Imagine yourself as a little kid. Imagine yourself just existing and playing in a limitless world without worries about global issues, family problems or work obligations. Then finally imagine yourself finding out that you are HIV-positive. All of a sudden your world comes crashing down – nobody wants you anymore. Your parents become scared of being near you and they don’t have the ability to help you with medications. Imagine being abandoned by the ones that are supposed to always be there for you.

This is a reality a lot of kids in Sub-Saharan Africa still face today. Once they are diagnosed their families may not have the ability or willingness to care for them and they are left alone and abandoned. Many of the kids also have parents who have died from AIDS.  This is where Nyumbani Children’s Home comes into the picture.

Nyumbani in Kenya takes care of HIV/AIDS-affected kids, ranging from newborns to young adults in their early twenties. They provide a safe home, treatment and education for these kids to make sure that they aren’t left to die because of the disease. The Nyumbani Village provides a loving place to call home for 1,000 children in Kenya.

In order to continue with this amazing work they are dependent on sponsors and engagement. One of their major partners is Johnson & Johnson, a global health company with the determination to make lasting change.

I took the opportunity to ask Achieng Masiga, who is Program Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, Global Community Impact, at Johnson & Johnson about their work with Nyumbani. She is based in Nairobi, Kenya and manages programs with partners working in the areas of maternal, newborn, and child health, girls’ education and empowerment, as well as orphans and vulnerable children.

What do you think of when you hear the word Nyumbani?

Masiga: Nyumbani means home and that is precisely what it is to the children who have lived there and continue to do so.

Why is a place like Nyumbani necessary today?

Masiga: The world still has numerous children who are abandoned and vulnerable and Nyumbani is necessary, as are many other children’s homes. They provide children with the stability of a home environment; food, shelter, clothing, family, education. These are things that many children in stable homes take for granted.

Why did Johnson & Johnson choose to support Nyumbani?

Masiga: Nyumbani is Kenya’s largest support system for HIV-positive children and their families. I believe that Nyumbani’s unique approach of caring for children who are HIV+ is what drew J&J to them.

How does Johnson & Johnson work to help the people and co-workers at Nyumbani?

Masiga: Currently J&J provides support to Nyumbani Village and Lea Toto, its outreach program providing services to HIV-positive children and their families through 8 community centers surrounding Nairobi. At Nyumbani Village in Kitui (131km/82miles from Nairobi), 1,000 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS have a home, cared for by another generation left behind by the epidemic – grandmothers. Together they are building a model bio-friendly and self-sustaining community, setting a goal to be self-reliant by 2018. Johnson & Johnson funding for a rainwater harvesting project with Princeton in Africa fellows resulted in the building of 72 water tanks, making clean water available to the entire village.

I really do think that it is important that companies like Johnson & Johnson support these kinds of NGO’s since they are dependent on others’ help. Global companies have the ability to really make a change and get grassroots organizations like Nyumbani out on a global map. Together with individuals, groups and countries they can help even more and be an even bigger part of the change-making system.

So imagine yourself being a kid with a terminal disease not having anyone to take care of you. Imagine yourself then being found by the Nyumbani Village, a caring, loving and helpful home to make you have a safe and valuable future. When I imagine this, I imagine hope and ultimately a new found freedom.

You can help support the children of Nyumbani Village by making a donation at CaringCrowd, a crowdfunding platform by Johnson & Johnson dedicated to improving global public health.

Girls’ Globe is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson to provide coverage during the Global Citizen Festival and to share the stories of the Young Leaders who are participating in the activities in New York. 

Featured image from Nyumbani Village. Photo Credit: Cordelia Persen.

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