My name is Apio Josephine 37 years. Raised in a poverty and HIV/AIDS infected area in Kisoko Amor village, Tororo District. I grew up to witness great impoverishment and affliction in my community particularly among the elderly who didn’t have much care. Traditionally, the Ugandan social structure was organized around the family and community. The African extended family network knitted together a network of blood relations, in-laws and close friends. This network acted as insurance against all disabilities of old age and other shortcomings. The young and energetic were insurance for their older folks and took care of their needs. Sadly, several factors like HIV/AIDS, sudden death have interfered with the treasured network leaving the elderly vulnerable. While the traditional system has diminished, it has not been replaced by any other form of social security system that caters to the elderly. Many old people, especially women, still find great satisfaction in providing care and support within their households, either to fellow adults or to children/grandchildren despite the difficulties of care giving. Grandchildren in some instances provide physical assistance such as fetching water, agricultural work, cooking and buying food, but if the conditions are not met, as may often be the case, it becomes a burden that endangers their wellbeing of the elderly. Older people need to be cared for in form of financial assistance to pay health care, medicine food clothing and schooling for children under their care, but it is often difficult to obtain the care.
For three years, I caredfor an elderly woman who looked very scary to many people. The neighborhood referred to her as a “witch”, feared and isolated. I told my friend about my intention to visit the old woman, she instead discouraged me and told me not to because I would die, no one talks or goes to her home reason being she is evil, but I gave a deaf ear to my friend, I wanted to discover something about the old women. She lived closer to my work place in Mukono district. I felt pity for the old woman and I felt I should talk to her. One day I got the courage to go to her home and interact with her with intention of becoming her friend and eventually she became my friend. I visited the old woman, I had a long talk with her for 6 hours and then I handed her the foodstuff and clothing which i brought her. During my interaction with the old woman, I learnt that she was not a “witch”. She lost all her children and grand children to HIV/AIDS. Life became meaningless to her, no one to care for her, she was all alone and praying to God to take her life. I kept visiting and encouraging her to be hopeful since God connected us together and I made it a point that every month I save some money to shop for her basic needs. On June 27th 2012, the old woman fell deeplyill. In her last moments,shecalled for me, as she wanted to give me her last words. Unfortunately, I went into labor the same day. She died the very day I gave birth to my daughter “Hope”. When I heard this elderly woman I so loved had died,my great attachment and this woman’sdeath gave me the necessary courage to begin to deeply & smartly work to helpthe elderly people, starting with/in my community. I am self-driven to give them hope to live a joyful & positivelife during their last days on earth using any and every available resource.
In 2014, I formally established Hope for the Elderly Ministries, Uganda.It’s a fully fledged and registered organization, meeting all the legal requirements of organizational operation in Uganda.Hope For The Elderly Ministries Uganda leads an integrated approach in delivering quality results amongst its beneficiaries including condition regular fellowships with the seniors for spiritual and emotional support, conducting regular home visits for evaluation and support, provision of hot meals, basic needs, and health care among others. There is need to support the elderly and improve on their living conditions and to enable them support their dependents. I have been supporting the elderly now for the last five years. I interact with them so, I am aware of their daily challenges and what could be of benefit to them. I have visited their homes many times many of them live in extreme poverty very poor living conditions. However, the elderly are full of wisdom, loving regardless of their vulnerability. I am happy to support the elderly with passion to the very last of my breathe.