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Poverty Alleviation Projects

February 29, 2008

Dear Friends:

Welcome to your February 2008 report for The $10 Club.

Locked in southern Africa between South Africa and Mozambique, the Kingdom of Swaziland has just over one million people and the highest global prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The UNAIDS office estimates that the number of people in Swaziland living with HIV is 220,000, with more than a third of the people aged 15-49 having contracted the disease.

The web of severe impacts from the epidemic is complex and far-reaching. Women contract the disease when they take care of infected partners. The elderly lose their children caregivers who die of AIDS. And young children, who are particularly vulnerable, suffer and die dreadfully or are orphaned when their parents succumb.

UNAIDS estimates that nearly 90% of all HIV-positive children in the world live throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The Kingdom of Swaziland’s official report on HIV/AIDS estimates the number of AIDS orphans to have been about 32,000 in 2001, 70,000 today, with a likely increase to more than 120,000 by 2010. AIDS orphans are marginalized without access to food, shelter, and many other social services. They also may lose what little educational opportunities they have when teachers die from disease.

Children’s Cup is a nonprofit humanitarian organization based in Louisiana that operates “Care Points” throughout Swaziland to provide much-needed relief to AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children in the country.

Dave Ohlerking, the organization’s president, recently told me that one of the most urgent unfunded needs of the organization is the money necessary to cover the cost of children’s camps that the organization runs. According to Dave, the kids are bussed off to a nice area (many of these children have never been more than a mile from their birthplace) to spend several days at a pleasant facility playing group games and receiving social and skills training. These camps are grouped by age with the four age groups each having their own camp once each year. Dave says, “It is great to see the birth of hope in these children who previously thought of the future only in terms of where they could get their next meal.”

This month, 380 of us joined together to donate $3,800 to Children's Cup to run youth camps for AIDS orphans in Swaziland. Our grant will enable four camps, each running two or three days, over the next six months. Between 1,200 and 1,500 kids will be served by the camps. Our grant will fund rental of the venue, transportation, take-home hygiene kits, food, and supplies for crafts, sports, and other recreational activities. Thank you. The camps are held at various locations depending on availability, including, for instance, schools with soccer fields. Camp activities include group games, contests, singing, skills instruction, health and AIDS awareness lessons, sports, and appearances by local personalities. The camps also provide a training opportunity for kids with leadership abilities so they can go to other areas and schools to encourage other children to have hope and excel in life.

Children attending the camp are between five and eighteen. Some of the children are toddlers who are in the care of their older siblings. Children all too often have to act as the head of the household. In one case, a six year old was the total provider for herself and her three year old brother, both of whom contracted AIDS from their dying father.

Children’s Cup staff reports that after the buses take kids home from the camp the children often express how their lives are changed forever, and for the better. One 14 year-old wrote a note thanking the group for the food every day, acknowledging, “This is the first time in my life that I ever sat at a table and ate with a knife and fork.”

The other day Dave from Children’s Cup emailed me this about the camps: “This is a highly emotional enterprise and we never get used to losing the battle for these young lives to AIDS. Payday comes when a bunch of kids come running to hug our necks and thank us for changing their lives.”

You won’t be in Swaziland the day that hug is offered, but you should take immeasurable comfort in the knowledge that these children were touched, their lives enriched perhaps as never before, because of your simple sacrifice this month. That is a miracle to cherish.

In more than five years of work carrying forward our agenda of poverty alleviation I’ve read a lot of ghastly tales of human frailty. One of the most grotesque, however, is that I’ve now learned that one of the alleged reasons children contract AIDS in places like sub-Saharan Africa is that men with the deadly disease are convinced by the myth that they can be cured by having sex with a virgin. And since toddlers are most likely virgins, these poor innocents are targeted. There is no word to describe such a gut-wrenchingly atrocious thought.

I am simply ill-equipped—powerless, quite frankly—to stop the proliferation of AIDS in Swaziland or elsewhere. Individually I just can’t do anything substantial about it. But the fact that I can’t do it all shouldn’t stop me from doing something. So today I am going to take great joy in knowing that for $10 I just sent well over 1,000 at-risk kids in Swaziland to a life-affirming, life changing camp. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll receive the inspiration and skills to change their lives… to save their lives. It’s the most sensible purchase I’ve made this month.

Saving the world, ten dollars at a time,
Adam M. Roberts
Founder & President

PS. I’m already hard at work on next month’s project. Thank you for your ongoing support — you see how vital our work is! Please tell your friends about our good work and encourage them to join.

The $10 Club is a nonprofit corporation registered in the District of Columbia.
Contributions are exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The $10 Club 2040 Tunlaw Rd., NW Washington, DC 20007 (202) 337-3123 adam@thetendollarclub.org