Memory Books help children
Don't forget me
“My favorite memories of you go back to the day when you were born, February 20, 1990. This day has become my most precious memory of you. When you came into this world, you were such a nice and lovable baby admired by all." Christine Akuga to her daughter Evelyn Akoth
Although Christine is no longer alive today—she died of AIDS four months ago—her daughter Evelyn has received more than a few special memories from her mom.
Let me tell you
Written in English, the Memory Book is a powerful insight into the family life of this 10-year-old girl who, luckily, has not contracted the HIV virus from her parents. The pages, curled and crisp due to thick and heavy pressure writing, tell stories about Evelyn’s mother, father and grandparents.
A great deal of space is dedicated to the mother’s health once she tested positive and to the uneasy relationship she had with her husband’s second wife—her daughter’s stepmother.
“This Memory Book was quite revealing for Christine’s parents as well. As they read through it, they learned many things they were not aware of,” explains Beatrice Muwa, Health Coordinator for Plan in the Ugandan district of Tororo.
Hundreds of stories to tell
The idea of writing a Memory Book comes from terminally ill patients in the United Kingdom. In Uganda it is the National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA) who began to promote this approach in 1998 and has since encouraged and assisted hundreds of women to pass on their family history this way to their children.
NACWOLA came into existence as a result of HIV infected mothers finding it extremely difficult to communicate to their children about their ill health:
“Secrecy wears you down fast,” explains Beatrice Were, Program Coordinator for NACWOLA as she recalls the moment she disclosed her HIV status to her own children. “I was very relieved to be able to share my condition with them. In my experience what hurts a child the most is to find out later that you have kept crucial information away from him or her. But of course after you disclose your serostatus to your children, it is very important to involve them in all decisions you make that will affect them.”
The Memory Project serves three important purposes:
- informing children about their parent’s health condition
- enabling parents and children to better plan the children’s future
- providing an opportunity for capturing and passing on the family history and important childhood memories
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