Helping Kenya’s “Lost Generation”
Grandparents give African kids orphaned by AIDS a second chance
PHOTO: Each grandparent in Nyumbani Village takes care of as many as 10 children. (Ben Curtis / AP Images)
MAP: The Nyumbani charity runs an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. (Jim McMahon)
Nine hundred thirty-eight children live in Kenya’s Nyumbani Village. They are orphans whose parents were killed by a disease called AIDS. Ninety-seven elderly people also live in the village. They lost their own children to the same disease. In this small village outside of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, these two generations have come together to create new families.
Each grandparent there takes care of roughly 10 children. One of these children may be related to the grandparent by blood, but most are not.
“These are two lost generations, because the grandparents have been left behind by their children, and the children have been left behind by their parents,” says the charity’s executive director, Sister Mary Owens. “[Grandparents] can hand out the values, they can share the culture, and they can guide.”
A priest, Father Angelo D’Agostino, founded the village. In 1992, he began working to help Kenyans whose lives had been torn apart because of the AIDS epidemic (mass outbreak of disease).
Father D’Agostino built an orphanage in Nairobi for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He named the orphanage after the Swahili word nyumbani, which means “home.” In 2005, the charity began to build Nyumbani Village on land donated by the local government. The village opened in 2006 with just 2 grandparents and 19 children.
VILLAGE OF HOPE
Father D’Agostino died in 2006. Currently, Nyumbani Village relies on donations from around the world for its survival. But the village was also designed to be self-sustaining. This means residents would one day be able to obtain needed resources on their own. When they attend high school, the children in Nyumbani Village choose a trade—such as mechanics, tailoring, or carpentry—so they will be able to earn a living after they graduate.
Each grandparent has been given a half-acre of land for farming. The villagers are also working on a project to farm fish. As another money-making project, 120,000 trees were planted near the village in the hope that one day the wood is sold as timber.
As many as 1.3 million children have been orphaned by AIDS in Kenya. HIV and AIDS damage and sometimes destroy the immune system, which protects the body against disease. Children whose parents have the virus are often born with it. Eighty children in Nyumbani Village have HIV. But these children live relatively normal lives because of medicine provided by the village charity.
“In 1992, we were told these children are going to die anyway,” Owens told reporters. “But that wasn’t our spirit. Today, kids we were told would die have graduated from high school.”