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Posts Tagged ‘Orphans’

Your Friday Smile

Thank you!

One of the sweetest smiles on earth.

Happy Friday, everyone.

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Little girl in doorway

I don’t think I’ve introduced you to the little girl in our banner have I?

I met her the day I visited St. Therese House of Hope in the Rift Valley.  She had only arrived there a little while before, malnourished and weak.  But she was getting lots of love and good food.

I have no doubts that if I went back today I’d hardly recognize her.  At that age, a bit of care makes such a difference!

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Sharon

Sharon

 

AIDS killed both of Sharon’s parents before they could hear her speak her first words or watch her take her first steps.

   

They are buried behind the small tailor shop where Sharon lives with her aunt; a constant reminder of loss, death, and sorrow.

   

Sharon grew up playing among their graves, and the graves of aunts, uncles and cousins whose lives were also cut short by this deadly disease.  Everyone, including Sharon, expected that her body would soon rest there, too.  

  

Because when Sharon was diagnosed with AIDS in 1998, the only thing that doctors could do for a child in Uganda with HIV was watch them die.  There were no pediatric medicines available, no treatments, and no hope.  Parents and guardians weren’t even encouraged to have their children tested for HIV – there was simply no point. 

 

In December 2003, the grave being prepared in the backyard was Sharon’s.  She was in the hospital again; a place where she had spent much of her childhood.  But this time was different.  Her CD4 count was below 5%.  Her hair had fallen out and she needed oxygen to help her breathe.  Aunt Florence, the only mother Sharon has ever known, was told this was the end.

 

Then a miracle happened.  What was expected to be the last day of Sharon’s life was the first day of a new pilot project between Mulago Hospital and Pediatric AIDS Canada to give ARVs to children with AIDS.  The doctors in charge of the pilot project chose the 5 sickest of the 700 HIV+ children at Mulago to participate.  All were literally at death’s door.  And Sharon was one of them.

 

Aunt Florence jumped at the only chance her niece had at life. 

 

Once she began ARV treatment, Sharon grew stronger with each passing day.  Within weeks, the little girl who was not expected to see another sunrise walked out of the hospital.  She has not been admitted since. 

 

Today, Sharon is healthy, in school, and well loved by her aunt and the community who care for her.  The grave in the backyard that was to be hers has long since been filled in and grown over.

 

Everyone in Sharon’s small community knows she has AIDS.  At first some of the villagers were afraid of her, but thanks largely to government sponsored education and awareness campaigns, they now know they have nothing to fear from this beautiful little girl. 

 

From the bottom of her heart, Aunt Florence gives thanks to all of the Canadians who have donated to Pediatric AIDS Canada.  She knows that without you, the girl she loves as her daughter would have been lost years ago. 

 

She can’t thank you enough for that gift of life.

 

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Orphans

Girl in Classroom

The AIDS pandemic in Africa is killing off a generation of parents, leaving their children orphaned, often sick with the disease that killed them.

Grandparents step in when they can, as do Aunties, older siblings and neighbours.  But even they aren’t able to take care of all the orphaned children.

Forty five orphaned girls have been taken in by St. Therese House of Hope, one of our partners.  The girls there have a safe place to live, enough food to eat.  They are clothed, housed and given the daily ARVs they need to stay alive, thanks to our wonderful donors.

What stayed with me from my visit there was the joyfulness of the children and the staff. 

The girls sang and played.  They welcomed visitors and demanded cuddles.  They posed for endless pictures.

They’re resilient, these little ones.  We can learn a lot from them!

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After a long day of official business, Julie, our Executive Director, was able to take some time to visit and play with the girls at St. Therese.

Neither of us wanted to leave.

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A Home Visit in Kenya

On the road to Tina's house

Imagine a road.  It’s not quite two lanes wide.  Asphalt, built maybe ten years ago, then driven on by heavy traffic every day since, without time for a single repair.  Beside it is hard-packed earth and construction debris.

Down this road flows traffic.  Four, sometimes five, or six lanes worth, depending on the time of day and the impatience of the drivers.  It is potholed and dusty and hectic.

This is the road that Sylvia and her niece, Tina, take every month between their home and St. Mary’s Mission Hospital, where they receive their ARVs.  I was driven there this past March, by a very competent driver who explained to me that in Kenya “we do not drive on the left or the right, we drive on the smooth” which goes a long way to explain the chaos on the roads.  

It took us an hour and a half to get to their house.  Sylvia and Tina must rely on public transit, which takes much longer. 

Sylvia’s sister died of AIDS in 1998 and at the age of only 20, Sylvia took on the care of her niece, Tina, who was also very sick with AIDS.  Doing this meant giving up many of her own hopes and dreams for the future – going to school, having fun, even working has been impossible at times. 

Sylvia’s neighbours didn’t want her to bring Tina home.  AIDS has a huge stigma here and people are still afraid that you can be infected by casual contact.  Tina has been teased and bullied at school, which is holding her back in her studies.

As we sat in Sylvia’s home – a tiny shack not more than 10′ X10′, windowless and sparsely furnished, I was amazed by how friendly and energetic she is.  Fierce with love and pride for her niece, determined to make a better life for them both, somehow. 

I can’t stop thinking about them.

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