A smile regained

By Victoria Kateme

“It is possible to forget how to smile… or how to smile.” This is very true for Hasfa, who is about 75 years old and lives in Jinja. You see, Hasfa doesn’t remember when she was born, but interestingly she always says, “I was born during the time of the great famine”.

When we first met and registered her as a RIBHO home health-visit client, Hasfa was ill, lived alone, and by the mercies of whoever could help her. A few months later, her daughter came to take care of her and she improved a little, walking on clutches and or with support, but still remained very weak, and experienced severe body itching.

Hasfa also has vitiligo, a condition that causes the skin to lose its pigment. Consequently, she has discolored patches in different areas of the body, especially her face. Needless to say, she has faced a lot of stigma and discrimination in the community. Adults and children alike stare at her, point and gasp.

The combination of illness, the stigma, limited medical and social support left Hasfa with a lot of bitterness and anger towards everybody around her. During our first visit with her, it was clear that she was hurting both physically and emotionally. She was rude, shouted at us and refused to answer half the questions out to her by the visiting nurse but she accepted the food packages.

But we returned month after month, and with continued relentless love, care and kindness from the RIBHO volunteer team, her attitude changed. Her health, attitude and outlook improved steadily. She became very hospitable and started waiting for us to come around, welcoming us with her wide, and sweetly singing us songs from her youth. In March and April when the home visits where paused due to COVID-19, she looked up some of the volunteers in their homes asking with caring concern, “What has happened to my good friends?”. You see, Hasfa believes she got a new family – us the RIBHO family.

On occasion, RIBHO volunteers walked with Hasfa through the village, and it was made known to the community that she was now a friend with medical nurses and professional social workers. The once very weak and sad Hasfa can now be seen walking through the village, straight up with an ever broadening smiling face. She testifies, “My skin no longer itches a lot and I am happy to be regaining my normal skin color in some parts of the body though one may not easily see this.” She also confesses that she enjoys the food RIBHO gives her.

In my opinion, Hasfa had given up on life, but now she is very optimistic and sure that her tomorrow will only get better.

Who knew that the once disillusioned Hasfa would become a “smiling machine” of the community, and a warm charming host to all who enter her house!

I, praise the Lord for the people supporting this program. You are making a difference. Hasfa wanted you to know. I hope sharing this story will put a smile on your face. Many hopeless people like Hasfa become hopeful and hundreds of such people are being helped.

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