On 7 August, more than 150 people gathered in the open air – on a fresh but beautiful and sunny afternoon of the Tanzanian ‘winter’ – at Usa River in Arusha, near the local DREAM Centre, to participate in the launch of the I DREAM (MIMI DREAM in Swahili) in Tanzania.
Patients of the centre, old and new, relatives, friends, and even quite a few lecturers and students of the seminary of the Holy Ghost Fathers, which is situated right next to the DREAM centre, were happy to accept the invitation to take part in the meeting of the Movement, for the joint reading of the I DREAM manifesto in English and Swahili, followed by the recital of a prayer for people with HIV.
The number of patients who wanted to join the initiative was remarkable, more than expected. Already from the morning, some started to head for the centre from villages along the long street linking Arusha to Moshi, the area where most of those on treatment at Usa River hail from. In the early afternoon, there were queues of people who wanted to register to join the Movement.
The meeting started at 2.30pm, with introductory speeches and the presentation of the history and aims of the Movement. The “oldest” activist of Usa River, Ndeshi Solomon Ayo, went over the journey of her encounter with DREAM and stressed her participation at a meeting of activists from several African countries held in Rome last May. Her story, like those she heard about and witnessed, said Ndeshi, prompted her “to get more involved in what is taking shape as a beautiful, shared dream, a dream that – precisely because it is shared – can grow still more.”
The contributions of patients, who wanted to share their testimony too, followed and complemented the speech of Ndeshi. The words of one and all were in tune, akin to one another, almost like a choir. There was the joy of having been welcomed and loved. There was the feeling of immense gratitude for a life that started to shine again instead of being snuffed out, which had seemed to be the most likely fate. Most moving were the interventions of a few elderly people who had – so they said – rediscovered the energies and hopes of youth. There was the awareness of the transfiguration – of the “miracle”, as one patient put it – that had touched weakened, resigned lives. There was the felt need to start to fight against stigma which, alas, too often strikes those who are already victims of AIDS, in this and probably many other corners of Tanzania.
All the interventions, and the prayer too – which shortly afterwards closed the magnificent day of joy, gratitude and hope – were an ode to life, which has proved to be stronger than death, a statement of profound communion which seized the opportunity to prevail over separation and contempt. Meeting to recite this prayer is set to become a fixed appointment at Usa River, a monthly gathering of unity and hope.
And so the dream starts out from Arusha, to enter more deeply into the lives of the people of Usa River and whereabouts, to expand throughout all of Tanzania, more aware than ever of the need of so many people to be welcomed and to welcome, to get involved in an adventure of goodness and love, which knows how to hope, dream and transfigure life and attitudes.