Kenya (MNN) — Over 400 people contract HIV/AIDS in Kenya every day, swelling the number of infected men and women to one in ten. As if hundreds of thousands of deaths from the disease were not enough, HIV/AIDS has left millions of orphans in its wake in Kenya alone.
One of these AIDS orphans is Michael Agwanda. Agwanda's mother died when he was seven, followed soon after by his father, who was a victim of HIV/AIDS. Agwanda had to take care of his siblings, growing up all too quickly with all too few opportunities.
With these trying experiences in his childhood, Agwanda was determined to make things better for other orphans. He worked in an orphanage for a while, but found that the success rate of graduated orphans from the orphanage was not very good. Many orphans weren't sure how to conduct themselves in society without being told what to do. As he assessed the situation, Agwanda became certain that there was a better way to approach the orphan dilemma.
"It will take tons of money to support now 2.5 million orphans in Kenya," says Agwanda. "My point is: there should be a better way to take care of the orphans, and a cheaper way."
Agwanda, a Kenya native, says African families take family matters seriously. If one brother dies, the other will take care of his children. But when half of the country lives on less than one dollar a day, it becomes difficult to feed even one family, no less extraneous relatives. Although they want to help their orphaned nieces, nephews, grandchildren and cousins, they simply cannot afford it.
Agwanda says, "The question is, what if we don't take care of them? What's going to happen to them? They'll end up on the street where girls will get into prostitution as early as eight or six sometimes, and boys will get into drugs, and they will die very prematurely."
Not willing to see children fall prey to these circumstances, and certain that family connections were the best thing for AIDS orphans, Agwanda created his own ministry. He began the Life for Children Ministry and became a missionary with The Mission Society.
In his ministry, Agwanda created a sponsorship program for Kenyan AIDS orphans. The program sends children to live with relatives but promises to take care of all of their needs.
"We'll make sure that [each orphan] goes to school. When he's sick, we'll take him to the hospital and give him treatment. We'll buy clothes for him, we'll buy a uniform (in Kenya you cannot go to school without a uniform). We'll make sure that this boy is taken care of, and also have an opportunity to share the Word of God with him."
The sponsorship program essentially supports the whole family. If Life for Children Ministry provides a bed or a mosquito net for the sponsored child, the whole family is able to benefit from the it. This creates more incentive for a family to take a child in, and provides the child with a structured family environment in which he is given responsibilities and role models.
Currently, Agwanda's program sponsors 131 orphans, but he hopes it will reach 200 this year. The success of the program has been exceptional.
Agwanda reflects, "There is nothing that is satisfying like going to the village and seeing people sing and cry because they know that these kids that had no hope will one day be somebody in the future."
$65 a month takes care of every need for an AIDS orphan, including schooling, food, clothing, medicine and Bible fellowship. Sponsorship possibilities include sponsoring a child, sponsoring just a portion of the $65 amount for a child, or sponsoring Michael Agwanda and his ministry directly. To take part in any of these options with Life for Children Ministry, click here.
Learn more about Agwanda and his ministry at The Mission Society Web site.