Based on the 2006 report on the global AIDS epidemic from the World Health Organization, 500 people die each day from illnesses related to AIDS and 1,800,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe. Approximately 16% of children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both parents due to AIDS according to the 2010 UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic.
Today’s organization is working to make a difference for these children. Forgotten Voices is a United States based non-profit that works through partnerships with churches in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Their mission is to equip churches in southern Africa to meet the physical and spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities.
Forgotten Voices was founded in late 2005 by Ryan Keith in response to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The organization formed after campfire discussions with Zimbabwean pastors. At the time there was no other organization partnering with local churches in Zimbabwe and Zambia. They now partner with dozens of organizations to maximize the resources available. With each new project, local church leaders are asked to first determine what resources are already available to them through their community, other organizations and churches. After potential partnerships are identified, Forgotten Voices helps the local leadership explore ways to fill in the gaps that remain to create a sustainable orphan care plan in the community.
The organization focuses on education, home based care, and skill development. They offer financial support and training to church pastors to prioritize the overwhelming challenges before them. Projects are run by the church which allows them to have local ownership and limitless possibilities. Some of the projects have included project management training workshops for over 800 pastors; annual retreats for orphaned children; agricultural training and supplies; grief counseling and support; training for home-based care workers; new wells to provide clean water; community gardens; school fee payments; nutrition programs; and more!
Something else unique about Forgotten Voices is that they don’t take credit for their work whenever possible. That seems a backwards from how many non-profits operate, but they feel this helps limit dependency and creates ownership, as well as accountability. It also helps position churches to stand on their own after the funding from Forgotten Voices ends.
How can you help?
There are several volunteer opportunities posted on the Forgotten Voices website. They are also running a fundraising campaign called Ten Together that encourages groups of 10 people to give $10 a month and donate 10 hours of community service locally. There is also an option to make a donation directly on the organization’s website.