Somewhere in Ongata Rongai, Nairobi, stands this house. A 3-bedroom house that is a much needed shelter for 10 individuals who were forced to flee Uganda for fear of, and for most of them, actual persecution because they happened to be different. They happened to be of a sexual orientation that the Ugandan government and society deems unnatural, evil, abominable and deserving of being eradicated. These ten people left their homes because they feared for their lives. They now live in this house. Somewhere in Ongata Rongai, Nairobi.
Michael and I were received by our hosts today with a hearty meal. Matoke, ugali, g-nut sauce and a piece of chicken. A meal I am sure is not had daily in this house. But we were their guests and as Africans, we do everything we can to ensure that our guests feel the utmost hospitality. I ate what Michael said was more than he had ever seen me eat. It was absolutely delicious.
I was then given a tour of the house. As you walk into the house, you see what is obviously a workshop.
Beads, bags, table mats scarves and many other odds and ends. All made by the residents of this house. The talent they have is amazing. The drive they have to be able to sit for hours on end to make these items and attempt to sell them online is inspiring. Especially while having a fear in their minds that the workshop may not be available for too long. Thinking about family and friends left behind. Thinking about the stigma and discrimination and violence they faced back home and continue to face in Kenya as they await to be relocated. Inspiring.
They attempt to sell their craft online through their social media page but it has been tough seeing as they don’t have the reach they need to break even. I have committed to setting up a little online store for them which shall have all the information about the safe house.
I was then taken to where they sleep. It broke my heart. For a 3-bedroom house with one bed to house 10 people, the individuals have to make a lot of compromise. More than two people sharing a paper thin mattress on the floor.
When Michael was in Kampala, it became evident that there is a need for lubricant. He found out, while visiting Icebreakers Uganda that one of the most successful methods of getting people to test for HIV is by offering lube and condoms. With the crackdown on homosexuality in the country, distribution of lube is seen as promotion of homosexuality. This meant that lube was so difficult to find and is an incredibly expensive product. In the US, they hand them out for free. He therefore spoke to some of his friends in a sexual health organization and they shipped them to him.
Today, we took a package of lube with us to the safe house for delivery to Uganda. Michael had to carry them on his head feeling like a right African lass.
The relevance of this delivery is the fact that some of the individuals in the safe house are HIV positive. They have a level of access to their medication but due to the fact that they belong to a different sexual orientation and are not from Kenya, the stigma they face in some hospitals in Nairobi dissuades them from seeking health services when they need it. The nearest LGBTQ friendly health center is way too far for them to access. There is however a possible reprieve for them on this with some organizations stepping in to assist.
They are Team No Sleep Foundation. I have seen their files and they are intricate. Every single receipt is filed. Every single doctor’s appointment is documented. Every single purchase is recorded. They clearly don’t sleep. They are however in need of your help. Their rent needs to be paid. Water and electric bills need to be paid. They need to be fed. They need medical assistance. I do understand that their plight may be similar to others out there. I know that the world is a tough place to live in. But they are human beings. Being in that space gives you a sense of hope. It shows a side of humanity that lights a fire in your heart. And they do need your help.
Follow them on Facebook.
Donate to their GoFundMe.
But most of all…as they ask. Stand in solidarity for all.