Grace Kajoina, senior mother at Agape Children's Village home for HIV/AIDS orphans, letting children look through the first-aid kit.
Joseph could easily be the poster child for little boys everywhere. He has energy to burn and loves sports, especially football. Yet this sprightly 7-year-old's rambunctious energy belies the suffering he has endured most of his young life.
HIV/AIDS' Lethal Blows
As an infant, Joseph lost his parents to HIV/AIDS-related causes. Though his grandmother, a peasant farmer, took him in, she was never able to provide her grandson a bed because she was so poor. Since birth, Joseph has also suffered frequent infections, the result of his HIV-positive status.
Perhaps more painful than his many illnesses is the social ostracism Joseph has endured. Like most children who are orphaned by AIDS, Joseph has been stigmatized. As a result, even children avoid playing with him.
A Dose of Compassion
Two years ago, Joseph got some relief from his suffering when he was registered in the local Compassion project in the community he and his grandmother lived in. Staff members discussed with Joseph's grandmother the opportunity for her grandson to live in Compassion Uganda's new home for orphaned children, many of whom lost their parents because of AIDS. She agreed.
On October 14, 2004, Joseph moved into the village. "Now," he says emphatically, "I sleep on a bed and I enjoy it. I also have friends who like playing with me and I have a 'mother' here who cares for me a lot!"
A Community of Hope
The project was funded through the generous gifts of Compassion donors and sponsors to Compassion's AIDS Initiative. Built by a caring Compassion Uganda church partner congregation, the village opened its doors in March 2004.
Located on a beautiful lush green hill in Uganda, the facility has seven homes and houses 79 children. A housemother, who ensures the children in her care are nurtured and protected, staffs each home.
"Our mission is to raise these children in a loving, caring environment to the glory of God," says senior housemother Grace Kajoina. "The children are provided spiritual guidance and attend school. They also participate in the same types of project activities available in regular Compassion Uganda projects."
The hostel also provides full medical assistance and health care.
For the HIV-positive children who live in the facility, medical assistance includes antiretroviral therapy (ARV). Joseph is on ARV, thanks to a Ugandan government sponsorship. Because so many sponsors, donors and friends of Compassion have cared, Joseph and the other 79 children orphaned by AIDS are learning a desperately needed lesson.
"We're showing (these children) that there is a side to life other than just the pain and suffering they have experienced," exclaims housemother Christine Galiwango.
*Daisy Byarugaba in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.
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