CARE AND SUPPORT OF ORPHANS AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN
We focused on awareness creation with community leaders on the plight of children living with HIV/AIDS and children orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS. These children live in extreme hostile environment. Many of these orphans are abandoned by indigent caregivers or ostracized due to cultural beliefs and stigmatization. On their own, they search for food in waste dumps and make their homes in rubble. One of such children is 7 years Chisanya Nnah, a HIV+ abandoned orphan.
We use National Orphans Vulnerability Index (OVI) and the Child Status Index (CSI) tools to conduct needs assessment of the children due to large number of orphans. The OVI has scores 1-20; children that scored 15-20 are most vulnerable and in dire need of support. These ones are enrolled in our programs, as we cannot bring in all the children due to inadequate resources. The CSI consist of six domains: Food/nutrition, Shelter/care, Protection, Health, Psycho-social and Education. Chisanya scored 20 among others
To raise awareness at all levels through advocacy and social mobilization to create a supportive environment for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
To build the capacity of families to provide quality care and support for HIV+ abandoned orphans in Abia by October 2015.
To improve the quality of life of the orphans and vulnerable children by establishing a permanent home, school and health care center for them.
To create awareness to the community and the outside world the need to protect and support the vulnerable children and the orphans as well as protecting their rights.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
Our objectives were achieved through creating community awareness and sensitization on the plight of orphans and vulnerable children. We arranged for foster homes for the children and created channels for Orphans and Vulnerable Children support by providing support to community-based organizations that work with Orphans and Vulnerable Children. We provided psycho-social support to HIV/AIDS-affected children and families, including shelter.
There was educational assistance, such as payment of school-related expenses, including providing scholastic materials.
We ensured food security or nutritional supplements for families affected by HIV and provided them with access to health care or direct health services. This was achieved by economic strengthening of family and caregivers to meet expanding responsibilities for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
We established income generating activities that strengthened the economic coping capacities of families to keep caregivers of these disadvantaged orphans alive. The most effective way to minimize the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS on children is to improve the health of parents and other caregivers and keep them alive as long as possible. This is crucial both in delaying and preventing orphaning and in improving parents’ capacity to care for their children. We started skills training, micro-finance, cassava, maize and poultry farming, local textile weaving etc. Chisanya’s caregiver was trained on local textile weaving and she is doing very well. She makes enough money for her family upkeep including Chisanya and communities.
We initiated a program that educated the community on HIV and AIDS, especially creating of awareness. Chisanya Nnah experienced a sad life without parents, without love, and living with the dreaded HIV/AIDS. With support from us, Chisanya has laid a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Nutrition is not only there for her but rich in quality and adequate in quantity, ill health is no longer a barrier because she now swims in the ocean of good health. And she wears permanent smiles on her faces. Today, her previous pathetic stories are like fairy tales. Her problems and uncertainty are gone with the wind. Chisanya like other kids is no longer street children, abandoned, hungry, ill, and naked or lack direction, but she is confident and hopeful for a very bright future. Good community support identified those in the community at risk, helps stop the problem getting worse and provided resources. There is strong community involvement now.
The biggest challenge is changing attitudes of communities on plight of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Lack of resources has resulted in many children not getting the required support and this has resulted to too many undesirable effects on children health. The publicity campaign is not strong enough to reach the rural areas and villages and that's why there is more discrimination there. Even when an infant is HIV-negative, the child may be mistakenly assumed to have the disease. A child who is infected, or who is assumed to be infected, may be abandoned by parents or primary caregivers. Absolutely many of the children that we picked up had developmental problems.
Each staff member takes on multiple roles and many tasks. While this is necessary to ensure all aspects of the work are completed, it is a limiting factor when considering adoption of new assignment and innovation. There are concerns regarding the human resources to reach a wider geographical area.
It is possible to achieve more when you work as a team. When you show commitment to help yourself, others will be willing to assist; and when the process is transparent and the participating communities understand the benefits of the project, they are willing to commit their resources and time.
We should not over depend on external assistance – help sometimes comes late or not according to our urgent needs or requirements.
The success of Isaiah 58 Care Foundation can be attributed to the philosophy of volunteerism, which assures commitment to and sustainability of the program, because it is free of the constraints of financial compensation.
When you work with and through village stakeholders, the community feels committed to work and the children are encouraged to believe in themselves and make something out of them. Traditional chiefs are crucial for the success of the program because they wield good influence on the beliefs of the people.