Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fighting for Hope

"Why are you even bothering? He is going to die anyway." These are the words Tenagne heard from her neighbors and friends as she spent her days fighting for her nephew who had suddenly fallen ill. The young toddler had become blind and was unable to move from his bed. Even for the most optimistic, the situation looked dire. Here lay another orphan boy who after watching both of his parents die, would suffer the same slow, agonizing death. He was not alone in his misery. Thousands upon thousands of little boys throughout sub-Saharan Africa were facing the same end. To many his fate was already secured. They knew the disease ravishing through this boy though many feared even saying the name. They knew what he was fighting against and they knew the outcome. Why did this little boy's aunt believe that she could make a difference?

Tenagne didn't give up despite the limited support and resources that she had. Tenagne lobbied doctors, the government, anyone who would listen to her. She would not give up on her nephew. She knew that what little she had was not enough to keep him alive. Somehow she found a connection to a small orphanage in Addis Ababa, a day's drive from her home. Tenagne, her husband, and her nephew loaded a bus and headed to Addis Ababa to find AHOPE's Children's Home, one of the few orphanages in the country that cared for HIV+ children.

Tenagne says that when she brought her nephew to AHOPE she didn't have much hope left. The weight of fighting alone was finally becoming a burden too heavy to carry. Her only wish was that he'd die with clean clothes on his back and a full belly. She had no idea that not only would the little boy live, but that he'd thrive under the care that he received at AHOPE. When she left, he was distraught and scared. He remained that way for months. He grieved his loss but slowly he began to find himself. He became stronger and over time his grief turned to joy.

Almost two years later the little boy returned with his adoptive family to his village to visit his aunt and uncle. As he approached their home the neighbors came out to see him. They were in awe to see that the little boy had lived! That afternoon a life was celebrated. Hope had been victorious.

There is so much joy when a child is saved through the love and compassion of AHOPE Ethiopia but the story runs deeper than that. This story is not only about a little boy, but about a woman who fought a disease, a stigma, and hopelessness. Her effort is still a legend in her village and I like to think that her persistence stood as a shining example to those around her. I know she has been an example to me.

When I support AHOPE for Children I am not only supporting the children within the orphanage and Community Outreach Program I know that I'm also standing with the brave men and women who fight for these children. These are the social workers that work long hours out of their tremendous passion to help foster joy and love amongst the children. They are the grandmothers who commit to raising their orphaned grandchildren through AHOPE's innovative Community Outreach Program. They are women like Tenagne, whose tireless effort would not have been realized without AHOPE. A donation to AHOPE for Children not only saves the lives of children living with HIV/AIDS, it also honors and supports those that fight in the midst of adversity for these amazing children.

~guest author