From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Surviving Child Trust offers hope to Africa's AIDS orphans

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 19 Dec 2002 15:12:32 -0600

Dec. 19, 2002 News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn. 

NOTE: Photographs and two sidebars, UMNS stories #588 and #589, are available
with this report.

By Linda Green*

MUWERA, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - Ten-year-old Linda Sinoya sat atop a growing mound
of dirt that would soon cover her mother's grave. 

With tears sliding down her face, she looked into the widening hole, where
men from her village took turns breaking through rock and hard earth.

Her mother's body laid inside the family home, surrounded by women of the
village who kept vigil over it. 

The people in the village outside Dandara Township are poor, and they had to
choose between buying a coffin for Linda's mother and purchasing food. The
village chose food. The body was wrapped in a blanket, placed inside a trench
and then covered with heavy rocks before the mound of dirt Linda had been
sitting on was returned to the hole.

Now, Linda is among the millions of children throughout Africa left orphaned
by AIDS. Her grandmother and the elderly women of the village have become her
guardians. As the pandemic wipes out a generation of parents, grandparents
are increasingly finding themselves raising children again.  

In another village, Snodia Rusere was on her deathbed when she called for the
area's pastor to baptize her. She had been sick for a long time, her body
wasting away from what was believed to be AIDS. She died the morning after
her baptism.

The cemeteries are running out of space to bury the estimated 300 Zimbabweans
who die from AIDS each day.

Each day in Africa, 9,500 people contract HIV/AIDS and another 6,500 die. A
projected 2.5 million will die next year because the continent lacks the
medicine to fight the virus. By 2010, Africa will have an estimated 25
million AIDS orphans - defined as children who have lost one or both of their
parents to the pandemic.

In Zimbabwe alone, more than 2.2 million people are infected and over 700,000
children are AIDS orphans. One in every four Zimbabweans over age 15 is

Such grim statistics led Josiah Kandemiri, a 1999 graduate of United
Methodist-related Africa University, to found Surviving Child Orphan Trust, a
program that cares for AIDS orphans and helps them build a future.

Kandemiri had been teaching at Murewa Primary School, which is inside the
Murewa United Methodist Mission Center, about 56 miles outside Harare,
Zimbabwe's capital. In January 2000, he attended an HIV/AIDS awareness
workshop organized by the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries. That experience compelled him to take
the initiative in caring for AIDS orphans.

As a first step, Kandemiri consulted with the leadership at the primary
school about the situation. That led to the formation of a committee of
community leaders as well as school and church officials to work on the
issue. A survey identified 150 orphans between the ages of 6 and 13 in the
school, many of them hungry and in tattered clothes. Some were abuse victims
in need of counseling, some had no money left to pay their school fees. The
children were living in different parts of the district, cared for by
grandparents or someone else who had taken them in - or, in some cases, they
fended for themselves.

In response, the Surviving Child Orphan Trust program was launched in August
2000, and today it is supported as an Advance Special of the United Methodist
Church. Though based at the primary school, the trust includes the entire
community in caring for the children.

"Our purpose is to work with orphans infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in
schools and within the community," said Kandemiri, trust secretary. "The
impact of the AIDS pandemic has made the lives of the people of our
community, especially children, very miserable and hopeless.
"Our aim is to bring light to the school and its community and to assist
orphans materially, physically, morally and spiritually. As
teacher-volunteers, we work as caregivers, counselors and skills training
officers (for) the pupils for their future sustainability."

Raising AIDS awareness is a critical need, and Kandemiri said one of
Surviving Child's goals is to "educate the young girls that it is wrong for
an elder to touch them." In parts of Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDS-infected men have
been misled into believing they can be cured if they have intimate relations
with a virgin. "I'm trying to help the girls realize that they can get (AIDS)
too if they do this," Kandemiri said. Young orphans girls are often living in
homes of male guardians where abuses occur. "Many of the girls feel that if
they tell, they will have no place to stay or go. We have to break the
barrier of protectiveness," he said.

