Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the world’s regions most affected by the global HIV epidemic. According to the 2012 UN World AIDS Day Report, approximately 23.5 million people—69% of the world’s HIV population—reside in the region. In Uganda alone 1.9 million children, or 10% of its population, have lost parents due to HIV/AIDS. Once these children lose their parents, many of them drop out of school and are forced to work. When Ashinaga first visited Uganda in 2000, it was clear how desperately these children needed emotional and educational support. This led Ashinaga to establish Ashinaga Uganda, a local NGO, in November 2001 and to open the Uganda Rainbow House (URH) in 2003. Through the URH, Ashinaga provides the following assistance to some 800 registered children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.
Care Program provides bereaved children with psychological support. Each year 2,000 children (including repeat participants) benefit from the program, which is held nearly weekly every Saturday. The Care Program is divides the population it serves into three different groups: nursery, primary and secondary school-aged children. The program offers various activities such as sharing of life stories, group sessions, presentations, and games.
Terakoya Literacy Education:
The “Terakoya” Literacy Education Program began in 2007 and maintains a consistent enrollment of some 55 children ranging in age from 8 to 15. Families and guardians of these children lack resources to send these children to regular schools. Through the Terakoya Program, children learn not only basic academic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic but also moral values. After they complete the program, they can study at regular schools on Terakoya scholarships
Currently sixteen Ugandan students who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS study on Ashinaga scholarships at some of the most prestigious universities in Japan. They also live at Ashinaga-run dormitories in Tokyo and Kobe that were originally founded to serve the needs of Japanese students receiving Ashinaga assistance. Ashinaga hopes that these students will one day return to Africa and contribute to the development of the region.
Staff members of Ashinaga Uganda visit the homes of children registered with the organization. They talk to the guardians and learn how children spend their time at home. It is extremely important for the staff members to understand children’s living environments because the roots of many issues lie in the home. Through home visits staff can identify areas in the program that they can improve. They can also consider various ways of addressing issues before they become serious.
During the first term holiday each year, Ashinaga Uganda holds an outing for some 200 primary school-aged children. Children spend the morning doing educational activities and enjoy lunch and recreational activities in the afternoon. During the second term holiday, Ashinaga Uganda holds a 4-day, 3-night camp. Approximately 50 teenagers participate in the camps held in the other district of Uganda. At these camps, the participants gain valuable life skills. They come to understand how to overcome challenges and value hard work.