Globally, 33.2 million people live with HIV or AIDS. In just the past year, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people, leaving more than 11 million children orphaned by the disease. In Rwanda, the spread of HIV/AIDS and the lingering effects of the 1994 genocide have forced many children to take on the role of their deceased parents, creating a significant number of child-headed households, who typically lack adequate access to education, employment and health resources.
One young Rwandan has experienced this firsthand. Monique lost both of her parents to AIDS. By being the oldest, she had to quit school to care for her younger siblings. Thanks to CHF International (CHF), she was given training to start her own business.
Based in Silver Spring, MD, CHF is an international development and humanitarian assistance organization working to educate and sustain this vulnerable population through an integrated approach to health programming. CHF recognizes that good health improves productivity and contributes to economic growth, therefore, increasing resilience against the societal effects of HIV/AIDS.
In Rwanda, CHF’s USAID/PEPFAR-funded program called Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Program (CHAMP) aims to build the economic capacity of child-headed households through entrepreneurial opportunities. The most vulnerable young adults are selected by community members based on the youths’ lack of housing, food security and funds to send their younger siblings to school. The selected young adults are enrolled in local vocational training centers, which provide a progressive entrepreneurship education. Over a period of nine months, basic business skill development and hands-on entrepreneurial experience is gained.
“I didn’t get the chance to continue my formal studies because of the huge responsibility of taking care of my five siblings,” said 19-year-old Monique, a graduate of the program. “But when the opportunity of studying in a vocational training center appeared, I seized it to enable me [to] get a tangible activity to rely on and generate income to continually support my siblings to a better future.”