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Kenya: From the time he was born

In this issue of AJANews, we remember Ayub Meme, who died of AIDS at the age of 22 a year ago. Ayub wrote one of the winning scripts of the AJAN competition Youth Movies for Life and Love. We share an abridged version: the script is his own painful story and the compelling advice he wanted to share about how to live life to the full.

At his birth there was a great feast, for it was a moment of happiness. Everything was bright for the new-born child. His family lived on a small piece of fertile land full of green leafy plants. The family was so happy and united. The child was the seventh of eight children. His name was Max.

His father, James, was a committed Catholic. He loved God so much. He worked hard as an expert carpenter and did all he could to make sure his children ate and were healthy.

But as Max was growing up, happiness turned into sorrow. When he was just one and half years old, his loving mother died and his father lost one hand fighting a hyena. After a year, Max’s father became very sick. As he was getting worse, he decided to give two of his sons to the mission. Max and Joel were separated, taken to different care centres.

Max was taken to Nairobi, to a children’s home where all his basic needs were met. He was found to be HIV-positive and the staff tried all they could to treat him. Max met new people who came from different parts of Kenya, from different tribes. He was a happy and playful boy. He attended a school in Ngong and was always top of his class. The teachers trusted and loved him dearly. Max was taught Christian values and good behaviour and what he did was always what he had been taught.

Max’s life ran so smoothly because he didn’t know who he was and where he came from. Then at school, when Max was about 11, the teachers asked the children about their parents. Max had no idea what to say. Questions ran through his mind. At home, it was hard for his guardians to explain, he was too young to understand, so they just told him the names of his mother and father to give to his teacher.

Then Max was told that he was an HIV-positive orphan, and that he must learn to accept who he was. His guardians showed him where he was born and introduced him to some of his relatives – before he had never met anyone from his family. 

Max became very confused and thoughtful. He started slipping from the top of the class and scoring very low marks in school. All the teachers wondered what was going on. Max was transferred to a private boarding school together with other children from the home. The new school was nice but Max found it hard to get along. There was discrimination against students from children’s homes and Max’s self-esteem fell.

Max went on with life but it wasn’t the same as before. Life became a greater challenge for him, especially when he saw other children with their mothers and felt very much hurt in his heart.

Max went on to high school. By now, he had become a very secretive boy. Outwardly he was very funny and made all the other students laugh. But he couldn’t trust any friend with what he had passed through. He feared to tell people in school that he was an orphan and that he was HIV-positive and so no one knew him well.

Max started being so stressed that sicknesses followed him one after another. His guardians started noticing that he was changing. The problem was that Max never accepted who he was but kept trying to discover how it all began. All his brothers and sisters were HIV-negative and he was so different from them.

To this day, Max is still trying to be himself with much fatigue.

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