Empowering HIV/AIDS orphaned children in Africa to a self sustainable future

Catherine Koch

Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.

Dreaming and ‘Orphans’…


I grow more accustomed to my outward experiences and environments and realize how they are very similar, event to event, ie: the road trip to and fro, the welcoming, the ‘high table’, the singing, the format, the food, etc., and I start to recognize how the inward essence of each experience is also remarkably consistent.

Connecting the dots I begin to see that each gathering I attend, from a ‘cow giving away ceremony’, to a meeting with grandmothers, caregivers and orphans, to a seminar with youth on self help initiatives, virtually every discussion and connection that feels substantive shares a consistent theme, namely…

…a deep need, want and desire in the majority of people I meet for education, experience and idea exchange, empowerment and relationship building with ‘ those who know and will share ‘. This, AND to find the way to bring what is learned home into the local context of life.

Many times people ‘ask for this’ in a patient, gentle way or maybe even an overtly submissive manner ( Elders…grandmothers have knelt down to show respect in conversation with me…) or conversely I have heard a practiced bold voice shrouded beneath a smile ask ‘Do you have money for me? Provide for me muzungu…’ However the message is delivered or by whom, looking deeper I sense an intense energy exists that I interpret as saying ’I seek knowledge, empowerment, expression, independence, self reliance, esteem, respect, actualization…I seek Love’…followed in most cases by ’Please’.

There could be many ‘distractions’ here for me, many directions I might ‘spin off’ in. Virtually everyone can ask for something, ‘causes’ abound. If I remain open in my focus while I carry on my way along this time of learning, bringing everything back to the children who have called me here in the first place, I find a couple things…

I seem to be dreaming of a model…remembering first, where there are children there are women, the model slowly starts to make its way through me… it is a self reliant, self sustaining cooperative, a community based care center that offers Love, nurturing, housing for ‘total’ orphans, schooling, vocational training, income generating activites…the women and guardians of the community are administering, volunteering at and accessing it along with their ‘partial orphan’ children…’ ( more on the ‘definition of orphan’ below…) It is a dream, maybe even one in the process of becoming..!’

( Sidebar…

The term ‘ORPHAN’ has taken on many definitions since I have arrived here.

There is the definition I am familiar with, the one from my dictionary which says an orphan is ‘a child whose parents are dead’. These are the children in my heart and mind with whom I have started this journey. Here, I have learned, these children can be referred to as ‘total orphans’.

I have also learned that there are children here who can be known as ‘orphans’, ‘paternal ( or maternal ) orphans’ or ‘partial orphans’ in the eyes of the community and even orgs, including ‘UNICEF’. In most of these cases, the father, the income earner has died, these days often because of ( undiagnosed and/or untreated…) HIV/AIDS, leaving alone and without ability to earn a living his dependents who include his wife. She, in many cases, has several children to care for and lacking experience and knowledge in areas of business outside of the home and/or because of cultural reasons can be completely stymied at how to proceed positively. In many cases she ( and any number of her children) may also be HIV+…

In the event that a child is a ‘maternal orphan’ it is most unlikely that the father will remain the primary caregiver of the child. It is more common that the child will be sent to a female family member for care.

Further, the ‘local’ definition of ‘orphan’ can be expanded to describe children involved in a cultural tradition. Although both parents are alive, sometimes children are sent off for a time to say, their auntie, where they will learn discipline, life skills and/or help out within that arm of the extended family…in this case I have heard the ‘hosting’ family refer to the relative child(ren) as an ‘orphan(s)’…

I am finding that, probably for many reasons, ‘orphan’ can be a catchword that can beg definition in individual cases to provide clarity and understanding…

Today I am happy to be heading to work in the ‘Aromatherapy’ room at the center…I’m bringing along some beautiful scents, a few crystals and a book on alternative therapies to donate. What a wonderful opportunity I am given!

Loving you, Cath

More to explorer

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *