The next posts will highlight some amazing and troubling examples of children who are living in extreme poverty and orphaned by the AIDS crisis which is devastating this continent.
I wanted to start with this village that Reencontro set up. It was a long and treacherous drive to get there. We veered off the dirt road we had been traveling on and drove for another hour in the brush. The rain didn't help the conditions or the visibility. This was, by far, the most remote place I had traveled to. It is a community in the Gaza province. This particular area we were in is known for its cashew industry. The villagers gave us a bag when we left and they were beyond delicious - unadorned and freshly roasted.
We were greeted by the villagers who sang a welcome song and gathered us all in a room (it was a downpour when we arrived). Olinda had everyone sit and we went through every child's story. The village is made up of a group of orphans who are parentless because of the AIDS crisis and a group of selfless volunteers (mainly women; although the director of the village was a young man who looked maybe 25) who live in the village as caretakers.
We proceeded to walk from home to home to observe and note the needs of each child. The entire village walked together either behind us or in front of us, singing songs as we walked. It was truly an experience that I will never forget. So moving and communal and welcoming.
Reencontro has built all of the homes and are providing food and access to schooling for all of these children. We saw several of the homes which were well built structurally but did not have any furnishings. This village is desperately in need of beds and other basic supplies for their homes.
A couple of children to think about:
Angelina was such a scared and reclusive soul. She lost her mother recently to AIDS. Her uncle took her in but abandoned her when his wife said she did not want her. This community has enveloped her and hopefully in time she will find peace and, I really hope, happiness.
The next little girl had such a warm and loving face. She was found living under a tree with her very elderly, blind grandfather. She is infected with the AIDS virus. This village has taken she and her grandfather in. Reencontro is providing her much needed medication and housing in the village.
All of these children need our help desperately.