Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Cause that Has Touched My Heart ... AHOPE

As you may notice, there is an usual amount of posts today (given that we have been pretty lazy overall!). You can chalk that up to being verrrrrrrry slow at work. So, I am going to take the time now, while I have it, to provide some information about some things that are very important to me. And I'm sure that I am inviting fate to just SLAM me with work after this, so I guess I better get this all in now! =)

As I discussed in my last post, our world has really changed in the last few months. My eyes have been opened to the rest of the world and certain causes have wedged their way into my heart. One of those is AHOPE.

Very early on in our adoption process, I found out about AHOPE. AHOPE Ethiopia is an orphanage in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, devoted solely to HIV+ children. Currently, AHOPE is home to about 80 orphans from age 1 to 13. It was started back in 2002 by our adoption agency, Adoption Advocates International, but it had a different name at the time. At some point, AAI transferred it over so now AHOPE Ethiopia is funded by a non-profit organization out of Washington state, AHOPE for Children. Though AHOPE is now independent from AAI, AAI and AAI families are still very involved in supporting AHOPE. I'm very glad we became aware of it.

Why do I put so much value on this organization? Well, as most people know, HIV is running rampant thoroughout Africa. There is an estimated 6 million orphans in Africa, many who have been orphaned due to the AIDS crisis. At the beginning of the decade, AAI was finding that approximately one in six children that were admitted at their orphanage, Layla House, were HIV+. AHOPE was started as a safe haven for these children.

Unfortunately, the stigma of HIV in Ethiopia (and throughout much of Africa) is still very strong - much stronger than even here in the U.S. (and it is still pretty bad here - see this story). Up until just a few years ago, HIV+ children were not allowed to attend public school. They were often (and still are) shunned in public, treated like lepers.

In 2004, something really great happened. Jane Aronson, the famed "Orphan Doctor" came to Addis - and she brought life saving medicine! For the first time, life-saving antiretrovirals medication was avilable to the children at AHOPE. When AHOPE started, fundraisers tried to raise enough money for each child's funeral - now they began raising money for medicine. These kids had hope. They were living, thriving! And starting in approximately 2005, they were even available for adoption in some countires, including the United States. (Click here for a short clip from a documentary about the adoption of HIV+ children.)

AHOPE has done a world of good for these children! They have a chance at life. In April, we committed to sponsoring two children at AHOPE, Eden (pronouced Aiden) age six, and Sebse, about 18 months. I can't post their pictures online for privacy reasons, but they are beautiful children. Sebse has a sister, Berkat age 2.5, who is also HIV+. For only $30/month we are able to contribute to their health and well being. Once we heard that - well, we just couldn't justify NOT doing something. After all, we can spend more than that on pizza in a month!

Now, I'm not suggesting that you are a bad person if you don't immediately run out and sponsor a child at AHOPE! Everyone has their own things to support and you can't wear yourself too thin. But if you are, like we were, looking for something where you felt you had a direct impact on a child's life, this is a great option at an affordable price.

Please keep these children in your thoughts and prayers.

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