When we take care of our children, we take care of the future of our society.
Changes in social, political, economic and family structures often have the greatest impact on children. In the event of armed conflict and other emergencies, the impact can be devastating. At HEAL Africa, we recognize that childrenare dependent individuals in need of nurturing and guidance from their caregivers to become independent adults. We believe they must be given the right to protection and given opportunities to health and well-being. While we are unable to address every facet of a child’s physical and socio-emotional development at this time, HEAL Africa makes every effort to address children in their transitions. HEAL Africa’s current activities with children focus on health care and education.
The prevalence of AIDS/HIV is immense, and eastern DRC is not exempt. HEAL Africa focuses on three categories of children with HIV. Those born with HIV positive mothers, those who are confirmed HIV positive, and those who have been orphaned as a result of neglect by caregivers and / or community upon contracting the disease.
To prevent the spread of HIV, HEAL Africa’s staffoffers personal counseling and medical assistance. The outreach staff also conducts community education projects in communities that focus on prevention, support, and reducing the impact of HIV in a child’s life when they are born from infected mothers. In circumstances where a child’s caregiver has difficulty with follow up care, HEAL Africa mobilizes other women nearby with shared experiences to assist and establish a network of support.
The impact of HIV in the community has necessitated over 50 support groups and over 100 youth clubs.
HEAL Africa offers surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletaltrauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors, and congenital disorders. However, HEAL Africa’s primary focus is to address malformation among children. The process is complex and expensive, but as the only provider in the region with medical expertise, many will travel miles for assistance. Periodically, HEAL Africa conducts outreach services in rural communities to offer treatment, as well as to those living in refugee camps.
When we care for our children, we care for the future of our society. HEAL Africa addresses the educational needs of children whose education has been interrupted as a result of conflict or long-term hospital stay.
HEAL Africa supports the operations of a primary school, where over 250 vulnerable children attend. Located in a rural village known as Mugunga, the school serves as the closest opportunity for any amount of education. Many of the children in attendance come from refugee families who have settled into their temporary housing as a result of continued conflict.
Children wandering without parental supervision within the walls of HEAL Africa is not an unusual sight. Many come for chapel services early in the mornings and remain throughout the day. Some children must remain at the hospital, as they or their caregivers receive treatment.Because treatments can vary in length,children are often left with limited supervision.
On Sundays, HEAL Africa holds a chapel service with an open invitation to all patients, staff and residents outside of the HEAL Africa hospital grounds, regardless of religious affiliation. Between children outside HEAL Africa’s gates and children of hospital patients, the Sunday School program attracts approximately 300 children. HEAL Africa uses this opportunity to address the spiritual needs of children, by providing lessons with sound values so that today’s children will contribute to a safer future for their community.
Within and outside HEAL Africa’s walls, children are ever-present. And HEAL Africa celebrates each child who walks through their doors. But when staff walk in and out of the hospital grounds, it is difficult to avoid the children on the streets. Some are assisting their families in generating income by washing motorcycles, selling miscellaneous merchandise such as coal or food-stuffs. Many have become orphaned due to economic challenges in the family; others have lost their guardians as a result of the devastating conflict or a debilitating disease; some have fled or have been isolated from their own communities as a result of sexual violence; and most don’t have a home or family to go back to at the end of the day.
For the children who are not patients or have family in the hospitals, HEAL Africa invites them to participate in the chapel services and Sunday School program.When necessary, HEAL Africa’s outreach teams will reintegrate children back into their communities or plug them into a new ones. And in some occasions, HEAL Africa may find informal employment opportunities for older children in their late teens who are willing to learn and work hard around the hospital grounds.