Wednesday, June 20, 2007

William Fleming, HIV/AIDS Program Specialist

We arrived to the sound of drums and singing, a traditional greeting song for visitors. I visited the Kinabwe community project in Kenya to learn how we support children and how we link our sponsorship activities with grant supported programs. We sat with the Parents Executive Committee and discussed the activities supported by CCF for their community including; early childhood development, support for quality education, health promotion, improved livelihoods, and HIV prevention and care.

We moved on to visit two families with sponsored children. In the first, we met with 17-year-old Godfrey, caring for his 10-year-old brother Henry, their parents had died two years earlier. Henry is a sponsored child.

They had received two heifers and poultry which they keep on their small farm. In addition they grow coffee for sale with coffee plants they received through sponsorship. Despite being shy, Henry seems to be receiving good care and love from his brother. As evidence, he was third in his class (4th grade) and proudly showed us his high grades on his class notebooks. He also helps prepare food and keeping the house clean.

The care and attention Godfrey showed underlined the heavy responsibility on the young mans shoulders. While discussing his daily routine and the activities he participated in, he noted that with school, farming and care for Henry, he cannot participate in recreational activities with his peers. Both Godfrey and Henry expressed their gratitude for the sponsorship support, and also mentioned the support they get from the community. For example, the neighbors give extra food when they can. It is clear from Godfrey's description of their daily life that he worried about supporting the family and helping Henry succeed.

The second family we visit is a clean compound with several fruit trees growing in the yard. Two children are cared for by their grandparents who farm and sell coffee harvested for the coffee trees, CCF's economic support activities helped them to grow and market. The family shows us around and explains that he is able to support basic needs like school fees and good nutrition with the assistance that the CCF supported community project has provided.

We moved on to visit a school that CCF sponsors have helped in several ways over the last decade, including class room construction, houses for teachers, and teaching materials. Recent efforts have been made to establish fields of maize and vegetables as a means to teach agricultural skills to students and supplement the school lunches. The maize was stood high in the fields surrounding the school grounds. In discussions with the students, they are clearly sharp and engaged. They ask several questions about the US and were very ready to answer our questions about their class work and interests.

We finished with a visit to a vocational training program supported by CCF with funding from Irish AID. We visited with 12 young men who are learning to be welders with support from a local artisan. These youth, previously out of school and out of work, expressed their hope for the future and the change in their outlook that this program has created. When asked about their participation in HIV prevention activities, after first being a bit shy, they spoke of their knowledge about how HIV is spread and prevented. As young men in their late teens, they recognized that the decisions they make now can have important consequences for their future, we encouraged abstinence and safe sex practices. They acknowledged that they are facing challenges but are optimistic about what they are learning and how they will be able to assist their families as they increase their skills.

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