HELPING VULNERABLE CHILDREN MEET THEIR FULL POTENTIAL
We adapt to the needs of children & their communities
We understand needs vary from family to family
We support evidence driven program design
We create geographically appropriate multi-sectorial programming
Working through a lens of integral human development— CRS views each child holistically and works through indigenous structures to insure that all child specific programming is adapted to the cultural context in which children live.
CRS’s work with vulnerable children centers around the PEPFAR recommended guidelines for program design. Our programs center around eight key areas: household economic strengthening, social protection, education, health and nutrition, psychosocial care and support, child protection, legal protection, and capacity building.
COMMITTED TO HELPING CHILDREN
CRS has managed more than 60 vulnerable children’s programs in 31 countries, including people living with HIV since 1989. In 2014 alone CRS reached 1.74 million beneficiaries through 27 child health and well-being projects.
- OVC programming began in 1989
- More than 60 projects in 31 countries
- 1.74 million beneficiaries of CRS child health and we-being projects in 2014
- 27 projects supporting child health and well-being projects in 20
Highlights of our work to protect vulnerable children
CHILDREN IN CRISIS
THE AIDS EPIDEMIC
Approximately 3.3 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV and AIDS, while 13.3 million children have lost one or both their parents to the epidemic.
CHILDREN ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE LIVING IN CRISIS
More than 140 million children worldwide have been left orphaned. One-third of all children under the age of 5, an estimated 200 million, will fail to meet their full developmental potential. Vulnerable children are children under the age of 18 whose safety or psychosocial or physical well being or development is at risk due to inadequate care, protection, or access to essential resources or services.
THE CYCLE OF POVERTY
Factors such as poverty, displacement, forced labor, chronic illness, and/or losing a parent can put children at greater risk for exploitation, being pulled from school, early marriage and pregnancy, and loss of economic and educational opportunities that can help them break the cycle of poverty
In their own words
Agnes Ajwang Kiriago, 80, and Mark Levis Oduor Opiyo, left, 12, and Felix Odhiambo Opiyo, 21
The Children Behind
Felix and Mark Levis lost both of their parents to HIV. They were raised by their grandmother Agnes. During his parents’ illness and subsequent death, Felix dedicated himself to studying and doing well on his high school entrance exams. But he did not have the money to pay school fees and had no way of earning it. CRS paid for Felix’s school fees so he could get a high school diploma. Felix is now a university student and regularly checks on his brother Mark Levis to make sure he is doing well in school.
Had I not been a beneficiary of the project, my life would have been miserable. Before joining the project I had lost hope in my life. I had the grades, but not the means, to go to school. I would have had to opt to be a farmer, but it would have not augured well with my life ambitions. Now, I see my dreams coming true. I believe that my brother can do the same. He is capable of doing what I am doing. He is working hard to follow in my footsteps.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Angela Kabahenda, 21
Angela received training in passion fruit farming, entrepreneurship and life skills through the CRS-sponsored Girls Agro Investment Project, or GAIN. In Uganda, opportunities to earn a living are often limited for girls who have not completed their formal education. Young women with few resources often resort to risky behavior to make ends meet, which too often results in early marriage, early pregnancy, and in many cases, increased risk for HIV. To break the cycle of poverty, women need a way to support themselves. Angela has two children and is raising two nieces.
My goal is to build a decent house for my mother. Although I have money invested in different things, I’m not doing well because of the money required to raise the children. I’ve invested in a community savings group, [have] two pigs, and I'm growing passion fruit, beans, groundnuts, millet and maize.
I plan to open a shop where I can sell sugar, soda, soap and kerosene.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Bridget Kansiime, 26
Bridget received training in passion fruit farming, entrepreneurship and life skills through the CRS-sponsored Girls Agro Investment, or GAIN, project. In Uganda, opportunities to earn a living are often limited for girls who have not completed their formal education. Young women with few resources often resort to risky behavior to make ends meet, which too often results in early marriage, early pregnancy, and in many cases, increased risk for HIV. To break the cycle of poverty, women need a way to support themselves.
