Honey for Christmas (21/12/12)
Yesterday, just in time for Christmas, we received a wonderful piece of good news for 150 families around Kijabe who are affected by HIV/AIDS.
About a year ago, I (Andy) had a conversation with one of our health workers in the Hospital’s HIV/AIDS department (see footnote for more background on this). He was on his way to make a routine home visit to a teenager who was HIV positive. Sally was “positive” [name changed] and had also been orphaned, along with her brothers and sisters, when both of her parents died of HIV/AIDS a few years back.
Sally had attended a summer camp the Hospital runs for “Positive Teens”, and he had heard she was considering prostitution in order to buy food and clothes for her and her siblings.
I asked him what he was going to say to her, and he sighed, “I’m going to encourage her that prostitution is a bad idea, and she should find other work instead…but I know there isn’t really other work that she can find, and so I don’t know what to tell her. I wish there was a job I could give her. I have a similar conversation like this almost every week with other HIV positive teenagers.”
This conversation, and the heartbreak of the cycle of dependency and hopelessness which results from a lack of economic opportunities for HIV/AIDS sufferers stuck with me. So when we got a call from my friend Tom in Adelaide a few months later asking if there were any community projects in Kijabe that his engineering consultancy could help fund, we thought of Sally and her problem.
Tom’s engineering consultancy runs a small NGO called Golder Trust for Orphans (GTO) which makes grants to community projects which benefit orphans in Africa. After his call, we invited GTO to come to Kijabe to for a visit, and after their visit we put together a grant application to fund a beehive project for family groups like Sally which are caring for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
You see, beekeeping offers lots of potential for economic development amongst African individuals and families. For about $55 USD, a beehive can be purchased which will produce more than $100 US dollar’s worth of honey in the first year alone. It is simple, practical, and can be replicated and production increased easily as communities come together and share costs for harvesting equipment (gum boots, aprons, smokers and gloves). A honey purchasing cooperative already exists throughout Kenya, and so getting the honey to market is a matter of placing a phone call.
So you can imagine our delight when we heard today that GTO has approved our grant application! For less than $12,000 USD, our HIV/AIDS department will purchase 150 beehives, give them to families which care for HIV/AIDS orphans, and provide them with a few years of ongoing training and assistance to help beekeeping ‘take’ in their community.
The principal project objective is that each of these family groups will be provided with a sustainable income-generating activity (beekeeping) and then encouraged to sink part of their annual income into more beehives, with a view to them having multiple beehives and sustaining their entire family on the income from them within a few years.
This has been some wonderful Christmas news…much needed encouragement for me as we undertake our own work of partnership development thousands of miles from Kijabe, and joy as I consider what this means for Sally and families like her–a chance to start to break free of the the cycle of hopelessness and despair.
I am delighted to work alongside people such at those within GTO that have a heart to fund projects like these, as well as alongside our HIV/AIDS department, which despite the daily grind of working alongside people who may have lost hope, continues to care for those impacted by HIV/AIDS in a practical and compassionate way.
Merry Christmas, indeed.
footnote: Kijabe Hospital runs a best-practice HIV/AIDS program which utilises a community-based treatment approach to restore hope through provision of antiretroviral drugs, health education, testing, support groups, and community health worker training. Our AIDSRELIEF program, funded by PEPFAR funds from the United States is considered ‘best-practice’ in that it collaborates with other programs in the community to focus on income-generating activities for families with HIV/AIDS sufferers and the many situations where an entire generation within a family group has died from HIV/AIDS, leaving the grandparents to raise their orphaned grandchildren. Income-generating activities provide a long-term strategy to improve the economic condition of families and HIV/AIDS sufferers, allowing children to receive sufficient nutrition, schooling, and a start at a different life no longer hindered by the negative economic impact that HIV/AIDS brings.