Bright Future Ahead
Bright Future Ahead
I was very happy when CARE asked me to write a story about my life because I wanted to share my experiences and struggles with others. I want others to be able to reach their goals in life with few obstacles in their way. I want them to lead fulfilling and pleasant lives like me. My life could be written into a novel. My bright future is thanks to the good people in my life who guided me towards happiness and good health.
I was born 15 years ago in July at a clinic. I lived with my parents and my little sister. My father was a worker at a car repair shop and my mother was a housewife, who took care of our family. When I was four, my father made good money through work and would spend a lot of free time drinking and womanizing with his friends. In 1999, my little sister, who was only six months old, passed away due to disease. After my sister’s death, both my parents’ health conditions declined.
Following my sister’s death and their poor health, my parents went to a clinic and soon found out that my father was HIV-positive. Both of them lost a significant amount of weight from their depression. At the same time, our family’s economic situation deteriorated. My mother’s health condition worsened gradually. My aunt, who was my mother’s sister, and I took care of my mom together. I held the flashlight while my aunt dressed my mom’s wounds. Although we took care of them, both of my parents continued to get sicker.
My mother decided to send me to my aunt to be adopted forever. I was only four at that time and I cried dejectedly over her leaving me with my aunt. After saying goodbye to me at my aunt’s home, my mother left to the town where my grandparents live. My father lived with me at my aunt’s home. Although I had both parents, we did not seem like real family. My care-givers were my uncles and aunties. Both my parents’ health continued to become worse, and not much later, my mom passed away. Due to the loss of my mother, my father also passed away from the sadness and depression. At the age of five, I had already lost both my parents.
When I reached adolescence, my aunt gave me a letter my mother had written to me before she passed away. In the letter, my mother wrote, “Dear son, I’m not feeling very well and thus, have to leave you with your aunt. Be a good boy and listen to your aunt. Also, pray for us to stay together and try to study hard. Listen to my words. With love, mom.” Reading that letter, I felt the intense grief of losing both my parents at such a young age. At the age of five, I had encountered the worst experience a child could have by seeing both my parents suffer with a horrifying disease and pass away before my eyes slowly and painfully, one after another.
My aunt, my foster mother, runs a small business selling dried fish and bed-nets in the villages. She took care of me as a mother would and stood tall for me as a protector. When I turned six, I was admitted at a primary school for the academic year of 2000. A few months into the school year, I fell ill and my foster mother had to send me to a clinic. Although I was attending school, I was frequently sick throughout my primary school years. Sometimes, my fever was really high for very long periods of time. When I was eleven years, my foster mother became suspicious of my condition and went to seek advice from a doctor from the tuberculosis department who inquired about my and my parents’ health histories in detail. After hearing the explanation of my parents’ deaths from my foster mother, the doctor suggested I undergo a blood test. When the blood test returned, to our horror, it stated I was HIV-positive. My foster mother broke into tears up receiving the news.
I began a regimen of anti-TB drugs in September 2005. Also from the referral of doctors from the department of health, I began anti-retroviral treatment when I was in Grade 5. Although I was taking these medicines, I did not really understand what they were for. I had been taking medicines regularly and going to clinics for some time when my foster mother discovered self-help groups (SHGs) for people living with HIV (PLHIVs). She came in contact with international non-governmental organizations such as CARE through the SHGs.
With the help and support of CARE, I joined the SHG group where I participated in the forums, met other PLHIV children and talked about our feelings. CARE provided me and other children like me nutrition support and help with school. CARE staff also taught us about our condition and how to care for our own health. CARE formed an SHG group for us with the name “Example.” Our group had the opportunity to do fun things like visit zoos and also have discussions among us, which made me very happy. Through my involvement in the SHG, I came to know about the disease I have in my body.
Back at home, I asked my foster mother why I needed to go to the SHGs, but she would not answer. She did not want me to know about my disease but she had no idea I already did At the World AIDS Day ceremony, I participated in the random dialogue session where I talked about my whole life story to the whole audience. Only then, my foster mother found out that I knew about my disease and she wrapped her arms around me and wept. I told her that I had found through talking with my peers at the forums and discussions held by the SHG.
My foster mother was then allowed to attend the child rights trainings and workshops and the health-care trainings. She was able to take care of my physical and emotional well-being more after the training sessions. Later on, my other family members found out about my disease but they did not discriminate against me. After CARE staff explained the details of my disease to my other family members, they treated me well. CARE staff also treated me very well and I was very happy and delighted by their warm kindness.
At the start of my Grade 6 school year, my foster mother decided to tell the classroom teacher about my health situation. After being informed, my teacher took very good care of me.
During those years, I didn’t meet any discrimination at school; but that changed when I reached Grade 8. I was discriminated against by one of the teachers would not allow me in her class after she found out about my condition. All my family members were very upset about it. Due to that, all of my other class members found out about my health condition. I felt very embarrassed as all of my friends knew about my disease. I wanted to blame my parents for the situation; but I refused to sink into a depression. All of my family members, teachers and CARE staff encouraged me to continue my education. Thus, I felt better again and continued my studies. Although I was not allowed in the classroom, I was lucky because my classroom teacher gave a special class just for me after class.
However, during Grade 8, due to some setbacks in my health, I had to start using a hearing aid. At first, some of my classmates asked me why I needed to use a hearing aid; but I was able to explain to them calmly. In the beginning I had some difficulty using my hearing aid but with time I became used to it.
At that time, a thought came into my mind that there are people who accept me as I am and those who discriminate against me due to my status. That is why I realized that I should not lose my courage and should continue to face the problems with bravery. Although I was forced to inherit a bad disease from my parents, I have many other people who can help me to continue with my life. Thus, I gained self-confidence and could later help others like me. Afterwards, I attended the child protection training provided by CARE and also health trainings provided by other agencies. My foster mother also joined one of the SHGs called “La Min Eain” (meaning “House of the Moon”) and took the role of treasurer. In 2009, I volunteered to teach at a community-based organization (CBO) named “Chay Hlan Thit” (meaning “Future Steps”) for other youth and children.
Later on, I took the role of accountant at the “Chay Hlan Thit” CBO. In 2010, I attended the 11th grade and sat for the matriculation exam and passed. Now I am attending my first year of engineering at the Government Technical College. With the scholarship provided by a local CBO called Lokka Ahlin (“Light of the World”) for the management English class. Moreover, I have gained more knowledge through attending the health education, life skills, peer education, sexual and reproductive health, organizational development, and monitoring and evaluation trainings provided by CARE and other agencies. Now, I am taking medical training at the health center for adults. My social position and status are due to all the support and assistance from all the organizations working to help people like us. Above all, psychosocial and emotional support were the major contributors that acted as the light shining onto my dull life and showed me the many ways to walk the path of my life.
Although I first thought that life was a simple matter, at times to pass through it is like an infinite journey of struggles. By now, I have reached a certain point during the journey of life and I will work harder to reach my life’s goals and final destination. Right now, I have my future to look forward to and plan to participate in the social work that I enjoy as well as studying electrical engineering, which interests me.
I have reached this positive point in my life thanks to the help and support of the humanitarian organizations available in my community. Without humanitarian organizations like CARE, there wouldn’t be many people in my community who would spend such time to help people like us. Just have a look at my life; I could only grow up to this age with all the support, encouragement and help from the people of those organizations throughout my life. I would also want to encourage my peers not to get discouraged or distracted with negative emotions, but to have a desired destination in life.
For my future, I hope to live my life to the fullest by helping out as much as possible through involvement in self-help groups for my peers alongside CARE staff so they have the opportunity for a bright future ahead like me.