Thokozani Chimenya (L) watching as Judie (c) is assessed for malnutrition by CRP, Esnat Billion (R)
Thokozani Chimenya (L) watching as Judie (c) is assessed for malnutrition by CRP, Esnat Billion (R)

Restored to a Healthier and Happier Childhood: Judie’s story

Sep 18 2017

“My oldest sister wanted me to die. My sickness brought too many extra problems for the family. I would spend nights sleeping outside or on the cold floor without a blanket and often times she would beat me up” Reminisced a sad Judie Lemucha of Tambala village, Mulanje.

Ten-year-old Judie is the fifth in a family of six. Until February 2017, her life story had been characterized by desolation, abuse and neglect. This all begun when she lost her mother and father to HIV at the age of two. Judie’s oldest sister, Odeta, who was 19 at the time of their parent’s death, assumed the role of household head. This was not an easy task for Odeta as she had two children of her own.

Growing up, Judie was a sickly child. She was occasionally taken to the health center where she was tested for Malaria and other common ailments and received treatment accordingly. As time went by, the severity of Judie’s illnesses progressed and she became Odeta’s biggest burden as the household’s poverty level made it difficult to cater to Judie’s needs. Depressed and frail, Judie continued to endure years of harsh treatment and abuse.

Judie back in school with her friends

In October 2016, a weary Odeta, left her two children and siblings for the city in search of better fortunes. Odeta left the children in the hands of her sister Stella who was the second born in the family. By this time Stella was 18. Stella did not stay with her siblings for long, she opted to get married to a man from a nearby village also in search of a better livelihood. The responsibility of Judie, her brother and Odeta’s children fell in the hands of 16-year-old Peter, the third born in the family. Before this, Peter had been going to school sporadically but with the new responsibilities he stopped and started working at any odd jobs he could find to cater for his siblings.

In December 2016, Judie became so sick she could barely walk. She developed a rash which covered her entire body with painful sores. It was during this time that a Community Resource Person (One Community-trained volunteer), Esnat Billion, first visited the household to conduct assessments after being referred there by members of a local community based organization.

“Their living conditions were very sad and Judie’s health status was dire. She was weak and had lost a lot of weight. We informed the Group Village Headman and immediately referred Judie to Mulanje Mission hospital which is the nearest health facility for treatment. Here we were informed that Judie had been living with HIV and it had progressed to critical levels. She was immediately placed on HIV treatment and given nutritional supplements.” recalls Esnat Billion.

“This was the Turning point of Judie’s life. The CRP pleaded with me to include the Lemucha family on a cash transfer program to help them with money for their basic needs. The children were successfully enrolled” Explained Group Village Headman Tambala. “The CRP also successfully identified and linked Judie to a foster mother, Thokozani Chimenya, as proper care was needed to make sure her health stabilized” Continued the GVH. Judie lived with her foster mother from February 2017 to April 2017. Her foster mother took care of her sores, clothed and fed her and even enrolled her at Likhubula Primary School.

“I am not the most well to do person in the village, I am a single mother of four but when I was approached by the CRP and the GVH with Judie’s story I felt I could do my part to help.” said an empathetic Thokozani.

Meanwhile the GVH was able to convince Judie’s eldest sister, Odeta to come back from the city and take care of her siblings and children. She returned home in June 2017, and is now re-united with Judie, her siblings and her children. Together they grow vegetables and other staples the household depends on for sustenance. Judie’s condition is now stable and she has since returned home and continues in school. Peter, her elder brother is now in secondary school on a Friends of Mulanje Scholarship courtesy of a referral by Esnat, the One Community volunteer.

Judie summarizes her experience in these words: “I am very happy to be healthy again. I enjoy going to school and learning with my friends especially when we have expressive art classes and we are asked to draw animals.”

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