Longtime Rising Voices grantee Repacted from Nakuru, Kenya continues its work in surrounding communities using magnet theater as a way to engage the community, and youth especially, through dramatic interpretations that present real-life situations involving health issues such as HIV/AIDS and TB. The members of the Repacted team showcase their role-playing abilities in order to provide awareness and education to the community, but also to demonstrate how one would go about making critical life decisions to prevent these health issues.
One of these team members, Maurine, was recently recognized for her work on the Repacted project blog for being “one of the foremost HIV activists in our town Nakuru and its environs.” Nearly seven years ago in 2004, Maurine contracted the virus, and after receiving this information, she saw it as an opportunity to educate others. She was interviewed by Repacted to tell her story of how she learned about her status. Her story was featured in this blog post, when she took the test at a local clinic after a lengthy illness:
She was asked to go collect her results after 2 weeks and to her shocker the medics refused to hand over the results to her insisting that she should be accompanied by somebody and luckily on that particular day she was with her friend who was waiting for her at the waiting bay, so she went back and called him to accompany her and that’s only when the results were handed to her friend but only after her consent. it is Maurine’s friend who first told her about her being HIV positive and I bet this information came into his hands when he remained behind to talk to the Lab practioner and to her surprise her friend told her that he knew what she was going through because he also had been infected with HIV Virus and had lived with it for over 3 years.
Prior to being test, Maurine admitted that not knowing her status was easier, since she did not have to face any of the pressures associated with the amount of information related to HIV/AIDS. But once she learned that she was positive, it “was a life-changing moment for her. Her voice came out and it came out powerfully.” It was then that she joined the Repacted team and gained the confidence to be able to tell her story to local communities:
Maurine was able to over stand that she had a story that needed to be told, and with the strong network of peer educators and volunteers at REPACTED she was encouraged and reminded that positive youth need a voice. There is a lack of storytelling among the youth, and this is especially true with positive youth. They feel shame or guilt for contracting the virus and feel that they need to lie about it and not be upfront.
It was these experiences that helped Maurine tell her story and how being a part of Repacted helped her personally:
Speaking really helped Maurine articulate herself as a person. It gave her a new direction to go in — not only is it inspirational to other people, but it inspired her to clean up her life and make something positive of herself. Joining REPACTED has affected her in a positive way emotionally. Maurine is a very strong person now because of it, more educated and more life-experienced than a lot of 26-year-olds because of it. On the other side, she has started feeling more supported and appreciated as she is able to branch out into different kinds of communities. Maurine thinks she is kind of a rare breed she is here with REPACTED to inspire people. “I’m here, I’m a woman, I’m HIV positive, and I’m living my life positively and normally.” It can happen! It can happen.