mamas the hope and encouragement needed to persevere. By the end of her first year of the program, Maria could count and recognize numbers as well as read and write in Swahili; all of which Maria was not capable of doing at the beginning of her studies. She also learned through the program how to make soap, bake cookies, keep chickens, and do beading work. Maria also found the time outside of class to apply her ingenuity into making, packaging, and selling chili. By the time she had completed her yearlong course at Lifted Strong, Maria had decided to continue her education in the program to further her skills and knowledge in this year’s class as well. So far in class this year, Maria has become one of the most outspoken Mamas of the group. She is constantly contributing to class discussions and makes all the other Mamas smile and laugh at her comments. Maria’s perseverance and positivity that she brings to the program makes her a true success story of Lifted Strong and we are so happy and proud to call her one of our Mamas!
Ester lives with her husband and seven children in Olosiva. The 48-year-old Mama currently goes to houses to pick up and hand wash clothes for a living. Her five boys and two girls are all currently enrolled and studying at either primary or secondary schools. While pregnant with her last boy, Ester found out she was HIV positive. After finding out, her husband became absent when it came to family matters and continues to refuse to get tested for HIV himself. Ester takes her medication regularly to try to keep up her health and had enrolled in Lifted Strong shortly after getting tested. Ester believes and tells everyone at the program that she has no significant skills, yet she has proven to be quite proficient at beading beautiful bracelets. From the program, she hopes to learn about conducting her own business to provide a steady income for herself and her children. She also wants to learn to read and write in Swahili through the program this year.
Flora is a 38-year-old mother of one boy and two girls. Ten years ago, Flora went to a checkup for her last pregnancy and found out that she was HIV positive. Fortunately, all three of her kids are healthy and in school. Her husband panicked when he also tested positive for HIV and hasn’t made an effort to support Flora or any of their three kids when they started getting discriminated by the rest of their family members. In an effort to support her children financially, she has been doing her best to sell maize to her local community. At the moment, Flora doesn’t think she has any skills that could contribute to her and her family’s standard of living; but she hopes that by the end of the program she will know how to make soap and be able to read and write in Swahili and English.
Juduca is a resilient 44-year-old woman who is HIV positive. She is a wonderful mother to five incredible children. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, she found out that she was HIV positive. In fear of being isolated and discriminated against by her own family, she began taking her HIV medicine in secret. To this today, her parents and children have no idea that she is HIV positive. Along with the burden of keeping such a big secret from everyone she holds dear and close, she has also had to deal with the abandonment of her husband. To this day she has no idea where he could possibly be. Once her in-laws realized that her husband wasn’t coming back, they ended up kicking her out of their house. Destitute and homeless, Juduca’s only option was to move back in with her parents. In order to provide for her five children, she does farm work by harvesting coffee beans. Now that she is with the Lifted Strong Organization, she wants to learn how to make soap and beaded jewelry. We are lucky to have her courageous and positive attitude in the classroom as it brings so much love and support to the other Mamas here.
Mary is a 49-year-old mother of four children from Kwa Iddi. In her free time she sells sardines as a way to support herself and her kids. Mary was once married but separated from her husband in 1998 and has been on her own since then. After her separation in 1998, she worked as a secretary and owned her own hair salon. However, in 2005 she found out that she was HIV positive during a normal checkup. Being the resilient person that she is, Mary was able to continue working and supporting all her kids. Unfortunately, getting HIV was the least of her problems because shortly after being diagnosed with HIV, she got spinal meningitis. This was an extremely difficult time in Mary’s life since she was in a lot of pain and didn’t feel well. While Mary was able to get the necessary medical care, she was still left partially blind afterwards. While Mary was sick with meningitis, one of her sons became fatally ill as well. After bringing him to the hospital, the doctors diagnosed him with skin cancer. This news would be absolutely devastating for any mother to hear, but for Mary she knew she couldn’t afford the treatment needed to help her son. Mary also quickly realized that her own current health problems were hindering her from giving her sick son the proper care he needed. Along with all the other problems Mary had to face, she also had to make the heartbreaking decision to send her fatally ill son to an orphanage. While this was an extremely painful decision for her, she knew that this was the only way her son could get the care and treatment he so desperately needed. Since this devastating time in her life, her son has successfully beaten skin cancer and Mary has been able to bring him home. Unfortunately, since Mary’s eyesight has not come back she has not been able to go back to hairdressing, beading, or being a secretary; and has been forced to learn new skills. Now that she is with Lifted Strong, she is focusing on learning entrepreneurial skills so that she can start her own business as a way to continue to support her and her family.
