CWS, YWCA 'Giving Hope' Program Helps African HIV/AIDS Orphans

Church World Service and its Africa initiative are sponsoring a program that assists churches and grass-root organizations in meeting the need of orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS.

“Giving Hope” began in Rwanda through the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and has spread to three other East African countries – Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya - and six other partner organizations. The program brings child-headed households together into working groups to help them build better lives.

According to UNICEF, 28 percent of all orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, or 12.3 million children, have lost parents to HIV/AIDS.

The Giving Hope program helps children through OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) working groups where children build friendships and provide one another with emotional support and assistance in household work.

According to Jeff Barker, the foundation’s president, a major supporter of the program has been St. Mary’s United Methodist Foundation because of its focus on community development.

"We liked the fact that it hit all the various aspects of community development and helping communities raise themselves up," he told the United Methodist News Service.

"We determined that Africa was where we needed to be and the HIV/AIDS situation, especially with regard to youth, was the issue we needed to be a part of," he added.

The foundation’s partnership with CWS “has exceeded our expectations” and spread from three to four countries.

“We’re very excited about it,” Barker stated.

The original three-year grant was for $1.5 million but the commitment has increased. The foundation gave $500,000 to the program in 2005, $600,000 in 2006 and expects to give $700,000 in 2007.

Barker visited the African program in early 2005 and witnessed how techniques such as sharing skills and using adult mentors were making teenage heads of household more self-sustainable, according to UMNS.

“It helped us really understand what the issues were,” he said.

Giving Hope’s goal is to increase funding support for 26,400 children in 6,600 households affected by HIV/AIDS, ensure programmatic responses by at least 27 church-based or related organizations, and reduce HIV/AIDS transmission among 30,000 youth through creative youth-led prevention and education initiatives. The program is expected to reach more than 14,636 orphaned and vulnerable children in 2006.