In Uganda, approximately 96,000 children under the age of 14 are HIV-positive. Sarah is one of them. My colleague Christine Ennulat met 9-year-old Sarah (not her real name, to protect her privacy) during a visit earlier this year to Gulu, Uganda. The meeting was emotionally overwhelming, because Sarah wasn’t eating enough nutritious food for her antiretroviral medications to take effect. The little girl, who had lost her parents and a younger sister to the disease, was in the care of her grandmother, Irene, who makes a living by selling small fish in the market. They were eating one meal a day.
This is just one facet of the complex HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Antiretroviral medications can prevent pregnant women from passing on the virus to their unborn children, and they help keep positive children healthier. But only if they have access to these medications, and only if they have healthy food and clean water. ChildFund and others are working to reach the United Nations’ goal to end HIV infections by 2030, but it is an uphill battle, even in places like Gulu, where there is help for families.
Sarah’s family is one of many that benefit from ChildFund’s USAID-funded project, Deinstitutionalization of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Uganda (DOVCU). Their roof was repaired, and her brother has received carpentry training. Irene was able to purchase a pair of geese. But there are many children in similar situations as Sarah. Some succeed and flourish, while others continue to struggle. At least Sarah is still smiling.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
In the rural region of Jinja in eastern Uganda, the lands are green and lush. “It’s beautiful,” says Linda Williamson, who has been there twice to visit her sponsored child. “Their roads are rough. They’re dirt roads, and they’re hard to get by. The homes are very modest, and they’re mostly brick with tin roofs.”
The water is clean, but there is no electricity in the small community where 24-year-old Erie and his family live. Cell phones work occasionally.
The town of Jinja is a commercial center on the shores of Lake Victoria and the Nile River’s headwaters, but Erie’s family lives in a remote community where subsistence farming is a normal way of life. HIV and AIDS have had a devastating impact on families, as well as other health problems such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhea. In Uganda, an estimated 2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. Floods and droughts affect everyone’s ability to grow crops and maintain food security.
“They are really concerned about climate change,” Linda says of Erie’s family and others who live in his village. “They can’t anticipate the seasons’ changes the way they could before.” This can lead to food shortages, but as many other sponsors have noted after their visits, families often serve their visitors entire banquets to show their hospitality.
It was the same for Linda, who spent a day with Erie’s family and community leaders earlier this year. “There were so many people there who were trying to make this day special. There was so much food!”
Erie himself is shy and a delayed learner, Linda says, but during this visit, “he’d come and hold my hand and sit next to me.” His mother, in contrast, is very gregarious.
Sixteen years ago, Linda received a financial gift from a relative for Christmas, and she decided after seeing a ChildFund commercial (then Christian Children’s Fund) that she would use the money to sponsor a child. Her first visit to see Erie and his family was in 2008, and since then, they’ve become even closer. Now that Erie is close to aging out of sponsorship, Linda is planning to sponsor one of his younger siblings.
“I’m very bonded not only to Erie, but to his younger siblings and the whole family,” she says. “This is like my family in Uganda. This is a big part of my life, having this relationship for the past 16 years. My friends and family know about my family in Uganda. When I go to Uganda or do something for Erie, I’m the one who’s blessed.”
By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Senior Manager for Content
Happy World Toilet Day! Let’s talk about open defecation.
Sorry if that’s disturbing, but here’s an unpleasant fact: Defecating outdoors, with no privacy, is what “normal” is for one in seven of the world’s people.
According to UNICEF, in 2015, 2.4 billion people did not have access to adequate sanitation facilities, including 946 million people without any facilities at all. What are their options?
Another fact: As a much-beloved children’s book title declares, everybody poops.
And another: Each year, 760,000 children under age 5 die from diarrheal disease, the second-leading cause of death and a leading cause of malnutrition for this age group.
That’s a reason why one of the United Nation’s Global Goals for 2030, number 6, is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
A community in Ethiopia has just inched the world closer to achieving that goal.
