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3 Faith Organizations Helping HIV Orphans in Kenya
The World Bank reported that HIV/AIDS orphaned over 660,000 Kenyan children in 2019. Often having to fend for themselves, 22% of these children frequently experience hunger. Also, many orphans in Kenya exhibit signs of declining health, enroll in school at low rates and live in poverty. In response, several Christian organizations are helping Kenyan orphans receive an education, medical treatment, vocational training and wellness classes. These services allow orphans to thrive on their own once they reach adulthood. Here are three faith organizations helping HIV orphans in Kenya.

Children of God Relief Institute

The Children of God Relief Institute (COGRI) came to fruition in 1992 and works to provide services to impoverished orphans in Kenya who HIV/AIDS affects. COGRI spearheads four main projects to help orphaned Kenyans, providing services ranging from a children’s home to an internationally accredited laboratory focused on HIV/AIDS diagnosis and testing.

In the Lea Toto Project, 377 orphans received antiviral therapy (ART) and 73% of them obtained viral suppression. Only 63% of children in Kenya achieve viral suppression, which means COGRI provides quality care for its patients. Part of COGRI’S high success rate has to do with the surveillance and support patients receive. For example, COGRI monitors each child to make sure they administer their medication correctly and mentorships that orphans established helped develop self-assurance in their road to recovery.

Christian Ministries in Africa

The second faith organization helping HIV orphans in Kenya is Christian Ministries in Africa (CMIA). This ministry emerged in Nairobi in 1985 and strives to protect vulnerable African children. One of its projects, the Grace Children’s Centre, consists of four children’s homes, two of which are for healthy orphans and HIV/AIDS positive orphans.

A second project, the Nakuru GCC Boys Farm Project, offers farming classes to orphan boys. The farming courses serve several purposes, which include growing nutritious food for the boys and teaching them farming techniques. The income from surplus crops helps to fund necessities for CMIA’s Grace Children’s Centre.

Inua Partners in Hope

The Inua Partners in Hope (Inua) program came into existence in 2009 and aims to lift low-income Kenyan children out of poverty. More specifically, the program provides courses that aim to improve all aspects of a child’s life who lost one or more parents to HIV/AIDS.

Inua’s three-step program focuses on hope, life skills training and entrepreneurship. Throughout, Inua accentuates its “8 Dimensions of Wellness” for its young students:

  • Emotional: Feel comfortable discussing their sentiments with others and confront adversity in their lives.
  • Physical: Learn to become healthier with nutritious food and adequate exercise.
  • Social: Help form and sustain connections with others around them.
  • Occupational: Teach how to make a difference in the workplace and society.
  • Spiritual: Discover how to achieve tranquility and comfort.
  • Intellectual: Demonstrate how to continue learning in their everyday lives and to use their problem-solving skills.
  • Environmental: Learn to look after the environment and others around them.
  • Financial: Educate how to budget money and to become financially independent.

Inua’s program offers a variety of vocational training to older children, including hairdressing, mechanics, agribusiness, hospitality, welding and masonry. Orphans take their new skills and build businesses in their village to make a living. Additionally, these adolescents hire other struggling orphans to work in their business and teach them their newfound skills.

Looking Ahead

These three ministries are great examples of faith organizations helping HIV orphans in Kenya. Although the Kenyan government proactively attempts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, faith-based organizations stepped up to address the affected youth who struggle to make ends meet and require medical interventions. With adequate medical treatment and education, orphans in Kenya are learning how to take control of their lives and not let HIV/AIDS weigh them down.

– Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Flickr

HIVAIDS in Kenya
In 2016, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) calculated that there are approximately 120,000 children living with HIV in Kenya. Even more shocking is that around 840,000 children between ages 0-17 were orphaned due to AIDS. Amidst this pandemic, the Children of God Relief Institute (COGRI) provides a glimmer of hope for orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

About COGRI

COGRI is a nonprofit organization that provides care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who are infected with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS; this group also aids the elderly and families impacted by this pandemic.

USAID supports this organization through funding received from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and helps it deliver quality and impactful HIV care. This organization operates through four different programs based around some of Nairobi’s poorest settlements.

The first program is called Lea Toto and its purpose is to decrease the risk of HIV transmission through the use of home-based care packages and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS. The Nyumbani Home is where children are given outstanding medical, nutritional and academic care with the hopes of becoming graduates and members of Kenyan society.

The organization’s third program, the Nyumbani Village, is a bio-friendly and self-sustaining community that cares for the young and old who have lost family members as a result of the pandemic. And finally, the Nyumbani Lab was opened in 2011 and is an internationally accredited laboratory working to find effective treatments and diagnostics for people with HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

A Holistic Approach to HIV/AIDS

Part of COGRI’s success is due to its holistic approach to the problem. The OVC receive the most support and care including treatment, counseling and testing, education, nutrition, shelter, child protection, case management, psychosocial support and household economic strengthening. Caregivers and communities receive secondary support as these programs impact children and their future income levels.

Healthcare is a huge focus of this organization. To support these children, COGRI provides access to medical care and supplies antiretroviral drugs. Another important part of treatment and protection includes providing sufficient amounts of food and combating malnutrition.

Evidence shows that higher rates of malnutrition contribute to greater deaths in people with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and this occurrence has caused food security to become a bigger focus within the organization. They would like to guarantee age-appropriate feeding, infant, young child and elderly nutrition and food security for all clients and patients. Beyond physical health, the organization provides services to help with grief and the challenges presented by HIV. 

Glimmers of Hope

The holistic approach combined with hope and advocacy make COGRI an effective organization. According to USAID, staff are passionate about advocating for children’s medical treatment and hope that in the future, no children in Kenya will get HIV in utero or during breastfeeding. Additionally, 73 percent of 377 children receiving HIV treatment at one of COGRI’s facilities achieved viral suppression due to correctly following a treatment regimen. This is relevant as Kenya’s overall viral suppression rate in children is only 65 percent.

USAID tells the story of a young man taken to Lea Toto who at age 12 was in poor health from untreated HIV. He received treatment immediately, and that combined with psychosocial support, helped him become a confident and healthier man. He is now 23 with a certificate in graphic and web design and has his own shoe business.

Examples like these show how COGRI’s holistic and passionate approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is changing the lives of children in Kenya and providing hope for a healthy future. 

– Alexandra Eppenauer

Photo: Flickr