She Is Our Child

John Mulwa and Anna Munini met 59 years ago at a dance. After John finished secondary school, they were married. Together they raised seven children, while farming maize and beans on two acres of land in Nguluni, Kenya. Eighteen years ago their daughter Esther left her baby, Joyce, in their care. Esther later died of complications from AIDS.

John and Anna unconditionally committed to raising Joyce, who was born with disabilities preventing her from walking and speaking. Despite their devotion to Joyce, John and Anna struggled to provide for her. They learned of Mama Darlene Children’s Centre and Community Development Projects, a community-based program providing free academic and medical support to orphans and vulnerable children.

With the support of Joyce’s grandparents, Eliud Muema, Mama Darlene’s director, arranged for a free operation to repair her foot. She was then able to walk unassisted.

John accompanied Joyce each day as she walked to school, where she loved to sing and shoot marbles. She started a collection of notebooks, which she filled with drawings and scribbles.

John says, “Joyce has no mother. She never met her. She has no father... But she is not an orphan. She is our child.” Joyce is one of the 12 million African children who lost one or both of their parents to AIDS. Like Joyce, the vast majority of these children are living with their grandparents, extended families, or with families in their communities.

Many of these families live in extreme poverty. This vital safety net of care is being stretched thin, leaving greater numbers of children at risk.

Grassroots organizations across Africa, like Mama Darlene Children’s Centre, are responding to this crisis. These organizations help children remain in family care – where children grow best – by providing income-generating projects and material support to caregivers. They help children stay in school and give youth access to vocational training. They offer emotional and spiritual support to those who have lost loved ones.

They battle the stigma of HIV and AIDS by providing accurate information and compassionate action.

Firelight supports organizations like Mama Darlene’s Children’s centre because these groups work to support families in their efforts to provide children with the love and care every child needs in order to thrive.