Slum Doctor Programme


NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Gratefulness

It is never possible to thank everyone individually for their support, often enough or in a way that reflects how I truly feel. If hearts could speak then it might be possible! As a new year begins, I am once again humbled in gratitude by the people that make up our community of supporters; people of generous hearts and minds and ordinary courage who through their gifts of words and deeds and donations allowed the Slum Doctor Programme (SDP) to not only continue our work for people impacted by AIDS in Africa, but to grow and thrive. In 2007, SDP added two new programs to our East Africa projects: a cervical cancer screening program available to the 2500 HIV infected women at the Hope Center for Infectious Diseases in Nairobi, and a micro-finance program to increase income for 25 AIDS widows in Iganga, Uganda.

We graduated eleven girls at the Ombogo Academy in December, of the 50 high school girls supported by local sponsors. One of our sponsors’ had this to say about their “daughter” Mercy. “The letters we get from Mercy break our hearts every time. She expresses her gratitude, her fears, her losses, her joys in her accomplishments. Reading Mercy’s letters always changes us. We start out busy with our morning or whatever we’re doing. Not completely out of it but somehow just a little bit disconnected. After reading one of her letters we’re somehow right there. And we feel our connections to each other and we feel our gratitude for our fortunate circumstances. Here is a girl with so little who loves and dreams so big. Here’s hoping that somehow Mercy will get to be a neurosurgeon and live a satisfying life. May the world protect and nourish her and give her the space she needs to enter fully into adulthood.”

So……….from an open heart I thank you completely and deeply for who you are, how you live and how you give, and for creating a community that is a joy to belong to! And I know my heart can speak for hundreds of our friends in Kenya and Uganda who thank you too and who feel such a strong connection to our community. Our community is so strong it has traveled half way around the world!

Kenya Crisis

Most of you have been hearing and reading the news of the post-election violence in Kenya. This surprising, disturbing and profoundly sad turn of events has shaken all of us who know and love Kenya. It seems that every time you open a newspaper, and before you get past the front page, that the world has gone mad. My first concern has been for the good and hardworking people that are the backbone of our projects in Kenya. As I write this, I have heard from all of our friends and that they are safe. They are struggling to keep their spirits up and their families in tact and fed. They are hurt and shocked by their leaders who are too stubborn and prideful to lead. Neither one of them to date has taken any steps to ameliorate the violence.

As terrible as this situation is, I am reminded of why organizations like Slum Doctor Programme exist. It has always been my belief that grassroots humanitarian work that creates meaningful change in individual lives is the real road to peace and a better world. When over one million people live in slums in Nairobi and they erupt in violence because of a stolen election, it can’t just be about the elections. It is because the thief has once again stolen their hope for a future. In the words of Desmond Tutu, “In a situation where human life seems dirt cheap, with people being killed as easily as one swats a fly, we must proclaim that people matter and matter enormously. A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.”

Let’s hope that the process of healing begins and that the good people of Kenya find the leaders and life they deserve. I would like to believe that in some small way the meaningful actions of Slum Doctor Programme over the past seven years will remind our friends in Kenya that we stand with them during this difficult time too, and that we choose to belong to one world.

In Peace,

Tim Costello

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