Going Upstream: Curbing the Orphans’ Pandemic
I started my work with International Peace Initiatives (IPI) in 2003, cooking Kenyan food as a graduate student at the University of Denver to raise funds to keep orphans of HIV/AIDS in school and selling jewelry made by women living with HIV/AIDS to raise income for their medication and nutrition. Through IPI, we have supported nearly 1,000 kids stay in school, touched the lives of 10,000 people, built a children’s home with 22 orphans, and sold over $30,000 in jewelry that has helped transform the lives of women living with HIV/AIDS and their children as well as HIV/AIDS orphans.
Despite this work, I feel I have been sitting on the banks of a stream, saving children who have been floating down stream without asking: “What is happening upstream that is causing all these children to float downstream?” I have been reacting to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I am ready to go upstream and see why so many children are floating down the stream. My vision is to get to the root cause of why so many orphans are being churned out in my country. My vision is to help reduce the number of children being orphaned by HIV/AIDS by being a proactive agent of change through creating initiatives that help women living with HIV/AIDS live longer.
The vision I have for my community and the world is for us to look into ways to develop an innovative response to support women living with HIV/AIDS live longer and orphans have education, support, love and care. One area that I really need help in awakening my community relates to how to empower people, especially women to grow and realize their full potential as individuals as well as within community. I know if women living with HIV/AIDS are helped to overcome poverty, they will live longer and their children will not be orphaned so early.
In my community the answer to my challenge is anchored in crafting a solution that addresses the link between poverty, HIV/AIDS and the disempowerment of women, especially those living with HIV/AIDS – disempowerment that drives them to the grave faster than might be the case if they had food, an income and a strong social support system.
I want to be a Voices of Our Future Correspondent because I need to develop skills to identify, understand and overcome my personal and societal barriers in order to achieve my vision. I have been merely reacting to the problem of orphans and not looking at the root causes. Addressing the root causes means providing women living with HIV/AIDS with tools and skills to overcome poverty. This will not only help women living with HIV/AIDS live longer and children stay longer ‘unorphaned,’ but the community and the government will also have a model from which to proactively respond to the link between HIV/AIDS, poverty and orphans.
Being a Voices of Our Future Correspondent will help me achieve my vision through the empowerment methodology model that will help me integrate where I am now and behavior that I need to change (self and societal) that is hindering me from attaining my vision. I perceive the tools that I need for this transformation to be embedded in increasing my knowledge to determine what I desire to attain my vision; identifying limiting beliefs I harbor and understanding institutional barriers and adjusting my vision accordingly; and articulating my intention and visual image to help me achieve my vision.
Most important is the fact that this training will help me harness my innate female wisdom to discover my feminine power as well as find sisterhood allies to help me build a holistic circle within which I attain my vision. The tools and skills I gain from the training will be shared with my women’s circles in Kenya so that they too will find their (em)power (power with others) to claim their agency in order to transform their lives – empowering people to attain their full potential. Together, going upstream to uncover, understand and address the root causes of the orphans’ pandemic will help reduce the number of children floating downstream.