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Housing and Sustainable Income for Orphans and Vulnerable Children

February 22, 2006

Although HIV/AIDS has reached every part of the world, sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit. Today, there are already 12 million children orphaned by AIDS. As the epidemic continues to take lives, so more children become orphans, unseen by much of the world and unable to escape the cycle of poverty in which they have become trapped.

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Because Habitat for Humanity focuses on building houses, we are increasingly working in partnership with other non-profits in order to address the comprehensive needs of orphans and vulnerable children.

The partnership with Opportunity International, (OI), is one such example, and is set up to address both the basic income and shelter needs of orphans and vulnerable children. Habitat is currently providing shelter in Uganda, Zambia and Mozambique on a five year pilot program, in partnership with OI who is providing microfinance to enable caregivers to earn income from small businesses.

The program has many facets, and one is the “Youth Apprenticeship Program.” Habitat’s masons and carpenters and OI’s existing micro-business owners mentor orphaned youth in a construction or business trade. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, these youth may qualify for a startup business loan from OI or continue to build with Habitat.

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In Uganda, we have already built 103 houses and renovated another 4, sheltering 417 orphans and vulnerable children. For each house built or renovated, at least one orphan or vulnerable child received training in house construction. Caregivers were given HIV/AIDS education, training on inheritance planning, and training on income generating activities. In addition, Habitat’s partnership with the Peace Corps has meant that there are Peace Corps health volunteers working within the same community to help with HIV prevention and care.

In Mozambique, Habitat has expanded into two new communities to respond specifically to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. 32 houses have been built so far, sheltering 120 orphans and vulnerable children, in partnership with local community-based organizations that provide holistic care for the children. Peace Corps volunteers are training community members in HIV prevention and positive living techniques such as nutritious gardening.

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In Uganda, Zambia and Mozambique, Habitat is accelerating the pace at which is it building in communities heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS, enabling families in these communities to care for orphans as part of their extended family. In addition to building new homes in these communities, Habitat gives home improvement loans to help families carry out much needed repairs on existing houses or to build additional rooms.

By the end of the five year project, Habitat for Humanity will have sheltered more than 4,000 children, with 440 children having taken part in youth apprenticeship programs. In addition, Opportunity International will have supported 40,000 new businesses and 64,000 caregivers will have been trained in HIV/AIDS prevention, care or mitigation.

The project is being funded by USAID, as part of US President Bush’s $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).