Imagine this: You are on your way to have lunch with the women of Sikoro. The walk from the modestly furnished house that GAIA rents to Sikoro will take you about 45minutes. The heat will have you drenched within minutes -no matter the time of the day- and you will have to share the road with cars, motorcycles, donkeys, cows, goats and people, as there are no sidewalks. Along the way, you will wave at the children and their mothers, who walk -often long distances- with an infant on their back, a basket on their head, a bucket in one hand, an older child’s hand in the other. You will reply to the many hellos thrown on your way by passersby and people sitting on the sides of the road, and forget the physical discomfort ever more with every smile, exquisite and contagious, belonging to some of the poorest people on the planet.
Soon, you too will fall in love with them, as did I. You will fall in love with the children who want you to touch their little hands and remember them forever by taking their photographs; with the ladies braiding each other’s hair in the afternoon heat, calling out that they love you and kissing your hands. You will fall in love with the men, sitting in the shade of a rare tree, listening to the radio, inviting you for a cup of tea. So for a moment, you will forget about their torn, dirty clothes, their bare feet and their scars. It’s as if they have everything in the world.
When you finally reach the Centre de Santé Communautaire de Sikoro - the clinic that offers basic health care services to the community - you will be greeted by fruit vendors sitting outside the clinic’s walls, selling the few seasonal fruits available. It’s Friday, and the women have will have already started cooking. This is a weekly culinary activity, funded through GAIA, by HIV positive women for HIV positive women and their children. A group of more than 20 women and children will be sitting in a corner of the clinic’s courtyard, taking turns stirring the food in a large pot over a pile of wood on fire. The children will be playing or in their mothers’ arms, some asleep despite the heat and the noise. They will immediately signal for you to join them and make space on the crammed benches.
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