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The Telling Moment with Rahel

by on June 19, 2013

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BY SHELBY WOLFE

The red, 12-passenger van pulled into AHOPE orphanage to bring the girls to their soccer match. As soon as the vehicle came to a stop they piled inside, excited to go somewhere outside of the compound. Rahel was last to board, but one of her “sisters” saved her a spot up front.

This is a story about coping with the stigma of being HIV positive in Ethiopia, and how it ties the AHOPE family together.

The girls laughed together and sang songs in Amharic on their way to interact with other orphans, ones without HIV.

The smile on Rahel’s face stretched miles, and her positive energy about the day was contagious.

The girl sitting next to Rahel on the bus began vomiting into a narrow crevice between her seat and the doorway. The laughter and the singing stopped and was replaced with the sound of violent heaving.

Rahel placed her hand on her sister’s back, but her eyes were peeled forward, and her smile was gone. She handed the girl a tissue to wipe her mouth. The girl was embarrassed and turned to Rahel to say thank you. Rahel smiled slightly at her and withdrew her hand, collapsing it into her lap like it was too heavy to hold up on her own.

The car ride was silent for the rest of the way to the soccer fields, where they would face hundreds of other children who do not know they are HIV positive. It was as if they had forgotten, and then been reminded, of the burden they hold trying to hide their status from the world.

When they arrived at the sports complex, the girls put on their best gamefaces and stepped out of the van one-by-one. They stuck together as they walked slowly toward the fields of children already playing.

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From → HIV orphans

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