Everyone has a talent of some sort, be it in the arts, academics, sports, or that weird and unnatural way you can bend your fingers. Naomi’s talent is hair. She loves working with hair, and thanks to LPK, she gets to put her talents to use every day in her friend Maria’s salon in order to provide for her family.
Not too long ago, though, she was an uneducated woman living on the streets. Then fortune smiled down on her.
Like so many other women, Naomi contracted her HIV from an unfaithful husband. After learning that her husband’s girlfriend had died of AIDS, she went and got tested.
After testing positive, Naomi left her husband; but with no family to turn to, she was forced to live on the streets. She soon began drinking as well.
While living on the streets, she met another man and they conceived a child together. Unfortunately, after they were both tested at the hospital and he learned of her HIV status, the man left Naomi and their baby.
Naomi was not in a good place. She was living in denial, so she wasn’t taking her medication; she had no friends to support her; she was living in a slum; she had no hope; and she hated herself.
Even after learning about AFIA Plus, which is an organization that would visit her, provide her with medicine, and take her to the hospital for regular visits, she was still living in denial. She couldn’t even talk about her status or her illness.
She eventually moved to Ngong, where she knew nobody, and lived in yet another slum. This would turn out to be the best thing she ever did, because one day, Naomi went to a random woman’s house to ask for casual work, and she was offered much more than just a job. The woman said, “You have two children. How are you going to How are you going to work here, and where are you going to stay?”
The woman gave her accommodations and paid her 1, 500 Kenyan schillings per month. That was enough money to rent a house nearby. Every day after work, she would go sleep in her empty house with her children. They had no bed, so they would just spread out their clothes on the floor and sleep on that. Still, it was a home; it was their home.
One day while at the hospital to receive her medicine, Naomi was introduced to Anne, who took her to what turned out to be an LPK support group meeting. “At first I thought I was just going to meet some people who were all sick. Instead, I found strong women who encouraged each other,” she says.
Naomi met Mom, who welcomed her with open arms, and encouraged her to sign up for WEEP. She promptly quit working and did just that. At the time, Naomi was illiterate, as she never went to school. By the time she finished the program, though, she knew how to write her name, read English, speak a bit of English, read in Swahili, make liquid soap, and tailor. She also honed her hairstyling skills. “The moment I stepped in LPK–that support group, that encouragement, that teaching–it gave me hope in life,” she says, adding, “I’m so grateful for the teachings. They will always stay in my head.”
She is also grateful that she has been able to watch her children grow up. “My children could be street children by now,” she says, “but LPK gave me the strength and encouragement to continue.”
That newfound strength has allowed Naomi to completely reinvent herself. “I don’t even remember that I’m HIV Positive,” she says. “Sitting here like this, you look at me–where am I sick?” That strength has also given her the courage to look ahead in her life. Though she is working in Maria’s salon for now, Naomi hopes that soon enough she will be blessed with the opportunity to open a salon of her own.
Until then, she will continue to work hard at Maria’s and provide for her family.
Meet her new favourite customer.
The fro never looked so good! Thanks, Naomi!