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2.17.2006

Quaker Orphans

I taught in Burundi, Africa for three months in 2003. My students were from Burundi, Rwanda and Congo. They were are are fabulous people. I hear from them from time to time by e-mail. I recently had the chance to send a few REAL letters in my own handwriting with a traveler. I know that letters like this are treasured, read and re-read, and passed about, so I sent one to a well known student in each of the three countries.

Yesterday I had an e-mail from Augustin Habimana of Rwanda Yearly Meeting. He was one of my very best students. After greeting me in fine African style and giving me the news of his family and church he closed with this

In the Church I am leading, I have unhappy Christians who are crying for help,These Christians are suffering from AIDS, We are trying to take care for them but our means are limited, We have tried to gather them in one association called UMUTIMA W.IMPUHWE which means THE HEART OF LOVE, through this association,it is easy to give them the message of God,to comfort them,and so on. This is the big problem I have. In our country,AIDS is really a calamity. Now,what I ask you is to help those Christians by finding for them some individuals, Churches, or some organizations which can intervene in taking care maybe for the orphans they have. Please,Peggy,have special times to think and pray for that burden I am struggling with. I promise to send you our news as possible I can.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the crisis of aids in Africa. And the best help we can give is to continue to advocate for research, debt relief, and help on the large scale. But while we do that, sometimes we have to also dip our hands into the ocean size problem and do some small good where we can.

There are maybe 50,000 adult Quakers in Central Africa although most of them would not know the work Quaker" they are 'Amis' Friends in French. The best guess is that 20% of them have AIDS. I had 26 students in the pastoral training class Augustin sat in. One of those students has died since I left - he left seven children, his wife died before him. There is no medical help for the vast majority of these people. Augustin is not asking for medicine he is asking for comfort for the dying and help for the orphans. So we may have 10,000 Quakers with AIDS, men and women in central Africa (Kenya is a whole 'nother thing). Let's say 5,000 couples. The average African couple has 3-5 children. That is a possible 15-20 thousand Quaker orphans. Our orphans.

I have recently taken on a trauma healing project in Goma DRC. I cannot take on Augustin's project. But somewhere out there on the Q continuum there is a church or meeting with a concern for AIDS that would like a small project like my friends.

I know this man personally - I can vouch for him. His YM is in good shape and non-corrupt. If someone out there takes this up - I will personally stop in when I go back next year and get a report for you. It is a solid request and a solid cause.

I encourage you to pray for this and then copy and paste it into an e-mail and FWD it to as many Quakers as you can.

I can be reached at
peggyparsons@cs.com
Comments:
Hi Peggy,
It's sobering to know there are more potential Quaker orphans in Africa than there are members of my yearly meeting. And it's personally sobering to notice myself paying extra attention because they're Quaker. It sounds like your Friend there might be a way for Friends here to engage in some sort of direct work. I'll keep the children and the Friends of Rwanda Yearly Meeting in my prayers and will hold a special prayer that some U.S. church or meeting might feel the call to reach out to Augustin.
 
Martin -I wondered too, about framing them as "quaker orphans". But that is what they are. I don't think we should care more about them because they are Q, but perhaps we have more responsibility for them. Central Africa is very 'churched' and most of those churches have a connnection to the world at large. If we took car of 'our' orphans( and a few more) and the Catholic church took car of hers, (and a few more) and Mecca took care it it's own ( and a few more) - there would be no uncared for orphans. I wouldn't know how to calculate how many malaria orphans we have, etc. etc. etc.

One of the hardest things to see when I was in Burundi was 5 year old homeless people.

There are many obstacles to doing good work over there. When we get a good solid chance - I like to see us do it.

I reccomend looking at Friend David Nioynzima's Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services -THARS.org, and the African Great Lakes Initiative.
 
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