"Go and gather, gather big dreams”
June 14, 2017
As HIV peer supporter, Grace Ngulube helps other young people to live positively. She shares how she managed to overcome her own tough experiences at a very young age and encourages them to adhere to treatment. “I would like to raise a healthy generation, especially the young people, to go and gather big dreams”. Meet this inspiring 21 years old from Malawi!
I was told to just go and bring my parents
I was 10 years old and in primary level when our school held an HIV campaign. I went alone to get tested. The counsellor never revealed the test results to me but said I should just go and bring my parents. At that time I already had lost my mum, and although I was only 10, I knew what it meant when told to bring my parents. I was very broken-hearted. A year later I started medication but simply could not adhere. It was so hard for me to accept to be living with HIV. I was like, let me just die, I cannot manage this type of life. Four years later eventually my aunt told me I'm HIV positive. It was a bad disclosure. Since they knew I was a kid, they should have told me at least something, instead of being just silent. At an age of 16 things changed for the good. I was introduced to a support group. This was where I met with my fellow young people living with HIV who inspired me to start living positively.
Strong enough to start volunteering in a youth club
Two years ago, I felt strong enough to start volunteering to support young people living with HIV in a youth club in Malawi. Here, teenagers living with HIV could come together and discuss their issues. As I was volunteering, I met Blessings Banda, who noticed my potential and introduced me to the REACH peer support programme of PATA.
Therefore peer support is so important
Young people living with HIV are afraid to talk about the challenges they are facing, including difficulties in taking their medication every day. It feels much more comfortable talking to a fellow young person at the clinic, someone who has been where they are now. Therefore peer support is so important. We act as role models in society and to young people. The REACH programme succeeds in helping young people with HIV to make a change in their lives in terms of living healthier, accepting their status, and even to disclose.
This way we keep spreading our reach
As a peer supporter with PATA, I now help other young people by sharing my own story. I tell them how I found out to be living with HIV, how I manage my life, to take my medication, to overcome stress. I supported a young girl who usually saw me at the clinic whose biggest problem was that she was failing to accept her status. I could give her a lifetime opportunity on how she should live healthy and strong. As time went by, she succeeded in following what I have been doing. She is now one of the mentors at her teen club. This is exactly what motivates me the most in my work – when the young people I support go on to support other young people in their own communities, who I can't reach. This way, as peer supporters we keep spreading our network and our reach!
Go and gather, gather big dreams
In the next five years, I would like to raise a healthy generation, more especially the young people, to go and gather, to gather big dreams. I would like to inspire and motivate hope for the future in the heart of the young people through their dreams and inspiration.
Grace Ngulube is 21 years old and works in the REACH programme in Malawi, a joint initiative of PATA and Beyond Our Hearts Foundation. As a peer supporter, she helps young people living with HIV to retain in care. Besides she is a board member of the National Association of Young People living with HIV in Malawi.