On Monday at our staff meeting, I asked the staff to get a mattress and bring Fatima upstairs. Enough is enough. Fatima has lived at Bezer Home for more than six months and is yet to go upstairs even once.
The upstairs of Bezer Home is where all the action is: over 100 HIV+ women pass through the upstairs every week. Treadle sewing machines hum along while women tell stories and laugh. Beautiful things are created in this homey atmosphere. Hope is born upstairs.
Later in the week I asked the staff why they haven't brought her upstairs yet, and they said that Fatima always complains, and says she can't make it.
On Thursday, I received some donated sheets and pillows, and that was the impetus I needed. A plan began to form. I would wash the sheets and pillows, get a mattress and heavy plastic to cover the mattress from my garage. I found a black pencil skirt (size 1) and a bright orange blouse in our give-away clothes. Perfect. This would help her feel better. I found a bottle of perfume that I'm no longer using and packed it all up.
When I entered Fatima's room this morning and told her she was going upstairs today, she gave me the usual excuses, and mainly complained about her leg. One of her legs is at a permanent 90 degree angle: she cannot straighten it. But I was resolute. I said to her roommate, "Janet, please help her take her bath." Then Angela came and dressed her in her new clothes. Then, slowly, she began the trek upstairs. This would take a healthy person 1 minute, but it took Fatima about 15 minutes--and she did it all by herself with lots of encouragement along the journey. The women upstairs started singing to encourage her. I got tears in my eyes--but that's normal for me. She made it through the main sewing room and then plopped down on the mattress prepared for her.
Finally, Fatima has moved herself to a place where she can catch glimpses of life going on around her. It's not healthy for her to stay in her room downstairs day in and day out. She spent the entire day upstairs with our women. After four o'clock, she began her slow journey down the stairs to her room.
Fatima's horizon was expanded today. Next week when she comes upstairs we are going to plait her hair. That's another step in getting her back to the land of the living.