Today was our very last project visit with Children of the Andes… a very strange feeling…
The project was Fundamor, which is a home for abandoned and orphaned children living with HIV/Aids. We were unsure what to expect as we drove out of Cali city and into the plains. When we turned down a dirt track we were met by a beautiful painted building set in tranquil gardens.
There was such a peaceful and healing atmosphere to the place. The project director Guillermo showed us round the classrooms, garden, play areas, health facilities and living rooms. 57 children live here aged one month to 17 years. All but three are HIV positive.
Not a death sentence
Children often arrive at Fundamor in a very bad condition because they have not had the correct medication or been properly looked after. At Fundamor they are able to access vital medicine so that they are able to stay healthy. Along with good nutrition, complementary therapies, and rehabilitive treatment they are able to live long and healthy lives.
Of course, this means that one day they will leave Fundamor and go out into the world. This is why they have been working closely with the Fundación Formación d’Futuros, which we visited earlier in the week. Together FFF and Fundmor are helping young people living with HIV/Aids to leave care and set up on their on.
During their time at Fundamor, the kids also go to a local school and have ´Friendly Families´in a nearby village who they go and visit at weekends. All of this helps to give them a sense of normality.
One of the most important things that the centre is doing is to build the confidence of the older children so that they feel comfortable with their HIV status and are able to share it with others and raise awareness.
Fundamor recently worked on a project called ‘Lo Vero Claro’ (I see it clearly), which involved workshops in five schools with HIV positive and negative children. Together the children produced short films about living with HIV, protection and prevention. The kids have also taken part in national conventions on HIV/Aids, meeting other young people in the same situation.
How bad is HIV/Aids in Colombia?
Although HIV/Aids is less prevelant in Latin America than other areas of the world, it is still a serious problem. In the region as a whole, 1% of the population are living with HIV/Aids – this is in comparison to 0.2% in the UK and 6% in sub-Saharan Africa. At the end of 2008 there were arond 2 million people living with HIV/Aids across the continent – more than in the US, Canada, Japan and the UK combined. An estimated 230,000 children are living with HIV/Aids in Colombia. All of this shows the need to address the epidemic in this region before it grows further.
Fundamor is contributing to this aim in Colombia, and crucially providing a safe and happy home for HIV+ children and jovenes (young people), helping them to realise they have a life to live.
We do hope you have enjoyed reading about the work of COTA here, and do come back again soon as we will definitely continue to put news and photos on the blog!
Gracias y hasta luego
Hannah and Emily