They are often the forgotten -- the hidden statistic.
Their population increases by roughly 600,000 each year and they are among the most vulnerable people in the world– children orphaned by AIDS.
CCF is working to improve the lives of these children. One way is simple, using only paper, pencils and photos. CCF is helping the parents and caregivers dying from AIDS create Memory Books for the children they will leave behind.
Suddenly, the children have history. They have memories. They have a connection to their parents whose lives were cut short.
The books aren’t elaborate. In fact, they are quite simple in their design. But to the more than 600,000 children orphaned each year, they are everything.
In Kenya, the Memory Book program is funded jointly by CCF and USAID. The books contain pictures, stories, letters and documents, enabling children to maintain information about their heritage.
The books also allow parents to express their feelings to their children – both their memories and their hopes for their children's future.
Memory Books have a child-centered approach that involves children in decision making processes in a way that is appropriate for their age, stage of development, and it keeps in mind the culture of the child. The books allow children to reflect on their past, plan for their future and build resilience to cope with life threatening challenges.
A child's resilience is strengthened when there is open communication between them and their parents/guardians. Children are able to express their emotions and fears, goals to live for, memories of their own past and loving relationships with their parents or those who care for them. Their relationship is also strengthened when children are given the opportunity to help others, developing a sense of resourcefulness and self-esteem.
Many parents find it difficult to talk about HIV issues with their children. Children often find themselves excluded from discussions and decisions involving the family's future. When children are allowed to share family problems, they are better able to cope with what HIV means for their family life and future.
The books serve as confirmation of the child’s birthright, hoping to alleviate the property grabbing that often happens following the deaths of the parents. In many cases, the Memory Book is the only record of the child’s birth.
CCF is training community health workers, paralegals and caregivers to help AIDS patients prepare the books. At the same time, the patients are coached on how to prepare a will.
It’s not an easy task and often emotional and sad. But ultimately, the Memory Books help prepare children for the death of their parents while creating lasting memories.
These books are part of the “Weaving the Safety Net” program in Kenya designed to improve the quality of life for orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS. It operates in two districts in Kenya -- Thika and Kiambu. The Memory Book program is also implemented by CCF-Uganda and CCF-Zambia.