Five years ago, Joan Ndunge Musyoka's parents found out they were HIV-positive. Shortly after their diagnosis, they enrolled in a community-based project supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that provides care for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya.
Joan's father lost his battle with HIV/AIDS in 2004, forcing her mother to become the sole provider for the family. At first, her mother took this in stride, but soon the worries and stress that came with their situation drove her into depression. Joan was left with the difficult responsibility of caring for herself and her siblings.
As a result of this hardship and financial instability, Joan struggled to finish her secondary education. Although she enrolled in Form Three (11th grade) three times, she could never afford to finish a full term. But Joan refused to give up. She took on odd jobs and saved the pay that she did not use to take care of her siblings for tuition. Still, Joan struggled to complete school.
In 2008, community health workers suggested Joan apply for a PEPFAR-supported scholarship program for orphans and vulnerable children. While hesitant, Joan filled out the application.
But this skepticism would soon be erased. When Joan traveled the 230 kilometers to Makutano High School for her fourth term in Form Three, she was greeted with good news. She was told by the school's Headmaster that the scholarship program had paid her school fees for the entire year. Tears of joy flooded Joan's face upon hearing this news.
"I am grateful to be a glimmer of hope for my family and I'm determined to excel and lead my family out of poverty," said Joan.
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