With a protective arm around his sister’s shoulder, Wamala Godfrey, 16, introduces us to the family. “This is Edith, she’s 13 years old, Matovu, 9, and Alan, 12,” he says, adding that they are all he has left. Wamala is an orphan raising his younger siblings in the Luwero District in Uganda. “My father and mother died in 2004.” Wamala and his siblings are among the 880,000 children who are orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
“I felt responsible for my family,” says Wamala, who is extremely resourceful and surprisingly self-reliant, “I now plant cassava, maize, potatoes, and keep some pigs on our little land. The rain varies so we cannot depend only on farming. I have to make money to feed my family so I bake chapati bread and sell it at the market two kilometers away.”
Wamala, Edith, Matovu, and Alan all participate in AMREF’s educational program for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. AMREF absorbs the cost of education, school day meals, afterschool activities, books, and learning materials. Trained village orphan representatives routinely visit child-headed families like Wamala’s to offer counseling and identify family-specific needs. Walama, for example, received insecticide-treated mosquito nets, training related to proper use of the nets, and technical support in constructing a rainwater harvesting system – all to reduce the likelihood of contracting malaria and water-borne diseases.
Wamala wants to expand his business to supplement the little income he earns, but he also dreams of taking up a formal career in the future. “When I finish school,” he says, full of aspiration, “I would like to become a policeman, or maybe a teacher. Anything that will help me put some food on the table and provide a better future for my family.”
AMREF’s Luwero Orphans and Vulnerable Children project helps orphans and other vulnerable children by supporting and strengthening local institutions and encouraging community members to proactively address the impact of HIV/AIDS.