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AFRIcan Women’s Aids working Group (AFRIWAG)
- caring for AIDS orphans
AFRIWAG is an Africa wide organisation devoted to helping AIDS orphans. When African children are orphaned it is rare for them not to be given a home with the extended* family. However the host family will already be struggling to provide for their existing members. An extra mouth to feed is a big burden and it is very unlikely there will be money for schooling. Primary schooling is free in Tanzania but the children need uniforms, exercise books, pens and pencils. In addition fees have to be found for children at secondary school.
Any spare money is spent on food. AFRIWAG reasons that, if the children take some food home to share with everyone, this should help them to be seen as an asset rather than a drag on family resources.
AFRIWAG aims to meet these needs. The Muheza branch has about twenty members. Each member pays a subscription and the branch receives donations from the regional office but they need much more. The town council is being pressed to take some responsibility for the orphans in their town but as yet they have not made any contribution.
At present AFRIWAG are helping over 200 children in primary and secondary school and 7 who having finished secondary school are doing vocational training. The organisation has reached its limit so at the moment no new children can be cared for. This is mainly due to the funds available but also because of the heavy workload involved in checking that the children coming for help are genuine orphans and not already receiving help from another organisation. Visits to schools have to be made to pay fees and ensure that the children are attending regularly. This work falls on two people, Mary Mbura and Agnes Mbwana, who visited Pontesbury some years ago. Mary is developing arthritis in her right leg (no artificial joints available in Muheza!) but she continues to show great care for the children.
AFRIWAG is a very worthwhile group to be helping. There is a genuine concern for the orphans and they are meticulous in recording how all their money is spent. In 2008 AFRIWAG, Muheza was praised by the District Commissioner and won a cup for being the best NGO (none governmental organisation) in the District.
In 2006 Pontesbury Congregational Church started donating the offering at their monthly communion services to AFRIWAG. Since then Minsterley Congregational Church, Carillon, Coral Harmony, and many individuals have added substantially to this fund which is by far the biggest donor to AFRIWAG Muheza.
*The word “extended” is added here to help us understand
the nature of the African family. They do not use the word.
All brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins as well as some
with no blood relationship are the family to whom hospitality
must be extended. The following are stories of two young
people who had no family to give them shelter.
Sixteen year old Alli Omari lives at Lusanga, about two miles from Muheza, where he has a plot of land which belonged to his parents. Alli has built himself a house on the plot. The house has wattle and mud walls and a palm leaf roof. His only furniture at the moment is a wooden bed which consists of a wooden frame with interwoven tree creeper as the base to sleep on. Alli cooks for himself and does his own washing. His ambition is to become a teacher but that depends on him finding funding for his training.
Maulid Hatibu has been allowed to live in a room in the house of an old lady. She is not a relative but is prepared to let him stay there and look after himself. He has a small shamba. The word shamba is usually translated as “farm.” A shamba can vary in size form more than a hundred acres to a fraction of an acre. It is a plot of land from which the family try to feed themselves and perhaps have some food left over to sell. The shamba is the only source of income for the majority of the population of the Muheza District and such people call themselves peasant farmers. This is how Maulid sees his future but how can he stock his shamba without money?