It is hard for me to put into words the experience of having President George W. Bush and his entire family at Chikumbuso. It was an incredible honor.
Many of you are asking me how this visit came about.
It is because Chikumbuso Community Center is a place he would not want to miss.
At a time when heads were reeling over the AIDS endemic ravaging Africa, President Bush showed an enormous amount of courage as he stood up to this global threat and came out with the PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) initiative. This is an initiative that has helped save the lives of those suffering around the world with HIV/AIDS. Through hard work he was able to mobilize the American people into giving back to those desperately trying to rebuild their lives in the midst of such devastation.
Living here in Zambia I am witness to the lives saved through this program. Ninety five percent of our widows at Chikumbuso and many of their children suffer from this virus.
When I reflect on the women seven years ago and the hardships they were enduring, not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually, I can see nothing but growth. They support themselves through a lot of hard work and commitment. Many of the struggles are still there. Death still roams the compound like a lion, devouring who ever it can find. Sickness is everywhere and healthy food is still an issue. Yet somehow each one of these people finds the strength with the help of their ARVs to keep on going and when they don’t, the rest of the community is there to lift them up. The members of Chikumbuso show what can be done when given just a bit of hope and direction. At Chikumbuso we do not carry the person, we give them skills to help themselves. It is totally up to them whether or not they pick up their burdens, give them to Jesus, and move on.
President Bush’s courage is only matched by the courage shown by these women. The beauty of his visit to us was that he got to see it in a very personal way. Women shared their stories and children shared their lives. I believe that President Bush and his family were touched deeply by the stories the widows told and the lives of the children at Chikumbuso. He was able to see first hand what a difference his courage has made in their world.
Note the sign above the Presidents head in the photo below. It is one of the old WWII signs that I picked up in NYC, it is of a woman with a head scarf showing off her muscle. At the top of the sign it says, “We can do it”.
That should be the motto.
We can do it. We are doing it.
We are changing the lives of many, many people both within the project and also in the compound of Ng’ombe.
World War II stole the lives of many American men and American women stepped up to the plate. The AIDS virus stole the lives of many of the widow’s husbands and they too are working to get back on their feet. The war on AIDS is not over but many battles have been won.
President Bush stepped out to make a difference and Chikumbuso has responded positively to the difference he made.
President Bush now knows that Chikumbuso would not exist with out this access to free drugs and we got to thank him face to face.
What a gift to the women.
The widows ended the program with a heartfelt song for the President that made us all cry.This song extols the works of President George Bush. It lets them know that the women have nothing to give but praise to God on his part. And one day he will receive his blessing in heaven.
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