It’s difficult to identify New Hope’s greatest accomplishment. Their orphanage provides shelter, nourishment, discipline, and counseling to over 100 HIV positive children. Their school educates over 170 children and their clinic provides affordable healthcare to nearly 500 patients from the surrounding area. Each of these is monumental. But none compare to the extraordinary revolution New Hope has given the Meru Community.
In defiance of norms, superstitions and ignorant health concerns, New Hope treats both HIV positive and negative patients in their clinic and teaches both HIV positive and negative children in their classrooms. The result is massive progress towards abolishing the devastating social stigma that surrounds HIV.
It’s impossible to overstate how destructive the HIV stigma is in Africa. It causes physical and psychological suffering to HIV positive people and denies them their basic human rights (an example being the HIV positive children who are pitilessly abandoned and now live at New Hope). These repercussions cause many people to deny their condition and take no medication or precaution. The HIV medication, along with helping with symptoms and progression, prevents the disease from passing to a child during pregnancy. The parents remain in denial and the result is the generation of innocent HIV positive children at New Hope who dutifully take their medication morning and night.
It begins and ends with these children. If you watch them play, it would be easy to overlook that most of them have endured nothing short of horror in their short lives. One of our jobs while at New Hope was to have the children write their story. In simple seven-year-old language, they describe starvation, beatings, death, child labor, and abandonment. And then, they describe coming to New Hope.
They didn’t expect to be received. They didn’t expect to have friends. Many had never had a home. They were scared, lonely, and HIV positive. They’d never known a secure future. And then, New Hope swooped in.
Now, the children play. They study hard and sit quietly through three-hour church services on Sunday. They eat five meals a day and take medicine every morning and every night. They laugh when they catch balls and cry when they fall. They talk openly about being HIV positive and they have teachers and counselors who will listen.
Africa is complicated and the challenges are overwhelming. We were discouraged and, without seeing it with our own eyes, we wouldn’t have believed that an organization like New Hope could exist. But it does. And they’re nourishing a new generation of Africans who will carry their banner and change their world. And we should all cheer them on.
Click Here to learn more about New Hope and their parent organization March to the Top. For information on how to sponsor one of these incredible children, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.