Supporting churches and community on HIV and AIDS, Kenyan works with Bible
Esther Linda Kwamboka works with the Bible when she counsels sex workers and long-distance truck drivers, and those with HIV and AIDS.
She also offers support to those of different faiths.
Kwamboka was introduced to World Council of Churches-Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy in 2009 when she was sponsored to attend a Contextual Bible Study workshop in Accra, Ghana.
She openly lives with HIV, a widow and a mother of 2 children.
Kwamboka graduated with a theology degree from St. Paul's University near Nairobi, Kenya in October 2013.
"Since then, I have been involved in projects touching on different issues affecting the communities I serve," she says.
"These include HIV and AIDS literacy programs, community capacity building, counselling support, women empowerment programs, referrals, education and medication support."
They have spanned over the Nairobi, Kajiado and Homabay Counties.
CLEAR GOALS AFTER GRADUATION
When Kwamboka graduated, she had a clear roadmap of her goals and the work she sought. These included community capacity building, counselling support, referrals, educational and medical support, networking, and collaboration.
She spearheaded a draft plan to mitigate HIV and AIDS in Machakos County through the Anglican Church of Kenya local diocese for capacity building.
"Our target groups were mainly sex workers along the Nairobi Machakos Highway, long-distance truck drivers, vulnerable women and youth," Kwamboka explained.
The goal was to educate them and take precautions, voluntary testing and referrals to the nearest health facilities to seek treatment.
She offered psycho-social support to community members and prevented their distress and suffering from developing into something more severe.
COUNSELLING THE HIV POSITIVE
It involved counselling people to cope better and become reconciled to everyday life, especially those who had just learned of an HIV positive status. She encouraged them to engage in income-generating activities.
For the members of the community who required more psycho-social support, for example, she showed people such as orphaned and vulnerable children where to find scholarships.
"In mid-2017, I stayed in the house of one of the women elders in the Holy Spirit Church in Homabay County, organizing a community mini-workshop," said Kwamboka.
"We did a contextual Bible study with them," she said, elaborating on the importance of such reading. "It can also capture sexual education."
OPEN FOR MEN, WOMEN, AND YOUTH
Women, men, and youths all attended the workshop.
"It was one of the best moments in my life. At the time, I met other church leaders receptive to the idea of having a contextual Bible study. I promised to go back and hopefully train other community leaders by God's grace," said Kwamboka.
However, her chosen path was disrupted for a time. At the end of 2014 when she had health complications that carried on through most of 2015, and she spent spells in hospital.
In addition, an absence of logistical support, education materials and other necessities posed challenges in achieving her goals.
Between 2018 to 2019, Kwamboka spearheaded the formation of a syllabus at the Africa Mission Training Institute (AMTI).
"At AMTI, I have had the privilege of introducing contextual bible studies. We had planned a three-day workshop in Kilifi county in collaboration with the Methodist Church at the beginning of 2020. But COVID came," rued Kwamboka.
"I found it easier to work with small churches than the mainstream ones, mainly because they didn't require a lot of protocol to get my message across."
Kwamboka sees a need for more collaboration among different faith groups and citing high teenage pregnancies she says that sex education is needed that also brings to light the peril of gender-based-violence.
"Stigma and discrimination amongst those living with HIV is an issue that still needs to be addressed at all levels," she notes.