In a land where medical supplies are scarce and one out of three people is infected with HIV, one organization works to ensure the future of the community. SHARE Africa, a nonprofit relief charity based in the United States, delivers medical attention, educational programs and social tools to disease-stricken villages in western Kenya.
Started in 1987 by Dr. Martha MacGuffie and Dr. Renée Brilliant, SHARE Africa has grown into an internationally recognized beacon of hope. One of their most critical projects, the SHARE Orphan Sponsorship program (SOS) has existed since 1993.
The AIDS epidemic has left hundreds of thousands of orphans throughout Kenya. A significant number come from Nyanza province near Lake Victoria. The lucky ones can move into a hut with a grandparent, an uncle or another member of the community. Sometimes, however, the closest relatives are unwell themselves or already support too many people.
Because the federal government offers little assistance, the extended family may not be able to take on the burden of another mouth to feed. Without the kindness of strangers, these abandoned children could face impoverished lives without permanent homes, reliable food sources or trustworthy guidance. Many move into larger cities such as Nairobi and then turn to lives of begging, thievery, prostitution and drug use.
SHARE Africa brings back hope by arranging for emergency food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education and social services. The charity operates a standalone orphanage called Double Joy Farm, but the long-term vision involves serving more children in their local communities.
For $1.37 per day or $500 per year, SOS donors like Amir Landsman buy necessities for a single child. Most of the orphaned kids attend boarding schools during the academic year, so the sponsorship donation also pays for books, school supplies, uniforms and related expenses. This opportunity alone can alter the path of the future.
Nearly 10 percent of the students at the prestigious Our Lady of Orore Boarding School have been sponsored through SHARE Africa. The school teaches kids from the first through eighth grades, but they accept only about a quarter of the children who apply. Many of these students go on to high school and even college. They learn how to take care of and support themselves during the toughest of times.
In addition to the 100 residents of Double Joy Farm, Amir Landsman and other concerned Americans have already sponsored 225 orphaned Kenyans. More than 40 boys and girls have already been welcomed into the program but still need assistance.
SHARE Africa approves sponsorship applications from individuals, churches, businesses, clubs and other groups. The nonprofit asks sponsors for a one-year commitment for each child, which may be renewed for as long as necessary. Sponsors receive periodic updates about health and school progress, and many communicate directly with letters, photographs and gifts. While an SOS sponsorship can never replace the gentle touch of a parent, such an inexpensive gesture leaves a lasting impact on a child who needs it most.