Meet Diana. Diana is a leader within Imani Workshops. Her confident presence and outgoing personality helps people relax and enjoy being in her presence. Diana always greeted us with a big smile and genuine welcome each day we visited. At the same time, in Diana’s role as production manager, she must hold others accountable by making sure orders are filled on time and quality standards are met. Her strong relationships with her co-workers allows her to be tough when she needs to be and still maintain respect. Diana earns a good salary at the workshop. Enough so that she has been able to provide for her 4 sons, two of who are identical twins (Diana gave birth to 5 children, including two sets of twins, but one died soon after birth). All of her sons are now grown and in school or have already graduated high school. And as the sole breadwinner of her family, supporting their education is not an easy thing to do. School fees can be quite high compared to what Kenyans typically earn. But Diana has managed to keep all her sons in school or see them graduate and seems to be living a full life.
(Diana provides tours of the workshop to visitors. Here she explains some of the different color combinations used with the ceramic bead jewelry.)
That hasn’t always been the case for Diana however. Diana’s oldest sons are identical twins. In her tribe, that is seen as a curse. Soon after they were born she was kicked out of her home and shunned by her extended family and village community because of the superstition associated with giving birth to twins. Things became even more grim for Diana when she learned about her HIV+ diagnosis. The stigma associated with AIDS served only to further separate her from her community. In addition, her husband left her soon after he found out she was sick. For most Kenyans these set of circumstances would have meant hopelessness and a death too young. AIDS killed without mercy in Kenya before AMPATH and given the shunning from her family, her sons would have likely become orphans on the street with her passing. But Diana had resources and opportunities that most Kenyans lack. Through AMPATH her illness became a treatable disease that could be managed with medication and care from knowledgeable doctors. Through Imani, she received the opportunity for employment in an environment where she could excel, make a real contribution, and be promoted to her current role. Because of the success that Diana is showing, she is even beginning to be accepted back by some in her family and village. Diana’s story is also the story of Imani and the story of AMPATH. It is the reason Global Gifts will work hard in partnership with Imani Workshops. We hope to build upon the success of Diana and see her own achievements repeat in the story of other women and men who are HIV+ and need the opportunity to excel, contribute, and earn a fair wage.X