DREAMS Helps a Brave Young Woman through a Hopeless Time

Upon finishing secondary school in 2014, Christine was determined to pursue a career in media and become an award-winning journalist. But her goal and her reality were not in sync. Her father’s salary as a truck driver was not enough to care for her and her three siblings, and Christine knew her dreams would have to wait. But even after a year at home with no sign that she’d ever go to university, she hadn’t lost hope of one day becoming a successful journalist.

In July 2016, Christine’s life took a shocking turn when a lump was found in her breast. At only 18, she was facing a possible diagnosis of breast cancer.

“At that moment I lost hope; there was no need to dream. I was not going to be a journalist, I was going to die,” she recalls. When people in her community heard the news, some stigmatized her while others sympathized. Most did not understand how someone so young could contract such a disease.

“Although my biopsy results were not yet out to confirm whether the lump in my breast was cancerous, we all concluded it was because I started showing symptoms. I lost a drastic amount of weight and had terrible migraines, to the extent that I couldn’t even read,” says Christine. 

“The doctor said I had delayed going to the hospital and feared that it may have spread. I gave up on school and journalism. What was the point of hoping to get into school when I knew I was going to die?"  she continues.

When Christine first heard about the Lubuto Library Partners’ DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe) program at the St. Daniel Comboni Social Development Center, she wasn’t enthusiastic. “I was hesitant to attend; I shunned most gatherings but decided to go anyway. I did not expect the first session to be that powerful! The facilitator shared her life story with us, and talked a lot about the letter R in DREAMS—‘Resilience.’ When life knocks us down, she said, we get back up.”

Christine was so inspired by the session that she decided to get her life back. “I started attending every DREAMS session. “Not only was I learning a lot from the mentoring sessions, I was also regaining the hope I had lost. During one field trip, I got to speak live on air about the DREAMS program. I was a journalist for a day!”

Christine’s life took yet another turn in July 2017 when her biopsy results revealed that her tumor was not cancerous. “I feel like I have wasted so much of my life thinking of my death; I let negativity overshadow my dreams,” she says. “But I am ready to take charge of my life. On 24th July 2017, I’m undergoing surgery to have the growth removed. Thereafter, I’ll look for a job or scholarship to get me through university. That way I’ll be able to take care of my family,” Christine says with confidence. “My future looks bright, because if I passed through all that, I can survive anything. I am the ‘R’ in DREAMS!”

JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., is the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Funds manager and in that role supports 46 DREAMS-IC winners selected to execute cutting-edge programs across the 10 countries. JSI provides overall program support for DREAMS–IC and technical assistance to implementing partners includes strengthening partners’ institutional capacity to manage awards in compliance with U.S. Government regulations and supporting them in reaching the DREAMS–IC goal to reduce the incidence of HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.

For more information, visit https://www.lubuto.org/ To learn more about the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, please visit www.dreamspartnership.org. This publication was funded through a grant from the United States Department of State as part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, managed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. (JSI). The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or JSI.