Until recently, woreda (district) 7 of Gulele city, just outside of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, was a mess. With no formal garbage disposal system, litter lined its streets and contaminated local water sources, which were unprotected — the community had no access to potable water. With few functioning latrines, children and family members were regularly exposed to human waste, which has its own dangers. On occasion, devastating diseases like typhoid, hepatitis and polio have spread throughout woreda 7. Last year alone, 697 children there had diarrhea, and 185 were diagnosed with pneumonia.
Those two diseases are the leading causes of death in Ethiopia among people of all ages. And they are preventable diseases.
Because clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene are key to children’s ability to be safe in (and from) their environment, ChildFund collaborated with local authorities and our local partner organization there in a special project, funded by a generous individual donor, to address all three in woreda 7.
First, we identified a dozen communal latrines that needed repairing. The ones selected were in such bad shape — collapsing walls, broken doors, damaged roofs — that they were neither sanitary nor safe to use. The team reinforced or rebuilt walls, replaced leaky roofs and upgraded the “doors” (corrugated iron sheets) to actual doors. More than 25,000 people now use these latrines.
We also identified 502 families with young children, whose immune systems are still developing, and provided them with safe water storage containers and treatment chemicals that purify water and protect the children from waterborne diseases. We held workshops, attended by all these families, to ensure that they fully understood how to use the tools, as well as proper hygiene and sanitation practices and how important they are.
To spread this knowledge among the broader community, ChildFund and the Woreda Health Office led a three-day training of 16 community volunteers and 25 health extension workers to provide education and assistance on hygiene and sanitation, as well as other health-related issues, throughout the community.
This part of the initiative was especially timely: Part of their work during those three days was to develop a health education plan tailored to the specific needs of the community itself, starting with educating families about acute watery diarrhea and its transmission, symptoms and prevention.
As it happened, the community was on the brink of an acute watery diarrhea epidemic that had already gripped parts of Addis Ababa. But the volunteers and extension workers were able to reach 4,261 households with the message of prevention, and woreda 7 escaped the outbreak.
ChildFund, the volunteers and health extension workers and the Woreda Health Office also launched two community-wide hygiene and sanitation campaigns centered on community clean-up, with 200 participants.
We know that latrines and water purification supplies by themselves don’t make for a sustainable solution to a community’s water, sanitation and hygiene-related needs; sharing knowledge and support are integral to making the practices stick.
But the experience of living in a clean and safe environment — and the fact that they avoided a potentially deadly disease that swept through neighboring communities — will most likely keep the families of woreda 7 on the path to a healthier (and more pleasant) future.
Want to help a community get access to clean water? Check out our Real Gifts Catalog for several options at different prices.
Each fall, the pictures of children with their goats show up. They are adorable, without fail. Look at Annet, holding her baby goat in the picture above!
Of course, goats mean a great deal to many families ChildFund works with. Goats produce milk, which can become cheese, and they reproduce quickly. A small herd of goats can help keep children well nourished and provide families with extra income when they sell surplus milk and cheese.
Just before the holidays, we release our Real Gifts Catalog, offering items requested by families in countries around the world. Goats are a perennial favorite, both of families and donors.
My colleague in Kenya, Maureen Siele, interviewed a man whose family received a goat through ChildFund’s catalog (which you can find online here). Daniel says, “Before we received the goat, we were not as healthy as we are today. We rarely drank milk. Occasionally, we would buy milk, but it is very expensive. We could not afford even to make proper tea. We also struggled to buy other household items like sugar and flour, because I did not have the money that I am currently making from selling the surplus milk.”
And today, they have four goats. It’s a great start for a family in need.
Video by Jake Lyell
In Uganda, videographer Jake Lyell was busy filming families who are struggling to stay together while coping with acute poverty and need. We’ll share these videos with you soon — they’re a tribute to the strength and determination of parents, children and others in their communities, as well as demonstrating the positive effect of outside support. In the meantime, watch Jake’s short video of 11-year-old Sarah, who shows us how she made her own doll.
