Winning a second lease on life

Aisha Nanyonga is thankful she received training and counselling to support her family of adopted orphans. (Photo: Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation)

Aisha Nanyonga never imagined she would be caring for 15 children. But she could not turn them away.

They are orphans, children left behind by the AIDS pandemic that has uprooted so many lives across Uganda.

In her district of Wakiso alone, orphans make up 17 percent of the population. The majority have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Extended family members, like Aisha, often take them in. Although it is usually the best option for the child, it puts incredible strain on families that are ill-equipped to meet the needs of additional children. Large, extended families like Aisha’s that depend on only one or two income earners can rapidly deplete limited household assets.

But despite unimaginable odds, Aisha persevered. It was no small feat.

A new program gave Aisha the break she needed.

ASPIRES works with local organizations to help families affected by HIV/AIDS become financially independent and resilient. The families typically require support beyond traditional approaches like microfinance because of the added complications of HIV/AIDS and the social isolation they often experience.

As part of ASPIRES, Freedom from Hunger (now part of Grameen Foundation) has trained more than 150 practitioners from 11 countries to integrate these economic strengthening techniques into their outreach programs.

Aisha received psychosocial support, nutrition training and school supplies through a local organization. In addition, she received business training and access to a revolving fund that supports start-up businesses—new skills that have enabled her to start several businesses, such as selling snacks to children and water to neighbors, to support the children in her care.

Households like Aisha’s are complex and vulnerable. A single shock—job loss, death of a spouse or illness—can cause a downward spiral. But her experience shows that giving these families the right skills, knowledge and support builds their resistance, giving them a new lease on life.

ASPIRES is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and led by FHI 360.