05/17/2011 05:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What's AIDS Got to Do With It?

When was the last time you met someone with AIDS? Do you know anyone with AIDS? How is he or she coping with the antiretroviral therapy that most Americans can access through health coverage? Did you know that there is an estimated 1.2 million Ugandans living with AIDS and nearly 150,000 of them are children? Nearly 2 million children have been orphaned by this devastating epidemic.


Photo by Vivian Glyck

However awful the course of the virus can be on a person or family with few resources, small communities and rural villages in Uganda in association with the Asili Hospital and Just Like My Child have chosen life. They choose to work through the pain and create a safety net for their children and in most cases their children's children. Project Grace is a microenterprise project at its best. By Guiding Resources And Creating Empowerment (GRACE) in the most needy communities, Project GRACE provides a small loan (poultry or livestock) together with intensive training to healthy, self-motivated individuals with AIDS to create a self-sustaining business that will support their families and send their children to school.

I ask, "What's AIDS got to do with it?" because the chances of meeting a person with AIDS in Uganda is far greater than meeting someone here in the States. I also ask that because here in the U.S., those infected are not far from support groups, health care, or a free public education system, which their children can attend. In developing countries, such as Uganda, access to AIDS treatment is extremely limited, the stigma of the disease causes those affected to withdraw and sink further into poverty, and the financial fall out is devastating for a family. Just Like My Child believes in giving a hand up, never a hand out by assisting with access to AIDS treatment, providing support through health care workers that visit patients at their homes, and proven results through microenterprise initiatives.

Project GRACE participants are responsible for gathering material and building shelter for their animals, which are raised for food, trade and sale. They learn how to use their garden and livestock in sustainable and environmentally healthy ways: Gardens help feed the animals and animals provide natural fertilizer for the garden. At the end of the program, participants repay their loan by bringing a pair of their animal's offspring back to Asili Hopsital, enabling Project GRACE to continue a cycle of empowering future participants with tools to achieve self-sustenance. The project provides intensive training to healthy, self-motivated individuals with HIV to create a self-sustaining business that will support their families and send their children to school.


Photo by Vivian Glyck

Lastly, did you know all this can happen with a mere $400 contribution? That $400 provides a family of six with a sustainable business... this truly is the gift that keeps on giving. For more information on Project Grace please click here or visit Just Like My Child.