I have two children—one is 8 and the other, 6—whose status I donʼt know. I divorced the father of my children 3 years ago because he was so unfaithful. I had done four tests. It was only the fourth test this year, at the end of August, that I was found with HIV. The first three times when I tested and was found HIV free, I could not believe it because Iʼd always suspected my husband. I looked at his history and the women he used to have sex with: Some had died and others—the whole village knew they were positive. What encouraged me to do all those tests without fear was the radio education programs that encouraged people to go for HIV tests and free medical care. Secondly, I got experience when my mother died of the same disease and because she was taken to the hospital too late. Family members thought it was witchcraft. … So every time I would get a simple illness like a cough or fever I would be very scared thinking I am dying, but now I know I am okay. When you look at my body it looks good. I go freely to Kyenjojo Health Center. … I find very many people I know at the hospital every time I go to collect medicine, who I thought were not sick. So that gives me courage because I am not alone.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
The Children Behind
Erick lost both of his parents and several aunts and uncles to complications from AIDS. At age 19, he became responsible for 15 siblings and cousins. Erick and the children under his care received support from CRS through The Children Behind project. After he got vocational training, Erick decided to begin helping other vulnerable children, founding his own nonprofit, Blue Cross, that has grown to provide care for more than 4,000 children in western Kenya.
Realizing the burden that we had and, also, looking at the neighborhood and seeing our children who are left destitute—with no one to take care of them—I realized that there's something that I need to do. So that is how I came up with the idea of starting a community-based organization, with the name Blue Cross, to support other vulnerable children so that they could become successful in life. To me, CRS was like an eye opener because there were people [helping]. I said,‘If they can do this for us, why can’t we do it for ourselves?Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Eunice Atieno, 19
The Children Behind
Eunice lost her father to illness when she was a young girl. Her family’s resources were depleted by his care and burial costs, making it difficult for her to continue her education. Eunice received vocational training in dress making and now runs her own tailoring business.
I was 15 years old when I was taken in to the project. I thought that if these people sponsor me and I do the work then I can help my mother little by little. She can progress and she can also make a little income. Had this project not helped me I would have taken some bad habits. Had I not gone to school I would even have thought of working for someone as a maid or I could even go to the bar where other girls go.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Fleria Chuka, 66, with grandson Evans Odhiambo, 11
The Children Behind
Fleria lost four sons to the AIDS epidemic and is now the primary caregiver for her grandson Evans. She struggles to make ends meet and grow enough food to sustain the two of them. Both Fleria and Evans suffer from depression as a result of their losses. They receive significant emotional support from the volunteer community health worker trained by CRS to provide counseling and support. Evans also receives assistance with his school fees and uniform.
I need a lot of counseling. I don’t sleep,” says Fleria. “Mary [Fleria’s community health worker] has done me so much good because she has not left me desperate. When she comes, she counsels me. Mary has empathized with me and I’m so grateful for the kind heart she has. Through Mary, my grandson received a school uniform and I joined a Savings and Internal Lending Community. When I pray I also pray for Mary and what she has done for my life. What Mary has done for me, my own family has not done for me.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Florence Achieng Otieno, 37
The Children Behind
Florence, mother of 8, discovered her HIV status after a community health worker convinced her and her husband to get tested.
Knowing my status was the beginning of everything, because knowing our status gave us access to drugs and our health. The support we received from the project took away our worries, because when you are sick you cannot pay for school fees or medical care and those worries make you even sicker. By taking those worries from us, we could focus on getting healthy. Our hope and prayers now are that our children will complete secondary education, take their exams and go beyond that so that they get the training they need to get jobs. I usually talk to my children about what careers they want. My daughters all want to be radio or TV journalists. None of them want to be doctors because they don’t want to deal with the sick or the dead.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Harrison Banda is an “expert client,ˮ a person with HIV who has taken a leadership role at his local health center. Expert clients run support groups and counseling sessions, help with record keeping, and alleviate the workload of overtaxed health care workers. He also works with expectant and new mothers who have tested positive for HIV, to help them understand how to prevent mother-to-child transmission and ensure a more healthy foundation for their children.
