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November 4, 2002

"AIDS Made Me an Orphan"

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Learning About AIDS

When my grandmother first brought me to this school, I thought the children would hate me. I thought they'd run away from me because I don't have parents. But then, I saw that they are just like me. I've made a lot of friends, and the teachers give us clothes and books and teach us to read and write.

Twice a week, the school holds a "girls' club." The teachers tell us we shouldn't drop out of school or have sex or get involved with drugs -- because if we get into drugs, our heads will go far away, and if we play around with sex, we could get pregnant or AIDS. We also have an AIDS club at school, in which we learn more about the disease. The first time they described it, I remembered my mother's symptoms. That's when I discovered what had killed her. I am very frightened of getting AIDS; it's a deadly disease, and there is no cure.

At night, my grandmother prepares dinner for us. Most nights, we eat sukumaweki (a leafy vegetable) and ugali (an African meal prepared from maize). She earns only about 25 or 35 cents a day selling homemade corn chips on the side of the road, so she sometimes can't afford to feed us. When the school has extra food, they give it to my grandmother for our dinner. When it runs out of food, we go all night without eating.

Near the end of my mother's life, I would sit on the edge of her bed and talk with her, and once, she asked me what I wanted to do with my future. I told her I would like to be a nurse. I think if I work hard and keep going to school, my wish will come true. I know that would make her very happy.

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