written by Heather Bauer
In 2009 we entered into a partnership with Food for the Hungry (FH) and the local churches in Zeway to support “child headed households” (CHH), focusing solely on orphaned children. However, two years ago we added about 30 widows and their children to the CHH program. We called them “de facto CHH” because the widows were mostly all HIV+, their health was rapidly deteriorating, many were bedridden and sadly, their deaths seemed imminent. Many of the children were therefore already playing the role of head of household. We wanted to connect with them and their children in hopes of being a source of comfort and support, providing food, clothing and shelter, as well as emotional support during this traumatic time.
Visiting with the de facto families two years ago felt like going from death bed to death bed. In addition to their physical suffering, emotionally they were lonely and despairing. They were outcasts in their community. Family and neighbors shunned them, pointed fingers and forbid their children from playing with the widow’s children. These mothers without hope, had no will to live. They often refused to take antiretroviral medication. And those that did take the medication often suffered from such a lack of nutrition that the medication made no impact. Many tears were shed during those visits and I felt hopeless, returning home and deeply mourning for these children who would soon be orphaned, and for their mothers who would not enjoy the gift of parenting their children into adulthood.
Yet, I was reminded that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways. He is a God who redeems and restores.
I had the extreme joy of visiting with these “de facto” families earlier this month! Where there was once despair, HOPE has been restored. These widows are thriving! Lives have been transformed. Once enrolled in the CHH program, both the widows and their children received consistent food and provisions, the children could then attend school instead of doing day labor work, counseling was given and friendships were forged with Food for the Hungry (FH) social workers. FH also helped build community among the widows, hosting monthly gatherings for the widows to meet together, share their stories and become family to one another. As hope was restored, the widow’s will to live was restored.
This Partnership set out to stand in the gap for orphans, living on their own — to keep them in their communities and give them a future and a hope. But, as always, God had more in mind that we can fathom. With the expansion of including widows and their children in the program two years ago, we are seeing the PREVENTION of orphans, beauty from ashes. Won’t you join us? For just $50 per month, your donation will support a widow or orphan. BE A PART OF THE STORY! Follow this link to learn more.