Category Archives: AHOPE

World AIDS Day and AHOPE for Children, Ethiopia

The AIDS epidemic began over 25 years ago, and the disease continues to prey upon millions of families and children around the world. A great number of HIV infected and affected children live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that over 22.5 million people are living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, including over 2.3 million children (Unicef). 

Ethiopia has an estimated 2 million people living with HIV and the third highest number of infections in Africa, according to UNAIDS. With an estimated population of 83 million people and per capita income of less than US$100 annually, it is also one of the world’s poorest countries. Tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia is a challenge – but one that is being met at places like AHOPE for Children.

Just over 100 HIV+ children who are without families call AHOPE for Children home. Thankfully, UNAIDS reports that more people than ever are living with HIV, largely due to greater access to treatment. At AHOPE for Children, the idea is to do more than ‘live’ – the idea is to thrive.

I was witness to thriving. I had the privilege to visit AHOPE for Children a few weeks ago. For those of you who follow my FB page, you know I spent weeks plotting and planning an AHOPE extravaganza. First, I worked for weeks on an arts and crafts plan that would suit over 100 mixed ages kids, from 1 to 17!  I am no artist, I can tell you – I set the bar high to find the ‘perfect art project.’  I had the kind help of a great number of friends and the assistance my encouraging family and hatched a plan for hand sprayed canvas bags. I purchased 130 bags, bought bags of supplies at the local art store, had in-house artist Songbird and friend Ms. Frizzle mock up samples, and the art project for the entire AHOPE family was ‘game on!’ My fabulous Mudula Mama companions joined me as we hosted our event. Have a look at the artists in residence at AHOPE for Children!

The Mamas then commenced with the ‘Great Watch Give-Away.’ Over 60 families answered my request for watches for the children at AHOPE. THANK YOU FAMILIES! I had heard that the kids had been asking for watches for over 2 years, and while we all helped trek school supplies to AHOPE, the Mamas decided to give the kids surprises. Watches. Watches in every size and color. Flashing, beeping, bedazzled and bejeweled. It was beautiful chaos. On every wrist, a watch.

And the day was perfect, 100 kids worth of perfect  – accompanied by ice cream and giggles and music and talk of dreams and futures and perhaps even families.  Betam Konjo.

And then I had the chance to travel across Addis (no small task!) with some of the Mudula Mamas and visit the Community Development Center. CDC is an AHOPE for Children supported family center that KEEPS FAMILIES TOGETHER! (Yeah, that deserves a shout!).  This place seriously knocked my socks off. It is a center located right in the middle of a bustling urban neighborhood where kids and their families get the things they need to sustain their family lives despite the scourge of HIV. Kids eat, get meds, get tutors, have daily hygiene opportunities, play, read in the AMAZING center library, an on and on and on.

The CDC is truly cutting edge. With a staff of over 30, they focus on the very things that make living with HIV successful in a place like Ethiopia: strengthening the capacity of families and extended families, tending to anti-stigma programs, mobilizing and strengthening community and home-based responses, strengthening the capacity of families and young people to meet their own needs, daily antiretroviral therapies, food security, education and educational support (tutoring), and a safe space for guidance, counseling, and problem solving. We arrived just before school let out to see kids running through the gate at CDC with things like this – receiving hugs and high fives and encouragement from a team of adults who are helping kids right where they are. Love.

I’m a fan. A big big fan. The Ethiopian Director said to me, “These children are not orphans. Their psycho-social beings are fully intact, fully engaged, and they are happy. They are not suffering the losses of being without a family – they go home at night, to their families.”  

AHOPE for Children has big plans for the future of their programs, their children, and their families. On World’s AIDS Day, let’s help them achieve those goals – – to expand the families served by The CDC, to begin programs and life-skills training for the children who are getting closer and closer to aging out of AHOPE for Children, and to continue to educate, support, and encourage all of the children in their care to thrive. Go and give AHOPE for Children a hand. And then give yourself a hand too – because you just made a difference!

Wordless Wednesday at AHOPE for Children, Ethiopia

Watches Wednesday

Destination: AHOPE for Children, Ethiopia.  Ameseginalehu!

Tri-ing

Tri-ing times 3, that is. It’s the season of triathlons and I am HARD at work. NO! I’m not doing 3 triathlons, but I am advocating for 3 important charities through the Janus Charity Challenge. As the weeks advance, there are days I wonder if I might switch places and trade the fundraising for the physical task of a Tri. No. Scratch that.I’m still in the thick of training for my little bitty 5K through the couch to 5K program. My legs ache as I type this from week 7 day 2! Yeah, NO tri for me.