Flora is a strong and caring mother of four children; two of which are her niece and nephew who she took in after her sister’s passing. Unfortunately, her late sister was not the only loss Flora had to endure since her husband also passed away. To support her niece and nephew through secondary school, Flora does domestic work like cleaning and washing clothes as a source of income. After testing positive for HIV 16 years ago, Flora was immediately ostracized by her neighbors and even some family members - namely her son in-law. The man only allows his children to visit their grandmother for short periods of time in an effort to distance himself and his family from Flora. Along with the discrimination Flora has experienced due to HIV, the disease has also caused her a multitude of health problems. After falling ill from Tuberculosis, a bump began to grow on the side of her neck. After multiple failed attempts at taking medication to try to reduce the swelling, Flora must now try to get the growth surgically removed as a last resort which is quite expensive. Despite all the discomfort she experiences, Flora continues to persevere and has even joined our Lifted Strong family. From the program, she hopes to gain more knowledge in business so she can better her life along with her children’s.
Gertrude is a 50-year-old mother and wife from the Chagga tribe. She lives with her four children and husband; although her husband is often absent when it comes to helping with family matters. Back in 2017, Gertrude found out that she was HIV positive during a routine checkup with her doctors. She handled the news well and was determined to be brave in the face of this for herself as well as her family. She took a proactive approach with her health and immediately began taking her medications regularly. She also wanted to ensure the best for her children's health and had them all tested. Fortunately, all her sons and daughters tested negative for HIV. Her husband has refused to get tested since Gertrude’s diagnosis. Before she found out she had HIV, Gertrude used her photography skills as a source of income. Yet ever since Gertrude and her family have moved away from Kilimanjaro, she found there weren’t as many opportunities to make a career out of photography so she quit her profession. Since then, Gertrude has joined Lifted Strong. From the program, this Mama aspires to learn how to sew and how to keep her own chickens as a source of income. She also hopes to learn to conduct her own business affairs so her and her family can further benefit from the skills she acquires from this program. Even though she has just begun the program, Gertrude has already proven to be quite the entrepreneur by starting up her own small shop and has made good sales numbers so far.
Theresia is a 29-year-old mother of one. Her biggest joy in life is spending time with her 12-year-old daughter. Her greatest strength is her cooking skills and she even had her own business until she started feeling too sick to manage it. In 2015, Theresia got into a car accident. She was rushed to a hospital where her injuries were treated and had to have blood work done. Her doctors promptly started her on a new medication and instructed her to take it consistently. Once she was fully healed from the car accident, her physicians insisted that she still had to continue taking her medication. After demanding to know the reasons behind all this, her health care providers reluctantly told her that she had tested positive for HIV. Here in Tanzania, it is pretty common for doctors to prescribe antiretroviral drugs without telling their patients why they need them, so that they can avoid the stigma that most HIV patients experience. Theresia quickly found herself being isolated in her own home by her family. Family members even went so far as to start to keep Theresia’s own daughter away from her. They would tell the girl to keep her distance and would warn her not to touch her own mother or she might get infected herself. The poor daughter was so confused and didn’t understand why her mama was so sick and why she wasn’t even allowed to touch her own mother. Soon after the discrimination started, Theresia decided to move out of her family home and find her own place for her and her daughter. She began to buy carrots, onions, and paprika from local markets which she would then sell at her street stall in order to take care of her daughter. Yet since Theresia wasn’t taking her medication consistently, she started feeling too sick to continue on with her business. Without an income to provide for her child, Theresia found herself depending on her younger sister for support. In 2020, Theresia became a member of Lifted Strong where she was encouraged to take her medicine regularly. Since then, Theresia has begun to feel better with the exception of occasional breathing pain. From the LISCO program, Theresia hopes to gain the necessary skills to become a great businesswoman.