By Luke Sellers
There are many things from our time in Kilembe that will live long in the memory; the breath-taking scenery, the insatiable appetite for cricket and the warmth of the people.
But above all of these it is the stories of two very special women in particular that will leave the most enduring imprint on myself and the rest of the team.
During our festival – a wonderful day featuring nine schools and a fantastically fierce level of competition – I was fortunate to spend some time with both of them.
Here is a brief account of one of their stories, with the other to follow later in the trip. The full write-ups and videos will be available on the CWB website shortly.
Grace is a teacher at Bulembia Primary School in Kilembia.
She has three children and one grandchild.
She is HIV positive.
She found out that she was ‘a member of the club’ as she put it, when she was pregnant with her daughter Elshadie. She believes she contracted it from her husband who later collapsed and died having refused to get tested or accept any form of treatment for fear of being stigmatised.
But against all the odds Grace’s isn’t one of despair, it is one of courage, inspiration and hope.
For while life is tough for her, this remarkable lady has taken the cruel hand that she has been dealt and sought to make the very best of what she has.
After initially receiving counselling Grace came to terms with her illness and is now committed to being open about it in the hope that others will avoid the same circumstances she found herself in.
She endorses the work that CWB do in using cricket as a method of teaching the key HIV/AIDS ABC message of Abstain, Be faithful and use Condoms and she has even come up with songs that her pupils sing to reinforce these.
By ensuring she eats as well as she can afford Grace’s white blood cell count is such that she doesn’t currently need ARVs. And seeing her with her students you wouldn’t believe that she was anything less than 100% fit and healthy. She is a ball of energy, a passionate and committed teacher and a true inspiration.
And as for Grace’s daughter Elshadie. She is now eight-years-old, a bright, beautiful child.
And because her mother got herself tested at the first sign of ill health and followed the doctor’s advice – she is HIV negative.