In Population Action International's (PAI) seminal documentary, Abstaining from Reality, HIV-positive Kenyan Juliet Awuor says about the boyfriend with whom she contracted HIV, "He took away my dreams and my future." For those of you who have seen the short film or even met Juliet during the film's European and North American rollout, you know that she still has many dreams for the future. Neither her HIV nor the loss of her infant son nor her subsequent stroke has stolen all hope. This was evidenced by her thoughts in March when PAI took her to London for the film's debut in Parliament: "After London, I see so many possibilities," she wrote.
Juliet was chosen by filmmaker Daniele Anastasion from among several young women in Nairobi who had contracted HIV because they did not have the information or supplies to protect themselves. In the film, Juliet's story becomes a visceral example of how PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is hurting the very people it seeks to help. But Juliet is not an example—she is a woman who laughs and cries and prays to leave the slum where she now resides. At PAI, we are hoping to make that prayer a reality.
Juliet's dream is to attend a two year degree program in Communications at Daystar University in Nairobi. The cost of the program is $4,000 per year, which includes tuition and room and board. Daystar University is a Christian interdenominational university accredited by the Kenyan government. Their vision is to be a "distinguished, Christ-centered, African institution of higher learning for the transformation of church and society."
With a degree, Juliet Awuor's horizons will expand beyond the slum and perhaps even beyond Nairobi. For a total of $8,000 U.S. dollars, we can collectively change a life. And on the day in 2009 when Juliet strides across the stage to collect her diploma, we would each be there—at least in spirit—to cheer her on as proud believers in her potential.
Please take eight minutes to watch her story and then write a check to send her to school. We need to collect the first $4,000 by July 31 so she can start in the fall. Please send a check for whatever you can afford, made out to "PAI, Juliet's Fund" and sent to Tamar Abrams at PAI, 1300 19th Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington DC 20036. No funds will be expended on administrative costs—all money will go for Juliet's education. If you would like to wire the money, please email me and I'll send you the information.
We use the word "reality" in the title of the documentary. I am hoping to apply it in a more hopeful context to Juliet's future. Please join us.