The Sound of Singing

As our van entered the dirt access road to Bridgeway Centre Trust's small office, we heard the sound of singing. Sixty children of all ages were gathered in neat rows outside the door, singing and clapping a welcome song for us! After the presentation of a beautiful bouquet of flowers to our Global Fund for Women group, we were led in by the children and found more than 20 women awaiting our arrival.

Bridgeway Centre's many programs to fight HIV/AIDS are indeed an inspiration. The children they assist, both girls and boys, are orphans whose parents have died from AIDS, and vulnerable children who live in the Kwangware slum or whose parents are HIV+ or sick. The Centre currently works with over 200 children every week.

An inspiring presentation demonstrated the empowerment of women and girls that Bridgeway is accomplishing. There were songs, dances, dramatic poems, and testimonies by children, youth, and adults, all sharing how their lives had been transformed by the compassionate help and training they receive at Bridgeway Centre. Young people demonstrated for us how they have learned to make detergent and soap, as well as to silkscreen and paint by hand beautiful t-shirts for sale. Women presented their knitting, rug hooking, and bead projects that enable them to "keep busy, reduce stress, and earn some money to support themselves."

We drove to Kwangware slum, accompanied by Caroline Muigai Executive Director of the Centre, to see how one young mother has been supported in opening a small business there. Dolly Kigamwa operates out of a tiny "phone booth" constructed of corrugated metal and painted bright green. From her bag comes a green wireless telephone that she activates. For a few shillings, residents of Kwangware can make telephone calls. This is a great community service as well as a way for this young woman to support herself and her family.

I felt very humbled in the face of the wonderful people-staff, volunteers, children, youth, and adults-who work together at Bridgeway Centre. The cobalt blue t-shirt I purchased has their motto:  Turning scars into stars. As we prepared the leave, after enjoying a lunch cooked by the teenagers, the children again broke into song. . . we all joined in and were once again led by the children to the parking area. There all of us gathered for a group photo before we departed.

As a donor/activist with the Global Fund for several years, I can indeed witness that our contributions are being put to powerful use in Africa: lives are being transformed, girls and women are being empowered, people with AIDS are being enabled to live and die with dignity and respect. Let us keep these beautiful songs going . . .

Michal McKenzie has been a donor to Global Fund since 2002.

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