|PEPFAR Hero Ketty Opoka: Mother to a community|
Kitgum, Uganda – Ketty Opoka lives in the northern Uganda town of Kitgum and is a mother of six children. Ketty is a teacher by profession and currently serves as Coordinator of Meeting Point Kitgum. Meeting Point is a community-based organization supported by AVSI Foundation that was founded in 1994 as the first responder to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kitgum district.
Funded in part by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through AVSI projects, the organization offers care and support services to HIV/AIDS clients through counseling, follow-ups on their adherence to treatment regimens, training on income generation activities and other support services.
In 1990, after losing a close friend to HIV, Ketty made the decision to leave teaching, sacrifice her salary and dedicate her life to serving the community. In the beginning, Ketty and her friends were volunteers ― providing emotional support to those sick with HIV/AIDS. Eventually, Ketty went on to co-found Meeting Point Kitgum.
Meeting Point currently serves over 4,000 clients in the districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader. While Meeting Point lacked many resources, including transportation to reach the community, Ketty never relented, at times riding a bicycle for over 30 kilometers to visit her HIV/AIDS clients. Her dedication won her a grant from Northern Uganda Social Action Fund to construct an office to support her activities. Unfortunately, it was in a low-lying area and every time it rained, the area flooded along with her office. This never deterred Ketty from supporting the sick.
Today Ketty and her staff have constructed a new office in a prime location within the town of Kitgum where HIV/AIDS clients can take classes on income generation activities and receive counseling and other care and support services without worrying about floods.
Ketty’s work to improve the quality of life of the sick has changed many lives in the districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader. In addition to her own six children, she cares for nine other orphans and vulnerable children who are living with her in her home. Ketty is taking personal responsibility to ease the burdens of those living with HIV and helping northern Uganda to create and AIDS-free generation. The U.S. Government is proud to call Ketty a PEPFAR Hero.
AVSI-USA also has a long standing friendship with Ketty, inviting her in both 2007 and 2012 to present on her work in Washington, D.C.
In 2007 she spoke at a panel discussion titled, “Path to Dignity: Solidarity and Hope for the Displaced”. During the discussion, she spoke about her experience living in Northern Uganda and focused on the extent of the humanitarian crisis there. Ketty opened her intervention with the slogan of the Meeting Point, “Sharing needs to share the meaning of life.” This phrase captures the essence of the work she and her friends do every day: accompany others in their suffering. In accompanying one other, they affirm for each other that their lives have been redeemed through a Love that has been given and that is greater than all human suffering.
More recently, in 2012, Ketty presented at the 19th Annual International AIDS conference on AVSI’s 10 years of experience providing PMTCT services in collaboration with St. Joseph’s hospital and Meeting Point in Kitgum, Uganda.
(This article was originally written by PEPFAR staff and republished here with important additions for AVSI-USA’s local audience)