On the path into Namatala, it is almost always guaranteed that Olivia will be there to greet you. Olivia currently lives alongside one of the main road that connects Mbale to Namatala. Nestled between Olivia’s home and the busy street lies her cassava chip stand. Cassava, a tropical root, is a staple food here in Uganda. Whether it takes the form of cassava flour, cassava chips or cassava root, —it can be found on nearly every street and corner.
Olivia’s cassava chips have become a staple in the community alone. However, Olivia wishes to expand her business and sell posho flour, rice, cooking oil, beans and other local commodities.
“My blood was bad,” Olivia admits. “I was HIV-positive.”
“I didn’t take it serious,” Olivia admits. Unfortunately, it took four years and a hospital bed to wake her up. In 2011, Olivia was hospitalized with tuberculosis, meningitis, malaria, pneumonia and AIDS (the latter stage of HIV).
“My cell-count was at 5%,” exclaims Olivia. “The doctors thought I was dead.” To be certain, they even performed a pinprick test on her foot. “I felt the prick, but I could not move. I could only flicker my eyes. They said it was a miracle that I was alive!”
Child of Hope assisted in caring for her youngest child, Agessa, age eight at the time, by providing him with food and shelter at their local hostel. However, it was his mother that he longed for. So, with the assistance of Olivia’s sister, Esther, Agessa was able to move back home and visit his mother regularly in the hospital.
“The first time he came to visit, I hadn’t eaten in almost three weeks,” explains Olivia. “My young boy made me millet bread and silver fish and brought it to me. I looked at him and thought ‘God has sent this miracle to heal me’—so I ate the food.” Olivia believes that it was Agessa’s abiding love that brought her back to life.
“My son gave me back my life, now it’s time I do the same,” says Olivia.
Whether in Luganda or English, Olivia’s songs have the power to touch people’s hearts. Just listen to her most recent song, which was inspired from both the pain and healing that Olivia experienced in her battle with HIV/AIDS. Believe it or not, Olivia recorded her first single two years ago, at a recording studio in Namakwekwe.
“I didn’t write the song, I just sang from my heart,” says Olivia. “Then, my producer, John, did the rest.”
The finished product was an upbeat and emotionally charged gospel song. When asked for a translation of the song’s words, Olivia answered that the song was inspired by God’s healing power. Samples of the lyrics include: “If you walk with Jesus, he will help you and heal you,” and “leave the sins behind, come and pray to Jesus.”
Olivia was literally on her deathbed, hospitalized with a combination of HIV/AIDS, meningitis, tuberculosis, malaria and pneumonia. She claims that it was by God’s grace that she miraculously survived, and her lyrics acknowledge her elation and gratitude for a second chance.
“I sing my song at church,” says Olivia. And when she sang along to her song via audio CD for the 1000 Shillings group, the passionate performance brought many of the women to tears.