According to the World Health Organization, there are 1.2 million people living with HIV and AIDS and about 800,000 AIDS orphans in Ethiopia. Children affected by this AIDS crisis face stigmatization and discrimination from society while often also being forced to find their own way to meet their daily need for food, shelter, security, and an education.
Since it began in 2007, the “Brightening the Future of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children” program has responded to this need by working to improve the education, health and livelihood opportunities for 1,500 children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.
“It has been a great privilege to be involved with this unique program over the past six years,” said World Renew Senior Program Manager, Ken Little. “It brings many community members together to care for Orphans and Vulnerable children. Volunteer Caregivers (VCGs) give of their time to support households that have been devastated by HIV and AIDS. The communities now have a Community Care Coalition that is sanctioned and supported by the local government.”
In the first two phases of the program, the school enrollment rate of participating children was over 99%. Many of the children completed high school and are now participating in technical education and vocational training. Others have been able to attend university and colleges, have graduated and are now employed.
World Renew is now in the third and final phase of this program. In this phase, World Renew and its partner will aim to reach younger children who are still in primary school to help them complete a high school education.
Over the past six years, the program has given monthly food assistance to participating children and their caregivers. This is especially necessary for children who are HIV positive as the food has made them physically stronger and thus helped slow the progression of the HIV virus.
In addition, the program helped children access Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) which has improved their overall health status and kept them from missing school.
Strengthening household income is another important area of this program. World Renew provided entrepreneurship and business development training to young people and caregivers and then encouraged these participants to join self-help group programs to save money and invest in business activities.
This will continue to be fostered during the third phase of the program as World Renew will strengthen the income generating activities through loans from micro-credit associations and increased savings to help self-help groups increase their business opportunities and profits.
“It is rewarding to see the impact on the lives of the 1,500 children and youth who receive the monthly food assistance from World Renew through its alliance with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. It has become the anchor of the other educational and psycho-social support activities. These children are learning, growing and moving towards a brighter future because of this program!”