EGPAF Supports Communities Caring for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Mary Tutayo’s stall is hard to miss in Kiserian Market – an economic hub for the people of Kiserian, a town at the foot of Ngong Hills about 22 kilometres southwest of Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi.
Mary has been beading for many years. It is a great comfort to her and represents a new start. She started the craft when she moved to Otiani village in Ngong Town Nairobi, as a means to provide for the children under her care. She could not have children of her own and was forced to leave her husband’s village. The Maasai believe that women who are unable to bear children are a bad omen. The community in Otiani embraced her and gave her land to build a home. She now looks after 5 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) from the community.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) defines OVC as any child under the age of 18 who has lost one or both parents due to AIDS or is HIV-positive, or who may be vulnerable to the disease or its socioeconomic effects.
Mary and other families who look after and care for OVC, receive support from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) from a faith-based organization, Apostles of Jesus AIDS Ministries (AJAM). AJAM implements an OVC project that receives a grant from EGPAF to provide quality services to OVC. Currently there are more than 1,530 children who are supported through the project.
BOOSTING LIVELIHOODS BY PROMOTING SAVINGS
One of the initiatives from the project is to train the caregivers on income generating activities and financial management. From the training, members form savings and internal lending communities (SILC). The SILC groups are a form of table banking that allow members to save and access loans. Each member saves a certain percentage of their weekly income with the SILC group that qualifies them for an annual dividend.
“We have 14 SILC groups that have various group investments,” said Veronica Sirote, an AJAM social worker. “Some do bead work, others keep livestock, and sell second hand clothes. We also have a barber shop and food vendors.”The SILC groups also act as a source of social, psychological and economic empowerment for caregivers of OVC helping them to cope better with the impact of HIV.
Mary’s SILC group meets weekly in one of the compounds. She saves Ksh. 500/- (around $5 USD) every week with the group. During their meeting they learn new beading techniques from each other, share on new investment areas, balance their financial accounts and share on how the group has impacted their lives. From the profits that the group makes, some of the members have bought cattle, others have renovated their homes, and even installed piped water in their homesteads from a river in their neighborhood.
This empowered group has led to a change in cultural perceptions. Many of the members say that they have been able to keep their daughters in school from the money they get from beading.
“When the girls reach 12 years, they are married off, but if they are in school, marriage is delayed,” said Salome Kaari OVC specialist EGPAF. The men she adds will not pay school fees for girls.
Mary has seen her life transform in many ways. Her mastery of beadwork and dedication to community service has yielded much fruit. She has been able to pay school fees for her children from her business income. She has even hired five workers to help meet the increasing demand for her beaded items. From her savings, she has also managed to construct a permanent house equipped with water and electricity.
EGPAF grants eight organizations to provide OVC services across various regions in Kenya; providing 11,116 children with the following:
- Food security
- Legal protection (helping the OVC acquire birth certificates, death certificates of the parents and following-up on child abuse cases and disinheritance cases)
- Household economic strengthening through training of income generating activities and providing start-up business kits
- Psychosocial support
- Supporting education of the OVC through paying school fees, buying books and providing school uniform.
- Ensuring access to health services HIV-testing and linkage to care and treatment