Cecilia was still a baby when her mother died of AIDS, so her grandmother is the only maternal figure she has known.
In sub-Saharan Africa AIDS kills more adults ages 24-49 than in any other age range. This situation is leaving a whole generation of children parentless. Therefore, grandparents, who thought their days of raising a family were past, find themselves with young children once again. These aging individuals accept their task seemingly without question, and commit whatever little bit they have in the way of resources to the care of their grandchildren.
Help From a Good Samaritan
Thirteen years ago, Emilia took in her infant granddaughter, Cecilia, whose mother had died of AIDS before the child even reached her first birthday. Emilia struggled to support her family, which consisted of several grown children as well as grandchildren, at their small home in rural Tanzania. Emilia's love for her family was not overlooked. One afternoon her landlord complimented her on her devotion to the young children in her care. To Emilia's surprise, her landlord told her she could continue to live in her home, free of rent, for as long as she liked.
The landlord's kindness to Emilia lifted a huge burden. A few years later, Cecilia registered in Compassion's sponsorship program. This enabled Cecilia to go to school and ensured that many of her basic needs could be met.
Then, in 2001, Cecilia fell ill. She started losing weight and exhibiting symptoms of the same dreadful disease that had taken her mother's life. The Compassion center offered to help her get tested. The results confirmed what Emilia had dreaded. Cecilia was HIV-positive.
Blazing the Trail for Others
Right away, Compassion began providing additional food and other nutritional support for Cecilia. Miraculously, in a country where many children were dying within months of showing signs of AIDS, Cecilia stayed relatively healthy for several more years, and was strong enough to attend school.
Near the end of 2004, however, Cecilia's condition began to worsen. Compassion increased the amount of nutritious food she was receiving each month. About that time, Compassion Tanzania also announced that it was going to be able to start providing support and access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for those children who needed it. After assessments to determine which sponsored children had need of ARVs, in February 2005, nine children in Tanzania began receiving the treatment. Among them was Cecilia.
Looking to the Future
More than year after Cecilia began ARV treatment, she continues to stay healthy. Her favorite activity at the Compassion center, she says, is "netball," a popular sport among girls in her country.
At home, Emilia says that Cecilia is a great help. Each day she feeds their goat, fetches water, sweeps, and assists her grandmother in preparing meals. Generous portions of rice, maize, soybeans, cooking oil and other staples the Compassion center supplies each month has improved the health of Cecilia's entire family. Cecilia enjoys school and has decided that she will be a teacher one day.
The lines in Emilia's face show the burdens, sadness and difficulties of her life. But there are also smile lines around her eyes, and they crinkle as she and Cecilia laugh easily together. The two have experienced a lot in the past 13 years. Nearly five years after Emilia received the awful news about her granddaughter's HIV status, she is experiencing the miracle of watching Cecilia grow into a beautiful young woman.
"For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death" (Psalm 72:12-13).
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