The bonds of love are incredibly strong between this soft-spoken mother and her daughter.
Two years ago, when Hadija's husband left her, the young mother didn't wilt. She could have become like 85 percent of folks in her community who are unemployed, waiting on magic to cure their ills. But she didn't. She rolled up her sleeves and sold charcoal, making a pittance of about U.S.55 cents a day.
She used her meager income to take care of her young daughter, Jackie, as best she could. She was a mother after all. Hadija had no time to self-reflect. Her only joy was helping others.
Like when she spotted a boy in her neighborhood alone, dirty, unkempt and wandering. Hadija didn't ask who would help him. She just did it. Hadija made sure the boy got to school on time. When he was missing, she searched the streets for him. She worked hand in hand with his grandmother to nurture him.
Hadija also made sure the boy never missed a day of his after-school program, which was housed in a local church and supported by a group called Compassion. Workers at the program complimented Hadija on her motherly instincts. So impressed were they with her that they asked her also to enroll Jackie in the after-school program. Hadija liked anything that would help her daughter. It's every mother's dream to keep her daughter safe, healthy and happy. But it wouldn't be long before Hadija's dream for her daughter's health would be disrupted by the nightmare of HIV/AIDS.
A Mother's Test
Hadija was thrilled with the opportunities Compassion offered Jackie and the entire community. When the Compassion-assisted center announced an opportunity for free, voluntary HIV-testing, Hadija didn't balk like many others. She wanted to show her daughter what it meant to be strong and defy stigmatization. Besides, her lifestyle did not put her at risk. So she got tested. When the results came back positive, Hadija was shocked.
During post-test counseling, she was encouraged to have Jackie, then just 6 years old, tested as well. And Hadija, who had worked so hard to protect, nurture and keep her daughter safe, received a second blow Jackie was HIV-positive too.
The news knocked the breath from Hadija but only for a moment. She was a mother after all. And she did what mothers do. She took care. Before the tears of shock could even spill from her eyes, she began asking about medical treatment for Jackie.
Aiding a Mother's Comfort
Because of the generous support of the Compassion's AIDS Initiative and the support of a Compassion church partner in her neighborhood, Hadija and Jackie immediately began receiving the food and nutrition needed to maintain their health.
But Jackie's disease progressed and soon the little girl needed to begin antiretroviral therapy (ART), also funded through the AIDS Initiative. Ever the taskmaster, Hadija made sure Jackie took her medicine at the right time each day.
She monitored her daughter's nutrition closely. She handled her daughter's complicated medical regimen with ease. She never let poverty, her own illness, even her own sadness get in the way of her daughter's care. Your aid allowed her to provide the comfort only a mother can give.
"Hadija is a model caregiver," says Mongi, Project Director. "We provide the funds for her transportation, and if we ask her to show up at 8 a.m., she is there right at 8." Not always an easy task for a woman who must rely on public transportation in a country where bus timetables aren't strictly adhered to.
Putting Her Child in God's Hands
Around the time she began ART, Jackie had an announcement for her mama. She had become a Christian and wanted to be baptized. Becoming a Christian is no small feat in a Muslim community, but once again Hadija let her motherly instincts take over. She didn't hesitate. She couldn't deny God's involvement in Jackie's life. Her daughter was alive.
And at that moment she realized that even as a mother she had to depend on a heavenly Father to do what was best for her daughter.
"Here is a woman who tries to be a good mama, and finds out not only that she's infected, but that she's passed it on to her daughter," explains Dr. Adela Materu, a Compassion health specialist. "I think she decided there was nothing left she could do but put her child in God's hands."
"I Don't Know What I Would Have Done."
Today, Hadija can often be found in the small, common cookhouse she shares with her neighbors. No matter how long she must wait, she faithfully cooks the mixture of maize, soybeans and millet that is full of protein and nutrients to help maintain Jackie's health as well as her own. Each morning she carefully administers Jackie's medicines, keeping the precious medicine in a safe place in the family's one-room house. Hadija also runs a small market stall, thanks to a grant funded by gifts to Compassion's AIDS Initiative. She's tireless in her dedication to Jackie. And ebullient in her gratitude to Compassion donors who help her protect and nurture her child through the AIDS Initiative.
"I don't have to worry about having enough food. I don't have to worry about whether Jackie can go to school. And when Jackie gets sick, I don't know what I &." Hadija's voice is thick with emotion as she covers her face with a corner of her skirt and wipes her eyes. "I don't know what I would have done." Thankfully, she'll never have to know. She can just focus on being a mom.
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