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.



In the recent blog posting titled ‘PROJECT’S UPDATE ~ Part 1’ I wrote…
‘Second…There are either ‘partially +/or totally orphaned children’ who are currently living with either extended family such as a Grandmother in many cases +/or a guardian. Here, along with the children’s well being we have the caregiver and their needs to consider as well. I will share what I have learned about those I have met living in these circumstances and describe what I’m currently working on to support them, in ‘part 2’ of this project update…soon!’

So, here then begins Part 2~…In ‘snapshot’ format, by far the majority of orphan children I have met and learned about here in Uganda are living in situations as described above. As the numbers of HIV/AIDS orphans are many, there appear to be countless situations where several children can be found in the care of one adult, most commonly a Grandmother or a widowed mother who has taken in other children alongside her own. I have begun to understand the tremendous pressure caregiver and child alike are often feeling in this circumstance. Many times, because they are physically unwell themselves, +/or of advanced years, +/or unskilled and inexperienced in an income generating activity, caregivers can be severely challenged to provide for the basic needs of the children and themselves. Frequently we find Grandmother (or caregiver) must leave the home early in the day in search of income/food leaving the children in their own care, which will include getting themselves off to school if they are enrolled, (often there are no funds for uniforms, school supplies, health care etc) remaining on their own until their guardian returns to the home late in the day to prepare the meal of the day. Among other things, this results in many children experiencing daily a lack of nutrition and health care, adult guidance and direction, most often missing school, spending their days without supervision or much chance of acquiring basic life skills, knowledge, positive habits etc. An additional effect often felt by the caregiver is abuse and anger directed towards them from the children who themselves are very unsettled in their lives…


As mentioned in many postings, months ago I met a school teacher named Vincent who ‘heard and began answering the call’ 3 years ago to initiate community based action that would address the growing numbers of HIV/AIDS orphans in the district of Sironko, Uganda where he resides. After gathering together like minded adults from the many

sub county’s in Sironko and coming up with a collective vision and mission they formed a CBO (community based organization) called ‘AIDS CONCERN INTEGRATED ORGANIZATION’ aka ACIO with Vincent as Director. Over time, Vincent, the board of trustees and program coordinators (all volunteers) of ACIO have made themselves very familiar with the names and needs of the orphan and vulnerable children aka OVC’s in their district while growing the membership of ACIO to include caregivers of these children as well as concerned community members. As a group, ACIO acquired approximately 1 acre of land upon which is envisioned will one day be built a ‘Child Care Center’ (pictured above) that will provide day and full time care including housing, health care and schooling facilities for the approximately 400 OVC’s in Sironko district.

ACIO Vision: ‘An empowered and healthy child who can build the nation and serve God’s people.’

ACIO Mission: ‘To have children who are enlightened with modern skills to sustain their livelihood.’

At present, ACIO are in the process of completing 4 temporary buildings on their land to provide for the children who require immediate full time care.

Bldg#1~Currently there are 30 boys staying in the first temp building ACIO has completed. At one end there is a separate admin office where 14 girls are sleeping.

Bldg#2~Originally this building was to be the kitchen, but it has become necessary to use it as a temp dorm for the girls. As the photo shows this structure has been roofed with the mud walls in the process of being completed. Once finished, the girls currently sleeping in the admin office will be relocated to this building.

Bldg#3~A nursery center to provide care and early childhood education for 4-5 yrs olds from Sironko town is an income generating activity aka IGA that ACIO plans for on the property. It is envisioned that parents in Sironko town and nearby villages requiring day care for their children will pay for the services provided here with the resulting income helping to cover the costs of food and basic needs for the resident

children. Holes are dug and beams for the walls have been brought to site…

Bldg#4~A kitchen…yet to be started. All cooking is being done outdoors at present.

~ Currently the 44 children in full time care are being fed by donation by ACIO membership. Help with these costs is needed.

~ All of the children (aged 8 to 15 yrs) living at the center are enrolled in the village school. Many of them require school supplies and uniforms. ACIO members will sew uniforms for the children with reduced labor costs. Help with the purchase of fabric, back packs and shoes is needed.
~ In the past we have provided sheets, blankets, foams and mosquito nets for the 14 children in care at the former ACIO orphanage. Now, having relocated to the

larger temporary building on the ACIO land the number of full time children at the center has grown to 44, and there is a need for more of these items. Help with the purchase of sheets, blankets, foams and nets is needed.
~ Completion of the girl’s dorm. Help with the costs of mud (it needs to be trucked in) is needed.
~ Completion of the nursery/day care center. Help with the costs of mud for the walls along with iron sheets for the roof is needed.
~ Completion of the kitchen…Help with all materials including beams for walls and roof, iron sheets for the roof, mud for the walls and cooking equipment is needed.
~ Transportation for Vincent, who currently rides a bicycle, is required to facilitate timely travel for him to the number of small villages and sub county’s (some are in the mountains…) within Sironko District enabling him to more effectively reach and mobilize ACIO membership. Help with the purchase of a motorcycle is needed.