A lot of people were dying because of not knowing that you have to adhere to the [antiretroviral drugs]. I take the drugs. I know how [the medicines] react. I pass through those difficulties. People come to our family and say, ‘Without you I would not be alive today.’ That makes me so proud.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Janet Anyango Okeyo, 41, center, with her children, clockwise from left: Julius, 14, Verah, 15, and Hilary, 5; and granddaughter Shayla, 5
The Children Behind
Janet’s financial resources dwindled when she lost her husband because of complications from AIDS, and was later also diagnosed with HIV. Around the world, the AIDS epidemic has left already-poor families financially destitute. Access to financial resources is one hurdle that many poor families find impossible to scale. Banking institutions often won’t lend money to those who don’t have collateral or who live in remote rural communities. To remedy this, CRS has developed Savings and Internal Lending Communities, or SILCs, a savings-based approach to microfinance. Through SILC Janet has been able to update her home, build a small business and purchase livestock. That, in turn, restored her status in the community and empowered her to take on a leadership role in her SILC group.
I see my life has changed because now, I’ve taken the world as it is. I’m not afraid. I know I will die, but I’m not afraid that I have AIDS. Accidents kill people; AIDS kills people; there are road accidents and malaria. So death is death. So I’m not afraid in my life. SILC has taught me a lot. SILC enables you to avoid being too poor. … Had I not gone to SILC, I would have died a long time ago. I would have left my children.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Jenifer Tusiime, 19
Jenifer displays passion fruit growing in her home garden. She received training in passion fruit farming, entrepreneurship and life skills through the CRS-sponsored Girls Agro Investment Project, or GAIN. In Uganda, opportunities to earn a living are often limited for girls who have not completed their formal education. Young women with few resources often resort to risky behavior to make ends meet, which too often results in early marriage, early pregnancy, and in many cases, increased risk for HIV. To break the cycle of poverty, women need a way to support themselves.
She has no children but is the caregiver for four nephews and nieces and a sister who suffers from a mental disorder. Her future goals include building a home for her family to replace their current house made of mud and water, and she plans to buy a cow. She says she has benefited from the GAIN Project financially.
Since February I've made [$72.50] selling passion fruit. It has enabled me to buy two goats and provide for my family.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Lameck Goga, 22
The Children Behind
Lameck lost both of his parents to HIV and has relied on CRS to help him continue his education. Lameck dreams of becoming an English teacher.
My dreams are to become a Ph.D. holder and assist orphans. Orphans need education and clothing. They need somewhere to go. If I had not joined the project I would not have completed my secondary education. My guardian had a lot of burdens. I was not the only orphan. There were many.
My advice to other orphans is, face life and be strong. Work hard when you get support. You can also be people in society. Don’t give up. Face the challenges in your life.
There is a great change within society. Before the project came, children were dropping out of schools, not going on to secondary school. But now we are in colleges and universities. We are educated because of CRS.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Margret Kabagonza, 21
Margret received training in passion fruit farming, entrepreneurship and life skills through the CRS-sponsored Girls Agro Investment, or GAIN, project.
My brother, Mathew, was born with the disease. He would frequently get sick, so our father took him in for a test and discovered he had HIV. When our parents and older sister died of the same disease I was left to care for Mathew. He is not in school. He dropped out in primary one because he [has allergies]. Every morning when he would walk to school he would cough a lot and develop red eyes. He has a record book at Kisojo Health Center and a nurse there who works on him. Thanks to God, Mathewʼs life is better now and he even goes to the hospital by himself. Iʼm planning to take him back to school next year with the money I’ll earn from the sale of passion fruits.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Mary Achieng Ananga
The Children Behind
Mary is living with HIV and lost her spouse to the disease. She has a daughter and a goddaughter she looks after. She purchased her cow with money she saved by participating in an SILC group.
A long time ago it was really difficult for people living with HIV because wherever you went people called you the ‘sufferers,’ and it was hard to mix with others. Nowadays, so many people are living with the disease and are on medication and are healthy. We look the same. No one can single us out.
The most important thing I'll remember is the counseling I received from my community health worker. If it had not been for the counseling I received, I would not have the strength to be where I am today. I joined SILC and can pay for my children to go to school, and I can buy a cow. I never thought I would be able to afford a cow. I bought her to remind me of my efforts.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Mary Atieno Onyango, 43, with three of her four children, clockwise, from top right: Quinter, 19, Benter, 7, and Solomon, 9
The Children Behind
Mary was 2 weeks from giving birth and so weak from complications from AIDS that she couldn’t walk when she first encountered The Children Behind project. After receiving support and being restored to full health, she decided that she wanted to give back by helping others as a community health worker.
