Zambia (MNN) — The HIV/AIDS pandemic runs rampant in Zambia, with an average of 18 to 22 percent of adults infected. It's estimated that over 1 million children have been orphaned as a direct result.
After working in Zambia for the past seven years, Every Orphan's Hope CEO Gary Schneider says the problem does not seem to be rooted in promiscuity, but is rather a product of poverty.
"I don't think people in Zambia are any more promiscuous than any other sinful people around the earth. Poverty puts people in a position where they have to look at choices like prostitution as a way just to make ends meet, just to be able to feed their children. Also, men are away from home for over a year at a time, away from their families. Obviously all of these things add to the increased risk of the spread of HIV/AIDS."
The number of infected children is actually fairly low, but they are at a high risk of contracting the disease in similar fashions to their parents. Desperate orphans may end up in prostitution or within the sex slave industry, just as a means of survival.
Every Orphan's Hope is working hard to make sure that doesn't happen. Since 2002, the organization has been using Camp Hope Bible camps to provide a safe place for AIDS orphans to learn about the gospel and get connected with a church.
"We see such a great entry point at the Camp Hope Bible camps for a child to come in and really hear the Gospel of Christ clearly presented and to be connected with the local church and the body of Christ there," says Schneider.
The camps provide a four-day experience for children to learn about the Lord. Children are then followed up on by Zambians at local churches. Some orphans end up with sponsorships, which provide children with education, food security and health care, overseen by a local believer.
To help send children to camp, Schneider notes that many Western churches have gotten creative. "We've always received a lot of support from churches who do their own VBS [Vacation Bible School] summer camps," says Schneider. "Children who go to VBS may be doing fundraisers to help send an orphan to a similar Bible camp."
Raising support in this way can be easy, educational and exciting. It only costs $30 USD to send a child to a four-day camp that may very well change his life forever. To sponsor a child permanently costs $43 USD per month.
If you are looking for a more hands-on way to serve, consider going to Zambia and helping with Camp Hope Bible camps with Every Orphan's Hope. There will be four to six camps this summer between the months of June and August. These camps can only be effective if enough people in the body of Christ are willing to sacrifice their time and comfort for the eternal joys of these lost orphans. To learn more, click here.
Every Orphan's Hope is working tirelessly in Zambia in at least one more significant outreach that you can take part in. To find out more about this work, come back tomorrow for the third installment of this three-part series.
For part one of this series, click here.