AIDS, Orphans and Excellence
The guy who had been revelling in my discomfort as I was manhandled by local women three days previously on a dancefloor, and then with whom I cooked for 300 rural Kenyans had one final experience up his sleeve. His mother ran an orphanage for local children affected by AIDS, and he spent much of his week-in between jobs-helping out there.
Kisumu, on the shore of Lake Victoria, and this region of Western Kenya suffers heavily from HIV, with many NGOs and government initiatives operating out of the city. Indeed, he himself had been circumcised a few months previously as part of a local drive to bring down the infection rates. A procedure I don’t envy for someone aged around thirty.
His sister was infected with HIV by her husband, who is now dead, and in an advanced stage of illness herself, is unable to look after her two children. They now live with their grandmother, along with several other children from the surrounding villages, all AIDS orphans. Philip had adopted his fourteen year-old niece who now helps at the orphanage, too, whilst finishing primary school. She says that when she grows up, she wants to be a teacher. Her eight-year old brother, Anton, also lives with his grandmother and seven other children whose parents are either dead from AIDS, or too ill to look after them.
Walking across the field beside Philip’s grandmother’s mud-brick house, one finds the Rainbow Community Excellence Centre, adorned by vibrant painted letters over a colourful mural. As I am talking to Sylvia and the other children, a meeting is taking place inside the shell. Philip and some local youths are discussing their plans for the centre, and how they can improve the lives of people in their community, and those of these children growing up without parents. He explains that he has been talking to some local NGO actors in providing assistance to the centre.
As we heading back through the fields to his home, everybody seems to know him.
» More photos: Rainbow Community Centre.