Wednesday is fast approaching. Wednesday is the day I will leave for a field visit to Zimbabwe to see how the children are doing, how livestock are growing and reproducing and to meet with field staff to gather reports, determine how things are going so far and find out what we can do to make things better. As usual, it is amazing to reconnect with old friends (the field staff) and to see the children and their guardians. I am so looking forward to sitting down to a cup of tea and some good stories of goats and piglets being born, children drinking milk for the first time in a long time and how the rains are helping crops grow.
These trips are what make all the work worth it. Knowing that our children are well cared for and that our programs are receiving what we promised them makes me happy. But, seeing it all first hand is refreshing and it confirms that what we do is a good thing.
Just last week I looked at our percentages since 2005, the first year we started giving out medicine, nutritional support, medical supplies, livestock and seeds, trainings, etc. I was so happy to note that the average per year going directly to programs is 92%! That is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the work here in USA is done by one full time person, one part time person and a slew of dedicated volunteers. 92% of all donations received go directly to the children…how neat is that?
There is no question that this is happening because I have seen clinics expand and grow in my years since I started with the American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA), thanks to the trainings we’ve provided, to the medical supplies and equipment we send, to the support we provide every time it is requested, and to the dedication of all our partners in the four countries in which we work.
I have hugged and played with children who were born infected with HIV but who are now 8 year olds, happily running around, healthy and hopeful, thanks to the free medicine and food they receive. I have been welcomed and hugged by hundreds of midwives who received training in how to be safe while delivering babies from HIV+ mothers, thankful that someone thought of them and their safety. I have tagged goat ears (more than I can count!) and handed them to orphan families so that the children have a way to become self-reliant. I’ve attended and conducted trainings on how to raise animals, how to budget, how to manage, and how to become businessmen and women to old women and men, as well as adolescent guardians.
I have had the honor of attending the birth of a little one who was born HIV negative, thanks to the prenatal care given to his mother, all complements of AFCA. I have smiled in gratitude to donors while watching children eating the porridge we provide and when they receive the school packs we give out so that they can go to school. Because they are orphaned, they didn’t think they’d ever be able to attend school – who’d pay for their fees, uniforms and supplies? We did and it is with incredible joy that I’ve seen children skip off to school tightly holding their packs, wearing new uniforms and schools, knowing that they have a future.
Yes, these visits to our programs are renewing to my soul. They confirm again and again that hard work pays off for those who most need it – the kids. When I can look at a sick mom in the eyes and tell her that we’ll make sure her kids go through school, that we’ll provide food and medicine for her and for her children, there is no greater responsibility or honor. Responsibility because we WILL fulfill that promise. And honor because we are helping the next generation of children become healthy, hopeful and productive citizens of their country.
Zimbabwe will be a blast!