Christians assist top slum in Africa

By November 5, 2009

Zambia (MNN) — HIV/AIDS continues to orphan thousands of children every day. Zambia is just one area that's having a difficult time taking care of the children who have either been orphaned by the death of their parents, or abandoned because their family couldn't care for them. Christians are doing what they can to assist this growing problem.

Speaking from Lusaka, Zambia, Jonathan Coleman with Kids Alive International says they're working in the Misisi slum. "It's one of the top five slums in Africa, so poverty is extreme. What this place is missing is outside help for the place. The government has essentially abandoned the slum altogether. There are no schools. There are about 90,000 people, with a majority of them 18 and under, and there's not one government school in the whole slum."

That's not the only problem, says Coleman. "There's no clinic, no police station and so it's kind of free-reign for the criminals to do as they please when they're inside that area. Sanitation facilities are nonexistent. Disease is rampant."

He says 15 percent of the people who have been tested are HIV positive. Coleman says that number is actually much higher. HIV/AIDS is having a significant impact on the orphan population.

"The amount of orphans is overwhelming. A lot of relatives — grandmothers, aunts and uncles — are trying to care for their orphaned relatives. What happens often is that there's not money to care for the kids."

Kids Alive has just started a care center to help provide for orphaned children.

As churches around the world hold Orphan Sunday awareness events this week, Kids Alive is asking you to help financially. Coleman says in Zambia alone the need is great. "In our own home weekly, we're turning kids away. We turn down the government. Government officials come to us and say, 'Please take this child,' and we say, 'We can't. We don't have the space.'"

That's why Kids Alive has also started their "Families Together Program." Coleman says they're trying to empower families to adequately care for the kids. "That can involve giving small loans or grants to a grandmother so she can start a small business, or sending an uncle or grandfather to some kind of vocational training to empower the family to be able to care for young children."

As you give to Kids Alive, you can be sure that each child or family member involved in the program will hear the Gospel. Coleman says sharing the Gospel is an important part of what they do. "In our center, we're having programs with the kids — daily Bible lessons and things like that. And we also have a social worker who's weekly visiting the homes, giving spiritual encouragement as well."

If you'd like to help Kids Alive International with their Children's Homes or their Families Together program, click here.

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