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January 21, 2007


What a hugely complex and sad situation. Before I came to Africa, I read that 4 in 10 Africans have HIV/AIDS, and I think that at least 80% of the grassroots groups that I have met here are involved with prevention or treatment in some way. It’s just so connected to the other issues…

What has struck me is the number of women who have started NGOs to help their communities – there seems to be so many slums and villages that have their own little NGO focused on support for orphans, women and widows with affected by AIDS. And everyone is looking for donors, especially from America. I have heard of a few coalition-type groups, but on the whole it feels like most women are working alone on this (and yes, it seems like it’s the women are really tackling this issue).

Last Friday, I attended a fundraising workshop given by an American man to people he met at the WSF, and 99% of the 45 people who attended are women with their own local organization for women/orphans affected by AIDS. They all asked me for help, and my personal policy is to accept any information that someone hands me and tell people that I can’t personally help but maybe I’ll meet someone who can… it’s so intense.

Leah seems to have a typical story. She is from a small village on the Kenya/Uganda border and talks about how many villages in Uganda are just empty now – everyone has died of AIDS or has been orphaned and moved. She herself now takes care of 21 orphaned kids and has started a program, the Harmony Care and Education Support Program, to train women with AIDS to work in some micro-enterprises and to get support for orphans and orphans living with relatives (who will care for them but can’t pay for their school uniform to attend school). I was very impressed with her brochure and her budget and strategic plan. I said that I couldn’t help her personally, but that I would take her information to pass along. Within the week I had met an American documentary team looking for someone like her, and someone else who is connected with a philanthropist concerned with women and children affected by AIDS. I hope something works out for her.

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