The city of Meru, Kenya is similar to most cities of Africa in that it is hot and bustling with people. The red dust seeps into everything along with the heat. But off the main drag, down an unpaved road, you come to a tall gate.
When entering in the family-village AINA from the outside world, the first thing you notice is the colorful playground. After your eyes travel over the sturdy standalone structures, you notice the beautiful mountains that stand in the background. If the children are at school, a peaceful silence (very rare for Africa) rests over everything. If the children are at play, there is a blur of running, sliding, and swinging with a constant hum of laughs and yells.
This is the home of over 100 children who have nowhere else to go. Their stories are all different as are their characters. Most have endured nothing short of horror in their short lives. Abandoned, neglected, beaten and starved, it would be an injustice to their struggle to gloss over their hardships. But their previous suffering contrasts sharply with their new life at New Hope
One of our jobs while at New Hope was to have the children write their story. They describe death, abandonment, running, child labor, and beatings in simple seven-‐ year-‐old language. And then, they describe coming to New Hope.
They didn’t expect to be received. They didn’t expect to have friends. Many had never had a home. They were scared, lonely, and used to an uncertain future. And then New Hope worked it’s magic.
Now, the children play. They study hard and sit through three-‐hour church services on Sundays. They laugh when they catch balls and cry when they fall. They talk openly about being HIV positive and they have teachers and counselors who will listen.
And New Hope’s magic doesn’t cease at its borders—the New Hope clinic services the entire Meru community and many children outside of the orphanage attend New Hope’s school. And besides all of this, New Hope’s greatest achievement is the monumental progress made towards abolishing the stigma of HIV. This stigma causes incredible pain and suffering to HIV positive people and denies them their basic human rights. Therefore, many people deny their condition and take no medication or precaution. The result is the generation of innocent children at New Hope who received HIV from their parents. In combating this stigma, New Hope gives HIV positive patients a future and hastens the day when the disease will finally be stopped. Their progress is equal, if not greater, to the miracle the medication provides.
The children at New Hope taught me that children are resilient, but not unbreakable. They taught me that laughter is possible after hardship. They taught me to appreciate education and the value of a good meal. They showed me how little I know.
New Hope taught me the necessity of discipline. It taught me the importance of the next generation. New Hope taught me safe havens do exist. It taught me what caring for people looks like. New Hope taught me to be excited for the future.