The first Tri has come and gone – and we have results. Fairy Godmother and I organized our 4th annual Team Plumpy’Nut for Doctors Without Borders Fundraiser (see here, here, and here for 1, 2, and 3). The Janus Charity Challenge  ‘switched teams’ and relocated their resources with the Lifetime/Toyota Triathlon series. Thus, our favorite local venue, the Wisconsin Ironman, was replaced by our neighboring state’s Lifetime Chicago Triathlon. Not intimidated, Fairy Godmother  and I recruited a lovely local man who was using the Chicago Triathlon as his ‘taper’ for the fabulous Wisconsin Ironman. His TAPER! We raised over $14,000 for Doctors Without Borders – feeding over 466 kids in the Horn of Africa. We are THRILLED with our result of FOURTH PLACE and a $500 additional cash award for Doctors Without Borders.  We were beat by competitors who had triple digit fundraising totals – we could not be prouder of our grassroots effort to bring compassionate care and nourishment to our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa. It was a WIN for our Team Plumpy’Nut. I celebrated with Mr. SillyPants and Blueberry by camping out in Lot 60 during the Ironman WI event. Fairy Godmother worked “officially” for the Ironman – supporting athletes as they ran through our beloved Camp Randall on the last 8 mile leg of the entire venue. Our fabulous athlete wore his MSF jersey during the bike and ran past me in his bright yellow running shirt. We held hands, exchanged smiles, and our family cheered for his big heart and a strong finish. That run is grueling. The whole dang Ironman is grueling.

During training Philip asked me about rules for finishing the Tri in Chicago. He said, “if mother’s in East Africa are carrying their dying children for months in search of food and help, I can crawl on my hands and knees to the finish line.” I was moved by his spirit and his determination for solidarity with the families stricken by one of the worst famines of our time. Thank you to Philip for his courage and determination. YOU are a WINNER.

Just for kicks, here is an image of Blueberry’s FIRST Ironbaby campaign. It’s fair to say, you’ve come a LONG WAY BABY! We are looking forward to our 5th annual campaign next year!

Of course, I never argue with a good idea, and I’ve been working on bringing some other stellar nonprofits to the Janus Charity Challenge at other venues. Enter Mudula Water Project and the Mudula Mamas. 3 amazing women are traveling to Dallas from across the US to join together for one cause – WATER. I am so excited about this Tri team and their dedication to bring water to over 10,000 people in Ethiopia. Each woman will do one leg of the race – my small part is simply that I’ve joined their effort by bringing them into the Janus Charity Challenge. This is an event WE NEED to dominate (please help!).  2 weeks until the race – so don’t delay!

The piece that makes me wildly giddy is that shortly after this event I’ll be heading to ETHIOPIA with the Mudula Water Team. How cool would it be to have fundraised nearly all of our funds? Hmmmm? No amount of donation is too small. And, for those of you who can make a larger donation, please do. I promise the BEST PICTURES EVER of Mudula Ethiopia and nearby communities that will have access to the water from this gravity well. Plus, I really want to see THIS TREE and know I’ve had a small part in changing the lives of these kids. The Janus Charity Challenge in Dallas is a deal maker for me. I brought this team together with the hope that we’ll rock the charity win  – we need your help to do this.

Last, but by no means least, Los Angeles is hosting an AHOPE for Children athlete at the LA Triathlon on September 25th. Y’all know how much I LOVE AHOPE for Children. Nick is bringin’ that love to the water, bike, and pavement when he Tri’s for AHOPE.  I blogged about all the reasons I love this non-profit and THEN I went ahead and accepted a seat on their Board. Yep. I did. I’m helping connect families with AHOPE and AHOPE with families. Be my connecting families, ok? Help us put the programs in place that AHOPE knows bring kids into better health and bigger hope. And remember how I said I’m traveling to Mudula? Well, I’ll be visiting AHOPE Ethiopia too. I am SO EXCITED to be there, back in the orphanage that received a donation that Waffles so carefully prepared when we traveled to Ethiopia to become Blue’s family. We had 5 travelers, which meant 5 personal bags and 5 bags full of donations.   This photo is circa 2008 —-> Blast from the past – it’s funny how the past becomes my present in my ‘becoming.’

Whew! 3 athletes and 3 venues. There are 2 remaining in which you can make a difference and help us win charity purse $!!!!! Mr. Sillypants, who is wise, has said to me, “Ms. Plum, it’s your job to make the offer, but you don’t get to decide who takes you up on the offer.” I know he’s right, but I WANT YOU TO TAKE ME UP ON THIS OFFER!  I do. It’s personal. I’m petty like that.

Make sure you get it done before the deadlines:  AHOPE before September 24th. Mudula Water before Oct 1.               Amaseganalou.