In 2010, Jeremiah tested positive for HIV, then lost his wife four days after she gave birth, leaving him with eight children to care for. Feeling alone and afraid, he sought counseling from World Vision.
Several years later, he is the happy beneficiary of World Vision's livelihood project and is able to take care of his family. Now, he dares to dream about his future.
When Jeremiah Zigwa, 38, found out that he was HIV-positive, he thought his life had come to an end. Born and raised in central Uganda, a lot of things were going wrong in his life. With seven children and no steady source of income, he was wallowing in poverty, and neither he nor his wife could raise the resources they needed to take care of their family.
When he and his wife were diagnosed with HIV, they had just conceived a baby. Complications at delivery robbed Jeremiah of his wife, leaving him with a 4-day-old baby and seven older children.
“I was frightened, alone, and confused,” he recalls.
Not only was he unable to afford milk for his newborn boy, but he also had no idea how he would raise his other children.
“I had never fed a baby in my life, and my wife had always taken care of the children at home. Then all of a sudden, I had to do everything.”
Jeremiah says that the counseling services he received from a community-based organization commissioned by World Vision saved him from suicidal thoughts.
“They told me that as long as I had hope, I would live for many years to come. Hearing that was very encouraging. I resolved not to die from within. I chose to be hopeful,” he says.
After receiving counseling and the necessary medication, Jeremiah was also nominated to become one of the first beneficiaries of a World Vision income-generating project in his village. He received 10 chickens and training on how to maximize productivity. He excelled at it, and on top of selling eggs, Jeremiah also used them to feed his infant son.
“The doctors told me that eggs were very nutritious for the baby and they really came in handy,” he recalls. “I would scramble them with some milk for the baby. He loved the food.”
World Vision also gave Jeremiah three pigs, which he found difficult to rear.
“They needed a lot of food and I didn’t have much land. I decided to let them mate, then sold them off with their 20 piglets and bought a young bull and heifer [young cow],” he says. Cows didn’t require as much investment since they could graze in the community.
“Progressing from nothing to a heifer and bull made me realize I could turn my fortunes,” he says.
When the calf had grown into a mature cow, he sold it and used the money to buy a second bull and an extension of his land. His love for cattle also led him to learn basic veterinary skills from a local vet. Soon, neighbors were calling on him to help treat their cattle.
His son, Kizito, had survived his first year, and by God’s grace, was HIV negative.
“When the doctors told me he was negative, I thought it was a joke! But after three different check-ups over the span of a year, it dawned on me that God had spared my son from HIV.”
For Jeremiah, this was one more reason to secure his future. Using savings from his veterinary work, he bought another heifer. In July 2012, Jeremiah sold off the bull he had bought in 2011 and used the profits to buy two young bulls, which can be sold off in a short period of time with significant profit.
“Also, the bulls don’t require too much space to rear. Since I had very little land at the start, I opted for the bulls.”
Having expanded his land recently, Jeremiah is ready to grow his herd.
“I am going to buy one other heifer and then breed them,” he says. To ensure that his proverbial eggs are not all in one basket, Jeremiah has also bought a few ducks and chickens.
“God willing, I intend to build rental houses on my new piece of land. That will make sure my children always have some money to take care of their needs.”
Looking back, Jeremiah is convinced that were it not for God using his HIV counseling, as well as the income-generating project from World Vision, he would have died.
“Everyone needs a helping hand once in a while,” he remarks. “For me, that hand came in the form of counseling and a source of livelihood.”
Jeremiah has also taken a new perspective on living with HIV. “I used to think that being infected was basically a death sentence, but I’ve never felt more alive than I do today.”
More than 300 people living with HIV in Kiboga district have received help to start income-generating projects. For families like Jeremiah’s, World Vision’s intervention is a game-changer: providing the extra push they need to survive the dark shadows of apathy, poverty, and hopelessness.
Asked what message he would give to those like him who are struggling with their HIV status, his responds without hesitation: “Hope. Without hope for a better future, not even an HIV-negative person would survive.”
World Vision’s approach to community development begins with child sponsorship. For about $1 a day, you can provide a child with access to life-saving basics like healthcare, clean water, and nutritious food, leading to a healthier life. Consider sponsoring a child today!