In April 2021, we were alerted to a child in need by TASO, an organization in Entebbe that works with HIV patients. This is the same organization that brought us Joshua. At the time, Ritah was 16 months of age. Her mother, Kevin, is a single mother without the ability to financially support herself, let alone a child. The mother also has an intellectual disability that has further impeded her ability to care for herself and Ritah. When we first met Ritah and Kevin, in addition to HIV, they both had tuberculosis. Ritah was also severely malnourished, unable to walk, and cried around the clock.
Due to her disability, Kevin cannot manage alone with the child. For some time, they have been living near Ritah’s grandmother and uncle, who had kicked them out of the house. Sadly, the grandmother seems to have rejected them because of their illnesses, but also because of the mother’s intellectual disability, a frequently stigmatized condition in Uganda. Kevin and Ritah have been staying in a room that was paid for by a Christian organization. Ritah’s uncle does genuinely seem to care about her, but he’s only 17 and can’t make decisions in her best interest.
Since we met them, we have been helping with Ritah’s nutrition. We have tried everything possible to improve her health and to help her mother take care of her: buying food, milk, and medicine. When that didn’t seem to be enough, we began cooking meals and sending them every two days. But it wasn’t working. After almost a year, Ritah was worse and we were scared she would die. Three weeks ago, we made the decision to bring them both to Malayaka House – not before checking with an X-ray that they no longer had tuberculosis.
Our current plan is to take care of Ritah, but also of her mother. Both have a very high HIV viral load, poor health, anemia, an array of parasites in their stomachs and intestines, and sores and wounds all over their bodies. The sores are a result of their weak immune systems, caused by the HIV virus, which is further exacerbated by poor adherence to antiretrovirals (not taking them every day as needed). In short, they need someone to take care of them and help them. Kevin is a good mother who loves her baby. She just needs family support. And we are here to give it to her and Ritah.
Ritah currently weighs about 22 pounds, at more than two years old. Because of long-term malnutrition, her muscles developed poorly and she has trouble walking. Her mother had grown accustomed to carrying her around all the time. Ritah also has trouble relating because she hasn’t played with other kids and is still a bit scared of everyone. It has taken more than two weeks for her to get used to the aunties and other children, but we are finally starting to see some smiles!
Since their arrival, we have been hard at work feeding them so that Ritah can grow strong and healthy. We have involved Viola, who has a diploma in Social Work, and she is now officially in charge of their case, working with Ritah and her mother every day. Robert gives Ritah the “thousand” medicines the poor child has to take every day, and everyone at home (with Amina leading the charge) showers her with love – helping her to walk, learn to play, and even learn to smile. It’s a slow process, but we see a positive change in her every day.
Ritah is going to stay with us. For Kevin, we think the best option is for her to attend the same vocational training center (Embracekulture) for children and adults with disabilities where our sweet Mary is being trained to be an assistant teacher. Hopefully, this will also help Kevin to find employment in the future. She has told us that she wants to be a businesswoman and that she wants to work in an office. She is very grateful that there is someone to help with her baby (we think she must have felt very alone) and tremendously happy to finally feel that she belongs to a family.
If you would like to contribute to Kevin’s school fees at Embracekulture – which amounts to $400 per quarter – or with Ritah’s needs, please write to us, or make a donation online through our website right here.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who support us! Together, we can help this small, beautiful family get the fresh start at health and happiness that they so greatly deserve.