Wednesday, December 7, 2011

HIV/Aids leaves children stranded in Zambia

By Sara Rice

There are emotions that people experience when they travel to a new country: Anxiety, fear, excitement, anticipation, and more. As I stepped out of the United States for the first time, I experienced many of those emotions. However, I never imagined the lessons that I would learn about the emotional toll HIV/Aids takes on a community of children halfway around the world.

As a student, I have learned about the statistics of HIV/Aids in other countries and know the symptoms of those infected. As a student in Zambia, I am beginning to understand the emotions that are felt when you make a connection with someone, or a community of people, infected with the disease.

The Problem

Elijah, a child that attends school at the project,
spends a lot of time to himself on the water wheel.

I have had the incredible opportunity to work
with the children and widows at the Chikumbuso project in Lusaka, Zambia. Many of these children are orphaned by HIV/Aids and as a result, are infected with the disease. At the school they attend through the orphanage, the teachers and program directors strive to encourage a positive environment despite the tragic and inevitable lifespan of the children they work with and grow to love every day.

Tackling the affect of HIV/Aids

Through extensive counseling services and funding the expenses for the HIV/Aids medication, Gertrude, the director that lives at the school and Linda, the founder of the Chikumbuso project, have created a safe haven for children that feel as though their life does not have meaning or much of a future.

At the compound, pods of children develop where they discuss their feelings on their situation in private. The teachers and program directors at the school seek out the pods and try to break them up. The biggest influences on the positive atmosphere at the school are the student’s peers. The teachers are committed to building up students and maintaining a
positive and encouraging environment.

Important Lessons

The smiles at the project are contagious. There is something about a child’s smile that pierces straight through me. During my time here, I have learned the important lesson that these children were taught at a much younger age; there is meaning to life no matter how short it may be. There is a beauty in life that cannot be seen no matter what circumstances you are presented. There is always a reason to smile, even when it may not be easy.

The children of the Chikumbuso project outside the art room.

I cannot wait to see where the next two weeks take me. If this experience continues as it has started, my heart will continue to change and my perspective will continue to become clearer.

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