March 06, 2011

Melkizidik in the NEWS

I have been asked to re-introduce everyone who reads the KIWAKKUKI Blog, about our wonderful young man Melkizedik Uriyo. Because he has been so open and transparent in his dedication not just to his school studies but also to his relationship with the KCMC/Duke Community Advisory Board, I am happy to write about Melkizidik again. Though, I did not manage to take a picture of Melki at the last CAB meeting, I can relate a little about what is currently happening with him.
Melkizedik came to the attention of KIWAKKUKI through a wonderful project called “The Memory Project”. This is a project that was funded through Health Link/ “Comic Relief”. Sadly, the funding has ended for this amazing project and new funding is being desperately sought for this worthwhile group. Mama Kishe Fudasia was sent this young man. He did not know his age, he was sick, and a relative suggested that he come to her for help.

His story as he told it:
His father died, and not long afterwards, his mother. No one told him what was the matter with them, what they had died of, or that he was now going to face the life of an orphan. Melki was shuttled back and forth between Dar Es Saalam, Arusha and Moshi between one uncle and another. I finally thought that he had found a better location with an uncle in Moshi. But, one day this uncle was robbed and he blamed Melki for either the robbery or for not locking their room well enough. At anyrate, Melki was sick and afraid that he might be harmed if he tried to stay with this uncle, so he left again. A small aunt took him in with her two children. Her house was basically a big room and there was no bed or pad to sleep on. She was poor and there was no electricity and he was sick.
He finally was told that he probably had AIDS, because that is what parents had died of. This was a big shock to Melki, but he agreed to go for treatment. He was tested and did find that he was HIV-positive. He was referred to KIWAKKUKI from there. Melki had missed a number of years of school, he had no money for school fees, and he had just learned the final truth about himself and his parents. Mama Kishe helped him through the Memory Club, where he was able to make a family true, a book about his family, and to be with other children who also were orphaned by AIDS, and many also were HIV-infected themselves.
These stories that they tell are harsh. They are filled with abuse from relatives, lack of basics that most Westerners and indeed other Africans take for granted. A kind word, an understanding hug, some food, a roof, and finally access to education. The children shared their stories with one another. Horrifying though each one was, you did not see them trying to compete for “my story is worse than yours”. Each of them offered support to the other one, and at the end of the club, played games cheerfully and then the competition began. This vital work has ended because the donor has ended support to the project. What a shame. But, not Mama Kishe. Each and every young person she has worked with has become as if he or she is her own.

She continues to watch out for these children, and Melkizedik has exceeded her wildest expectations. Funding was found initially for a mattress for the family to sleep on, and then from wonderful social work students from Norway to get Melkizedik back into school. Support from Jen, Caitlin, Sarah and the Weiss family, Rehema, Dr. Moro at KCMC, the Watson family and others has allowed Meki to live in a single room with electricity so that he can study without disturbance from younger relatives who were always wanting him to put out his candle.
Melkizedik has improved in his English speaking so much that he is becoming fluent and not only that, but that he really comprehends what people are asking and can answer in a thoughtful manner. He is thin and tall now. We find that he is in Secondary 4 and though older than the other young people at this level, is not discouraged and continues to work hard. Melki’s life is not easy. He is frequently waiting for funds to come through so that he can get one more meal. He struggles on his own to study and pass his tests, and speaking out about HIV/AIDS always costs some young people friendships, but it is the path that he has chosen.
Melkizedik helped to open the Child Centered Family Care Center in 2007. He told his story to a crowd of over 100 people. As Dani Swai translated for him, it was easy to tell that Dani was as overpowered as the rest of us, and he is an occupational therapist who helps some of the most disabled people in the Kilimanjaro region.

Melkizedik needs your help, support and encouragement just as thousands of other orphans in this poor country do. Melkizedik thanks everyone who has helped him. Please think about him, and think about what you can do to help others like him.

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