“God Bless You”: Tanzanian Widow Thanks CRS for Help

Tanzania OVC

Rehema Salimu was having a hard time making ends meet before she started receiving help in August 2008 from the CRS-supported Anglican Muheza Hospice Care. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

“God bless you for this help,” Rehema Salimu says over and over again, clasping her hands beneath an enormous smile.

With a spirit as lively as the bright-yellow head scarf framing her face, Rehema is a widowed mother of two 11-year-old twin boys, Kurwa and Dotto Kimwaga. Since August 2008, Rehema has been receiving antiretroviral medications for herself and help for her twins from the Anglican Muheza Hospice Care.

A local CRS partner on Tanzania’s northern coast, Muheza Hospice Care offers HIV care and treatment services as well as support for orphans and vulnerable children through funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This assistance has taken a huge burden off Rehema’s shoulders.

Seven years ago, Rehema’s husband died after constantly falling sick, likely due to AIDS. Rehema kept falling sick as well, making it difficult to care for Kurwa and Dotto. On yet another trip to the hospital, pregnant and ailing, Rehema’s doctors encouraged her to take an HIV test. The results came back positive.

“I almost fainted when I got the result,” Rehema says, remembering her disbelief. She then fell sick with malaria and miscarried. Back in the hospital, she finally agreed to start antiretroviral therapy. When her children later tested negative for HIV, she knelt down and thanked God.

By this time, Rehema had moved back to the small village of Misongoni to live with her brother and then her parents. But when her father learned of Rehema’s HIV status, he told her she would have to leave.

Fortunately, project staff offered to help Rehema rehabilitate a dilapidated mud house on her dad’s property. Community members rebuilt the walls with new sticks and mud plaster, and Rehema took care of the thatched roof. Additional help from the project—including mattresses, school supplies, uniforms, food supplies and health insurance—now enable Rehema to support her boys on her own, improving her relationship with her father. Best yet, Kurwa and Dotto are no longer chased from school for unpaid fees or not having uniforms.

“Assistance should come from any religion,” Rehema says. “Whether Muslims or Christians, God will repay those who help.”

— Reported by Debbie DeVoe, CRS regional information officer, Eastern and Southern Africa

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