Boy: HIV, First-Time Student
Jade Keller is one of our newest staff additions. Jade recently moved to Thailand with her husband. We’re going to majorly brag about what an asset Jade is to SOLD in the next week or so. She has already made a significant impact in our students in the few months she has been with us. As you’ll see from the post below from her personal blog, Jade’s heart and passion for the kids of The SOLD Project is clear. And she puts into words so beautifully what SOLD sees everyday: heartbreak and undeniable hope.
I don’t know what I thought – probably not much at all, to be honest – but I don’t think I ever thought that the first time I would be in the presence of a person with HIV, that person would be a child.
He came to the Resource Center, one of the new children in need of a scholarship, polite, humble, and shy. He didn’t speak any English, so my usual ice-breaker (a game of Hangman) wouldn’t work. Instead, I invited him to draw with me, an activity I found I could do with the kids that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries.
His face lit up at the invitation and he immediately set out to draw pictures of his favorite soccer players, then copying covers of children’s magazines. By the time the other kids arrived, we were wrist-deep in pencil markings and eraser sheddings.
Later, he would hop on a bike and play with the other kids while I heard his story. It was a story of a mother who had been raped and contracted HIV from the rapist, a mother who didn’t know she was HIV-positive until six months into her pregnancy. A mother who had managed to marry another man and, when she told him she had HIV, he said he didn’t care; he would love her and die with her. They had a second child together, a daughter. Due to precautions, she was able to have this daughter without passing HIV on to her. When she couldn’t afford to send both her children to school, she chose to give the money and the education to her daughter, the one who wasn’t sick.
And, so, in a terrible twist of fate and an impossible decision, here is this little boy. His mother died six years ago, and now he lives with his grandmother.
Last week, I had been thinking deeply about how to push and challenge these kids to give them the strength to meet problems as they come and give them the confidence to know that they can. I still stand by that because I know the glorious feeling of accomplishment and I want that for them. But this little boy whom I cannot get out of my head reminds me that for some of these kids, sometimes the best thing we can do for them is make sure each day we have with them is a gift.
Because, for some of them, there aren’t enough days.
We were able to secure a scholarship for him, so now at the age of 13, he has the chance to go to school for the first time. He glows with the innocent excitement of getting his first school uniform. As we gave him a ride home after English lessons on Saturday, we asked him if he enjoyed his time there. He nodded shyly. We asked if he wanted to come again. His face split open in a wide grin and his nod was vigorous.
Two days later, I’m still thinking of that smile. I carried it home with me.