As explained and pictured above, one day a permanent Child Care Center will be built on the land that ACIO owns, the goal of which is to provide holistic care ( housing, health care, primary schooling, vocational training etc…) for the orphan and vulnerable children in Sironko district.

ACIO has met with the local government officials in Sironko and received approval and support for the Child Care Center along with the municipality’s commitment to date to provide at their expense:

a) a survey of the land ( competed as of Feb’ 08)
b) the installation of water to the land
c) the installation of electrical power to the land

It is planned the child care center will be built in phases with the total costs for the entire project estimated at 830,000,000UGX or $500,000CDN.

Phase 1 – Boy’s and Girl’s Dorms and Latrines- Est: $85,000CDN
Phase 2 – Kitchen and Dining Hall– Est: $80,000CDN
Phase 3 – Administration and Staff Housing– Est: $53,000CDN

Phase 4 – Primary School– Est: $123,000CDN
Phase 5 – Vocational Wing– Est: $77,000CDN
Phase 6 – External Works (roads, landscaping, etc )– Est: $43,000CDN

Plan Preparation and Bill Of Quantities Costs– Approx- $900CDN
5% Contingency and Administration Costs– Approx- $25,000CDN

Recognizing the need exists to come up with ‘income generating activities’ that will contribute to covering the on-going expenses associated with long term operation of the Child Care Center, in addition to the temporary Day Care Center under construction now ACIO currently propose 2 IGA schemes for which funding is required:

1) A Secretary/Office Supply Business in Sironko town…a detailed business plan is available upon request
2) A Micro Finance Scheme supporting small business for local guardians and caregivers of OVC’s…a detailed proposal is available upon request

Why do I support ACIO and this Child Care Center…3 reasons!

1) Inspired by Love, this is a well conceived, comprehensive, community initiative!
2) Inspired by Love, this is a well conceived, comprehensive, community initiative!
3) Inspired by Love, this is a well conceived, comprehensive, community initiative!

Or… In Love, ACIO has managed to effectively organize and educate, empower and mobilize their community members with the insight that they are the primary stakeholders needing to come together to co-create and invest in viable solutions that address OVC issues within their community for the benefit of all!

As life seems to have this great way of preparing us for more, it appears many years of positive experiences in people, project and business management have empowered me to what feels like a perfect part for me to play here now … a mentoring, supportive and background role to ACIO and projects such as this one! Learning what I have about empowering communities, these days I am

‘all over’ supporting OVC solutions that are conceived and birthed within a community. Contrary to many ideas/solutions introduced from ‘abroad’ it makes great sense to me that project’s initiated within a community have unlimited chance to be successful as they are respectfully and effectively based on what a community decides it needs for itself as well as what it will be willing and able to sustain over the long term, thereby empowering the community to take care and ownership of itself, moving forward collectively. ‘Outside’ support on various levels is a very important and necessary component that I think may be best added to the mix once the main ingredient called for has been recognized and developed… which is to do what ACIO has already done in Sironko!

Presently, I encourage and support ACIO to seek expansion from CBO to NGO ( Non Government Organization) status with the Government Of Uganda (at time of writing, ACIO has received the local and municipal government support required before taking their request to the national level for consideration and approval) thereby paving the way for the organization, over time, to: begin education and mobilization in communities within other Ugandan districts; broaden its membership base by offering tax receipts to donors; open doors to potential national attention and support for the project’s it undertakes.

Understanding orphan and vulnerable children concerns are numerous and widespread it seems reasonable to entertain… perhaps this locally initiated progressive model can be successfully duplicated elsewhere in Uganda and (once I have the opportunity to explore them in detail…) conceivably even in other African countries facing similar situations. Beginning right now with 44 children in Sironko, Uganda this ripple could reach, empower and uplift the lives of countless orphan children and their caregivers who today, among other things, appear to be on the lookout for LOVE

Knowing Divine Blessings and Endless Possibilities accompany us ALL each and every moment, I’m inspired! I embrace the gift to join our collective effort and action in LOVE!

Thanks so much for sharing! With Love, Catherine ~ Mar 4th, 2008

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