Trust officials plan to open a hostel at the school in response to the rising
number of sexually abused children, especially small girls. The trust wants a
hostel to board the children during the school term so that they would have
to go home only during holidays.  "This way, we will reduce the number of
cases of rape and child sexual abuse," Kandemiri said.

Surviving Child began with 250 students, and that number has continued to
rise. "It is not easy to work with orphans or with any traumatized group of
society, especially if one is not specially trained for such situations,"
Kandemiri said.  

Six hundred orphans live in and around the Murewa United Methodist Mission
Center. The trust's efforts are centered at the Murewa Primary School, which
draws more than 1,200 students from throughout Zimbabwe. 

Counseling sessions are held twice a week to help the children adapt to being
orphans and develop HIV/AIDS awareness. The sessions are designed to empower
the children and teach them skills for meeting basic needs. 

"God is the source of inspiration (for the) serving and works of charity that
we do at the trust and at the school," said the Rev. Elliot Chikwenjere,
director of the area Council on Ministries and pastor in charge of the Murewa
United Methodist Mission. "We found that the best way to serve the Lord is to
be a friend to the marginalized."

The trust provides supplementary feeding in the form of one meal (lunch) per
day to 260 students and is providing elementary health care for serious
problems that require special practitioners. "We discovered that feeding the
orphans was one way to keep them in school; otherwise they would be out in
the woods scavenging for food," Chikwenjere said.

The trust also keeps some orphans in school from August through December by
paying their school fees of about Z$50,000 (US$900) and providing clothing.
Caregivers attached to the trust also assist the children.

Beauty Mutonhi is one such caregiver. "I volunteer to work with the children
because they need help. All 600 of the orphans are my children. As a mother,
a teacher, a Christian, I put these children in my heart, and I help when

The trust draws much of its financial and material support from First United
Methodist Church in Walton, Ind., Crofton (Md.) United Methodist Church and
Transport Aids-Wheels for Africa, a charitable organization based in Nagoya,
Japan. The money helps keep the children in school and provides warm winter
clothes, food and medical care. 

"But more donations are needed," Kandemiri said. "If we don't get any donated
food and other necessities, things are going to get bad." The trust needs
children's clothes, shoes and blankets.

Surviving Child officials have identified initiatives to make the trust
self-sustaining and to provide the children with opportunities to earn money.
Long-term programs include:
7	The Orchard Project. The orchard is expected to begin bearing fruit,
including mangos, apples, oranges and bananas, in five to 10 years.
Meanwhile, the students at the primary school are learning how to care for
the trees.
7	The Sewing Project. Boys and girls are taught sewing and other skills
to help maintain their clothes.
7	The Feeding Project. Many students do not get enough food at home, so
the school provides a food break each day at 10 a.m.

The trust also is teaching the students survival skills through three
projects focusing on gardening, raising poultry and growing mushrooms. Each
projects teaches selling skills.  

Besides Surviving Child, the United Methodist Church's Murewa District has
two other orphan trusts. A third, the Uzumba Orphan Trust, is no longer under
the auspices of the district because of accountability issues, Chikwenjere

"Without basic education, the lives of these children are doomed," Kandemiri
said. "I hope and pray that my dream will one day be a reality and that these
children we nurture will grow into leaders of our nation and continent."

Shortly after meeting with a United Methodist News Service writer and
photographer in early November, Kandemiri was injured in an automobile
accident. He died Nov. 18.

"I've received a lot in my life," he told UMNS. "What I've done is my way of
saying 'thank you.' It is my conviction and my faith that I have to make a
change in the lives of these children so that they may have a future."	

People can help make a difference by giving to the Surviving Child Trust,
Advance #014159, or 
Global HIV/AIDS Program Development, Advance #982345-7. Gifts may be made
through local United Methodist churches, or by calling (800) 554-8583. Credit
card donations are accepted. 

Background material and worship resources for United Methodists are available
at: Information on the United Methodist
Committee on Relief's work around the world is available at online.
# # #
*Green is news director of the Nashville, Tenn.-based office of United
Methodist News Service.

United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

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