Sunday, August 12, 2012

AHOPE and IOFA - Celebrating New Beginnings

New beginnings in life are often difficult. It means that we must turn the pages to a new chapter of our lives, say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and muster as much strength and courage to face the uncertainties of what lies ahead. This week I witnessed the celebration of 16 youth who will move away from the sanctuary of their orphanage, AHOPE, to a transitional home. In some ways, the celebration marked not only their geographical move from one space to another, but signified their transition from kids to young adults. 

Preparation for this exciting event started days in advance. Official invites were sent to honored guests, dignitaries, partner organizations, and any loved ones close to the youth; the kitchen staff started cooking days prior, filling the air with smells of sweets, breads, and cakes and sacrificing a lamb in honor of the occasion; and the young kids at AHOPE practiced choreography and a short skit as a farewell to their elder peers. Meanwhile, the youth transitioning out had one full week of training to help them understand the significance of their move, some of the difficulties they might face, and how to overcome them.

The culmination of all these efforts was a touching ceremony attended by many community members. The kids at AHOPE adorned themselves with their best outfits and welcomed guests with smiles and hugs. The program included remarks by AHOPE’s executive and program directors, songs and choreography performed by the young kids, games, and an awards ceremony to recognize each of the individuals that will move into the transitional home. As explained by one of the program directors at AHOPE, this occasion is special because it celebrates a successful future for kids that are HIV/AIDS positive, some of which would have passed away as infants. The growth and transition of these 16 youth means that there is hope for future generations of children with similar situations.

When discussing the transition with two of the youth, they admitted that they were excited, but nervous at the same time. “This is the first time that we will move into a community where we will not know anyone. I hope people will welcome us into the neighborhood,” one youth commented. Another mentioned that he will miss AHOPE. “I will miss all of the kids and they will miss us. We grew up together. Now we will only see them during holidays.” Despite these sentiments, both kids felt ready for their move. “AHOPE prepared us well psychologically and physically. They held trainings for us to teach us about everything. They also gave us a guidebook to use as a resource.” Talking with both of the youth, each was confident that they were prepared for this new beginning.

The transitional home is the first facility created by AHOPE to provide further support to youth aging out of care until they reach the age of 24. Established as a communal living space, the home will give youth the opportunity to learn together how to live independently from the orphanage. The youth will be responsible to maintain this facility, continue with their education, and develop their own daily routines with the help of an AHOPE mentor. The goal of this transitional house is to familiarize youth with the various responsibilities associated with living independently, while maintaining some support from the orphanage. This will better prepare them for independence once they become 24.

Congratulations to all of the youth! We wish you the best!

Amharic Word of the Week:
Bayt- Home

Aatifa Sadiq
IOFA Program Development Intern

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