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AIDS + Starcross

Starcross in Africa

In 1996 we gathered with many friends to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Starcross in Annapolis. It seemed a good time to recognize the stress that the AIDS pandemic had placed on our emotional, spiritual, and financial well-being. Brother Toby announced that Starcross would not engage in any new international project. A few days later a letter came from Africa asking for help.

As our old friend Bro. Stan Sobczyk, of St. Mary's College, put it - while laughing - "Toby said Starcross would not sponsor any more international activities -- then God said ... ."

Brother Toby in Africa.Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the world's highest HIV/AIDS infection rates. Without access to medications, large numbers of adults die quickly. Children would ordinarily have gone to live with aunts and uncles - but soon those too are dead. In some areas whole generations are missing. Only elderly grandparents and children were left. There is barely enough to keep a child alive and no money for education.

We were asked by an ordinary person, who found our name in a book, to found a program in Uganda. We needed to provide not only food, medicine, and education for a child but to do it until they were well launched in life. Hope was what we were cultivating. It took awhile for a child to believe again in "a bright future" as they put it.

Sister Julie in Uganda.We gathered co-workers from our group of AIDS orphan sponsors and formed Starcross Kin Worldwide (SKW), a separate non-profit corporation with a board of directors. Brother Toby and then Sister Julie served as the CEO.

Many children come to SKW malnourished, suffering from repeated bouts of malaria. Some are disabled by anxiety and sever emotional trauma. A few have HIV/AIDS. If there is a viable family, we support the family. When the last adult dies the child comes to our House of Hope in Kampala.

See Namusisi Jane, See Namusisi Jane Grow!

Namusisi Jane in Africa

From left to right - Left: Namusisi Jane, in front, where we found her at age 4 after her parents died of AIDS. Middle: Jane at 7 in a pretty dress, singing and dancing at our House of Hope in Uganda. Right: Jane at 13. Her top grades got her into a good high school. Her goal is to become a nurse and help her people.

Margaret Nanteza at Starcross.
Margaret at Starcross

After food, clothing, and medical care - our primary objective is education. Our director, Margaret Nanteza, overseas a flexible project. A child may live with a grandparent, or at the House of Hope and attend local schools. The majority of teens follow Ugandan custom and attend boarding schools. After secondary schools a few gifted ones go to University, most take vocational courses and receive certificates. Unemployment is very high but so far we have all of our graduates in good positions.

We have cared for well over 100 children, and we are very proud of our young teachers, carpenters, tailors, mechanics, culinary and hospitality leaders, artists, bookkeepers, journalists. They are also helping the younger children in the program as big sisters and brothers. Most are also engaged in other activities supporting the poor.

The objective is to help the children feel they are family to each other in a society that highly prizes a sense of family. This is working well. And, this is an on-going program. The need is increasing. To learn more about the project or becoming a sponsor email skw@starcross.org.

What SKW and the sponsors do is made up of individual stories. You can find many of these stories in the Starcross newsletters Sharings. Here is one story of a remarkable young woman - Nakkazi Milly Namwanje.

Please read on: Milly >

 
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