Friday, February 09, 2007

Lost Generation

The founder of The Ark Foundation of Africa, Rhoi Wangila, and the program manager, Jennifer Sleboda, came to GU today to tell us about their important work in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Rhoi is pictured here with some of the Maasai children she works with.

I had heard about Rhoi’s work, but it was incredibly moving to hear her tell the story of the birth of Ark. She fled Uganda in the 1980s after several of her family members were murdered during the brutal regime of Idi Amin. Now a US citizen, she is determined to help her beloved home as it struggles with the ravages of HIV and AIDS. She explained how AIDS, like civil war, can rob a country of its strongest generation, leaving the elderly alone to care for the young. She knows this from personal experience: thirty of her first cousins, all professional men and women, have died of HIV/AIDS.

Rhoi gives Americans a unique opportunity to help by adopting an African grandparent family struggling to care for their grandchildren orphaned by HIV and AIDS. The grandparents helped by the Adopt a Grandparent program are caring for an average of five orphans, but some have as many as eighteen children relying on them for their most basic needs.

The Ark Foundation specializes in helping people to help themselves. Another program, Teens Against Aids, trains young orphans as peer educators and gives them the resources they need to go out into the community as educators, as helpers, as friends. Teens Against Aids are acting as mentors to kids whose parents have died. They also help the grandparents raising those kids. Just as in the US, grandparents raising grandchildren can become isolated: a Teens Against Aids volunteer can watch their grandchildren so they can have the time to see their friends or go to the church. A volunteer can help around the home too – just doing the washing for seven children by hand is a daunting task for many older grandparents.

If you want to hear more about this amazing organization, and Rhoi’s work, look at, or go to to buy her book – ‘Africa, AIDS Orphans and their Grandparents’.

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