When I travel overseas, I make it a point to visit markets. They’re the best places to see what people eat, how they dress, whether they shop quickly or slowly browse. You may even pick up a couple of useful phrases in the native language, or strike a bargain for a piece of woven cloth or packet of spices. The smells, sights and sounds are often fascinating.
Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is the home of Mercato, Africa’s largest market. It’s several miles long and employs 13,000 people.
As you can imagine, everything a person could possibly need is sold there, but Mercato was missing one key component for years: a lending library. In 2008, ChildFund Ethiopia, with a generous donation from a sponsor, built a library in the middle of the market. It’s still active, and the library has created changes for many children, who now have a place to study and read for fun.
On our website, we catch up with Rebka, a 13-year-old girl who frequents the Mercato library. Read more about this place, an oasis of quiet in the midst of the bustling market.
Photos by Gertrude Apio
Along with videos, ChildFund staff members also chose a winning slideshow as part of our 2016 Community Video Contest. The photos come from Jinja Area Communities’ Federation (JIACOFE), which serves the Jinja, Kamuli and Mayuge districts of Uganda.
According to Meg Carter, who runs the video contest (and is our sponsorship education specialist), “Jinja is the source of the Nile River, and it’s a beautiful area located on the shores of Lake Victoria and the Nile. It’s famous for whitewater rafting and bird-watching. I’ve been there many times, as it’s on the road from Busia (where I lived) and the capital, Kampala. It’s about two hours’ drive from Kampala.”
Thank you to Gertrude Apio for taking these photographs and ChildFund Uganda’s Sharon Ishimwe for gathering information for the captions. Now, meet some of the children of Jinja!
Do you remember Phenny? She’s a former sponsored child in Zambia who now is a supervisor at one of the country’s largest automotive repair shops. We caught up with her recently during a trip to Lusaka, and on our website is a new video of Phenny recalling her tough life as an orphan and how sponsorship helped her continue school and succeed in her career.
“As you can see, I’m the only lady here, supervising a number of men,” Phenny said in our 2014 interview. “My life has changed positively, and I feel like I’m living my dream. I have dreams of meeting my sponsor to thank him and tell him in person what his support has done.”
Happy Labor Day, everyone!
If you’re thinking of becoming a sponsor, don’t take it from us. Take it from former sponsored children: You matter. We hear from many young adults who are involved in careers, higher education and leadership roles that they never expected to achieve before someone sponsored them as children. Your consistent support and encouragement help them pursue many kinds of dreams and even pass on your generosity to future generations. Here are just a few examples.
Paul, a teacher in Uganda: “My sponsor used to inspire me through the letters he sent. I used to wait so eagerly for his response whenever I wrote to him. He always reminded me to work hard at school.”
Makeshwar, a community leader in India: “We will always remain indebted to ChildFund and our sponsors. We have taken a vow, and we will continue to serve underprivileged children and help them live with dignity.”
Lidiane, a business owner in Brazil: “Today I am a warrior, a hardworking and brave woman, fighting for my goals and dreams, and you are part of this. I wish I could say more to you, but I can write a thousand words here and still would not demonstrate what you represent in my life story.”
Else, a nursing student in Indonesia: “I want to help cure people. My favorite subject is pediatric nursing. I love taking care of young children. Soon, I will be working in a hospital helping young children in need.”
Many of you are sponsors already — or are considering sponsoring a child. Because our organization has been fostering sponsorship around the world for many decades, we’ve heard a lot of heartwarming stories about these unusual and often close relationships: the meetings in person between child and sponsor, multiple generations of families sponsoring children and many more.
This week on the website, we have a story that takes a slightly different angle: Tracy, who sponsors several children living with physical or mental disabilities. She has cerebral palsy herself and has a unique understanding of their challenges, as well as the importance of giving the children encouragement. Over the years, Tracy has made a point to ask her sponsored children what they can do, rather than what limitations they face.
Belinda can hold a cup and drink from it. Stacy can write the words “cat” and “dog.” Millicent can stand with both feet flat on the ground.