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A brave partner

A brave partner



The small house rented by the Venezuelan Nilsa Hernández, 62 years old, in Boa Vista, has always more space than it seems. In two rooms, two bunk beds and three regular beds are available for those who need them. As an elderly migrant who has been living with HIV for 13 years, Nilsa wanted to offer a roof to those living in the same condition and who are, like her, far away from home, whether for treatment or refugee. Practically alone, she created the Valientes pela Vida project (Bravery for Life), an initiative supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through the provision of informative materials, sexual and reproductive health supplies, and other community resilience actions.

With her 13-year-old grandson and husband, the woman arrived in Brazil a year ago. She suffered discrimination and lived on the streets for a month. With the help of donors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), was finally able to rent a house and soon began to put in practice her willingness to help.

"My dream was to have a place to shelter people with my condition, so they would never go through what I went through", she says. Since she started to count her guests, Nilsa estimates that she has received about 70 people.

In the beginning, when there were no beds, visitors slept on the floor. In addition to people living with HIV, Nilsa also receives patients with cancer, diabetes and other diseases - whom she refers only as "brave".

"We want to get rid of those labels, HIV-positive or cancer patients, whatever they are called. No. They are just brave. For facing their condition and leaving their country to seek treatment and live", she justifies.

UNFPA provides, whenever is possible, support for the Nilsa initiative to continue to flourish in the city. "I get unconditional support from UNFPA. It's like I'm part of the team", she jokes. She was one of the participants of the project Promotoras Legais Populares (Legal and Popular Prosecutors), an initiative from the Núcleo de Mulheres de Roraima (Numur) with the Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Inesc), and funding from European Union. The project aimed to empower women who are community leaders with information about legal issues and rights, strengthening the empowerment and community resilience.  

Invited to give lectures by various public government agencies and known for taking her visitors living with HIV to health services in person, Nilsa does not hide that sometimes her bravery threatens to weaken. She has participated in various activities offered by UNFPA in the city, and highlights the meeting groups promoted within a self-defense project, which has aimed, for three months, the prevention of gender-based violence with migrants and refugees. "I was very depressed and there I left my burden. I learned to control my feelings. These meetings taught us a lot about how to keep the perseverance”, she says.