Without CRS, I would not have had the knowledge on how to care for my children. My youngest would have died. They would have been stunted like other kids who went to the clinic when their viral load would be high. The project has given me much love, because when CRS came and visited me for the first time, that made me feel loved. When no one comes toward you, you feel rejected. That is why I became a community health worker. To disclose my status is to tell people the reality, because for a long time people believed you could not live long with a positive status. When you talk about your status, if someone is hiding their status they can think, ‘It is not only me; if she can manage to live with HIV, why can’t I?’ It gives them encouragement.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Pamela Anyango, 38, with her youngest daughter Michelle, 4
The Children Behind
Pamela, a mother of 6, lost her husband to complications from HIV and later tested positive for the disease herself. Despite her status, she was able to safely deliver her youngest child, Michele, because of the strong support and education on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission she received from a CRS-trained community health worker. She also got a loan through a CRS-sponsored Savings and Internal Lending Community, and used the money to start a small business purchasing fish on the shores of nearby Lake Victoria and selling them for a small profit. She uses her earnings to cover household expenses and pay for her children’s related school costs.
My happiness is being a mother to my children. When I have children I have to be happy, because when I’m with them we discuss; sometimes we laugh. So that’s my joy. When my youngest child was tested, when I went to hospital for delivery, she was diagnosed negative. I was happy, because the elder one was infected. So when I delivered her without the virus, I was happy. I’m still happy. I keep taking her for testing even now, but she is negative. I’m happy about my child because she has no HIV. I received good care during delivery, and even when I was expecting.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
The Children Behind
As a community health worker Peres provides support to 14 caregivers and 22 vulnerable children.
One of the biggest challenges is that kids that are left orphaned don’t have money for school fees or enough food, because of poverty. It is harder for them because they are lacking money.
I like being a community health worker because I give them guidance. I encourage them to continue with their education. I want their life to be better. I want the children to complete school and have a good future so that they can take care of themselves well.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Peter Otieno, 46, with five of his eight children, clockwise from top left: Lucy, 13, Kepha, 3, Hesbon, 14, Bilha, 5, and Silvance, 7
In addition to receiving medical and educational support through CRS, Peter’s family has received goats and joined a Savings and Internal Lending Community that helps the family save and borrow money. Both Peter and his wife were once deathly ill because of complications from AIDS but were living under the assumption that they were victims of witchcraft. The local community health worker convinced them to get tested and followed up with them until they had accepted their status and received the necessary support. As a result, they were able to have two more children who have both tested negative for HIV.
I am so thankful because of Philemon’s [the family’s community health worker] persistence. He never gave up. He kept coming back when we were still refusing testing. He continuously followed up until we were finally tested. His persistence has saved many lives. Stigma has gone down significantly. An indication is that people are much more free. The number of people who are going to collect medication has increased, and people are open to talk about their issues. A while back there were quite a few people who would walk with a stoop because they were tired and weak from being ill. Now you no longer see people walking with a stoop because people are now open to accessing medication, and with the [antiretroviral drugs]… we can work and exercise like everyone else.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
The Children Behind
Philemon Omondi supports 19 families with vulnerable children as a CRS-trained volunteer community health worker.
One reason I decided to become a community health worker is because I looked at my village and saw people suffering because people were sick and are now able to contribute. I had ideas for how to help people. There is a big difference in my village from when the project first started. When I started as a [health worker], many people were depending on handouts. Before, when visitors came, people would expect handouts. That is no longer the case. People can rely on themselves. If it weren’t for the project we would still be burdened, some would have died and others would not be in school. We have gained a lot of knowledge and this has helped.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Polycarp Okoth, 26
The Children Behind
CRS helped Polycarp’s siblings and cousins when they lost their parents to HIV. As a result, Polycarp was able to continue his studies through medical school and will soon become a doctor. His dream is to one day be a pediatrician.
Without CRS my dream would not have come to a reality. From 2002 we were among the first to benefit from the project. I was a pioneer.
