In October 1999, St. Martin CSA started community programme for HIV/AIDS when it became obvious that AIDS was a serious problem within its area of operation. A committee of 11 people was formed to work out the best ways to address HIV/AIDS pandemic. One of the priority interventions was community care and support for orphaned and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
Increase in AIDS related morbidity and mortality brought untold suffering to children, who lost basic closeness of family life, love, attention and affection coupled with lack of basic needs. Communities were faced with a new concept of orphaned children who could not remain within the extended family safety net. Human rights of children as an ethical imperative and the need to care for children as a key investment for future human development were underscored by immediate pressing needs.
During that period stigma of People Living with HIV/ AIDS, irrespective of age, was extremely high. The communities were particularly ill equipped to handle the psychosocial, emotional and health needs of HIV positive children. This left the children in a desperate position and suffered abandonment by their relatives and community. If not cared for such children suffered greatly. By 1999 there were about 200 such children in the Home's catchment area.
In spite of the enormous goodwill in the community to care for HIV positive orphans, their psychosocial, emotional and health needs transcends uncoordinated community responsibilities. Long before the children are neglected, the family members go through the trauma and hardship of caring for ill and dying parents. They are drained the will power to care and support HIV positive children who in absence of appropriate and timely intervention may not celebrate their fifth birthday.
It was in response to curb this that members thought of looking into possibilities of alienating deeper suffering of such children. Among options that came up was putting up a home that would accommodate such abandoned and/or desperate HIV positive children.
Talitha Kum Children's Home is home that provides a hybrid of institutional and community care to HIV positive orphaned and vulnerable children who cannot find immediate placement within the target community social safety nets. The word "Talitha Kum" is derived from the Bible (Mark 5:41), which means "Little girl arise" The Home aspires to provide holistic opportunity to the children to celebrate life every new day thus the name Talitha Kum Children's Home.
The Home envision a transformed society in which life is shared with the vulnerable people in the spirit of humility, love and self-giving. Towards realization of this vision, the Home creates a conducive environment where all are involved in caring and empowering the vulnerable people for a holistic transformation of all. This is done through deep rooted conviction that love gives life. If everything we do with the children is out of love then they have a future.
Formation of management Committee of Volunteers
In October 1999, a management committee of 11 volunteers was constituted to study in participatory way issues related to HIV/AIDS, causes, effects and impact in the immediate community. One of their immediate concerns was the plight of children orphaned or made vulnerable a result of HIV/AIDS. As a result of the magnitude of the need the committee proposed a home for destitute and/or abandoned HIV positive children.
When the management committee settled on a Home for destitute and abandoned HIV positive children they embarked on resource mobilization. Key to this was community involvement and participation to enlist ownership and sustainability. A series of awareness raising and fundraisings were conducted in the catchment area. Eventually in December 2003, the community had raised Kshs 3 million towards the construction of the home. Additional funds were sought elsewhere and by June 2005 the necessary infrastructures were in place and the Home was ready to receive the first lot of children.
The Home is built on 3 acres piece of land and has the following facilities and assets:
The main house with six units each with a capacity of 14 children. Each unit contains a living room/ dinning room, dormitory, houseparent room and washroom. Other facilities in the main house include administrator's wing, hall, chapel, kitchen, infirmary, meeting room and study rooms. All these facilities are well equipped to meet the needs of the children.
-2 Boy's dormitories. These accommodates 28 boys between ages 12-22 years and has three additional self contained rooms for house father and volunteers.
- Laundry equipped with three dry cleaning machines
- Concrete water tank with a capacity of 40,000 litres.
- Raised plastic water tank with a capacity of 10,000 litres
- 3 Second hand 14 seater vans.
First intake of children
The first group of six children was received in the Home in July 2005. The committee decided to take the children progressively to give the administrators and care givers an opportunity to grow with the children and learn from them. By December 2007, the Home had 60 HIV positive children to its full capacity.
Pain and Bereavement
Talitha Kum Children's Home opened its doors with a promise to give back childhood to those who never had one. Tears of joy engulfed the air as the community saw a new beginning, a new life and a renewed hope for the first group of HIV positive children. The Home has lost 10 children up to now. This was devastating, traumatizing and the blossoming flower seemed to be drying up. The future became uncertain but one important lesson emerged. The Home was there to add life in the days of the children but not days in their life through undying care, genuine and unconditional love.
Linkages and integration
The Home embarked on awareness campaign and community mobilisation to enlist participation and involvement of all within the target community. Since inception, the Home has established working relationship with many institutions; schools, churches, hospitals, civil societies and individuals and managed to integrate the children in all aspects of community life. On average 500 people visit the children every month.