My advice is with determination and hard work you can achieve whatever you want. You should have a positive mind. Even if your parents are gone, God has a plan to make us achieve our dreams.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Rose Komuhendo, 24
Rose received training in passion fruit farming, entrepreneurship and life skills through the CRS- sponsored Girls Agro Investment, or GAIN, project. In Uganda, opportunities to earn a living are often limited for girls who have not completed their formal education. Young women with few resources often resort to risky behavior to make ends meet, which too often results in early marriage, early pregnancy, and in many cases, increased risk for HIV. To break the cycle of poverty, women need a means to support themselves.
I first discovered I was HIV positive when I was 5 months pregnant; I had gone to the hospital for prenatal care and tested positive. I was frightened but was counseled by the nurses on how to keep myself and the baby well. They had me bring my husband in for testing and he also tested positive. Based on his reaction upon receiving the results, I think he previously knew his status. The doctor prescribed drugs and we immediately started taking them. We had two additional children, both of whom tested negative, thanks to the doctor’s advice.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Rose Mbabazi, 20
Rose rests outside of her home with her son Akugizibwe Nicholas, 2. Rose received training in passion fruit farming, entrepreneurship and life skills through the CRS-sponsored Girls Agro Investment, or GAIN, project. In Uganda, opportunities to earn a living are often limited for girls who have not completed their formal education. Young women with few resources often resort to risky behavior to make ends meet, which too often results in early marriage, early pregnancy, and in many cases, increased risk for HIV. To break the cycle of poverty, women need a way to support themselves.
She has been training under the GAIN project for 8 months and says the most important lesson she has learned is how to farm as a business.
I now know how to plant on a large scale to create sales. I only just planted passion fruit in my home garden 3 weeks ago, but I’m excited about what I can do with it as a business. I'm going to use it to improve the quality of my family’s life.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
The Children Behind
As a volunteer community health worker, Samuel has been providing assistance to 16 families whose lives have been affected by HIV or other illnesses.
My dream for the community is to eradicate poverty and eliminate minor illnesses infecting people. The community is coming up bit by bit but they are not fully up. HIV made poverty worse, because those who were strong—the providers—got sick. The poverty is easing because there are so many health projects which have instituted awareness so that people know the causes of HIV and how to prevent it.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Sarah Gavinala with son Bashil
Sarah Gavinala discovered she was HIV positive when she was expecting her youngest son, Bashil. She went into a deep depression and did not want to accept her status. Initially terrified by her diagnosis, she sought support from an “expert client,ˮ a person with HIV who has taken a leadership role at the health center she visits. The expert client helped her come to terms with her diagnosis and helped her understand the treatment and how she could continue her life as normal. Expert clients run support groups and counseling sessions, help with record keeping, and alleviate the workload of overtaxed health care workers. With an expert client’s support Sarah, adhered to treatment during her pregnancy and, as a result, Bashil has tested negative for HIV.
I used to have my husband go to the clinic to collect my [antiretroviral drugs] for me because I was so shy. After some time they told my husband that I had to come myself so that they could monitor my weight. It is when I went myself that I met Mr. Banda [the expert client]. He gave me encouragement and advice. He told me that I should not be shy or complain, that there were many people like me living with the same condition. I’ve learned to live a better life and to be more self-sufficient.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Teresa Kananji, 35, with daughter Promisi, 2
Teresa Kananji, 35, bathes her daughter Promisi outside of their home. Promisi suffered a massive pediatric stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side, and without speech. CRS partner the Catholic Health Commission referred Teresa to a pediatric physical therapist and helped her access a special chair that allows her daughter to sit up. Promisi now regularly attends a CRS-sponsored Community Based Child Care center, which gives Teresa time to sell produce in the market.
The doctors say Promisi will walk again. I believe that, even though sometimes I lose faith. This is my child. I must care for her and follow all the doctors’ advice. At first she couldn't sit or hold up her neck. Now she can do both. Coming to the CBCC helps her. She has begun to hear again. The noise at the CBCC motivates her. Going to the CBCC with this chair has eased so many problems.Photo credit: Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
“One reason I decided to become a community health worker is because I looked at my village and saw people suffering because people were sick and are now able to contribute.”
- Philemon Omondi
“The most important thing I'll remember is the counseling I received from my community health worker.”
— Mary Achieng Ananga
“Without CRS, I would not have had the knowledge on how to care for my children.”
- Mary Atieno Onyango