We got a bus!
And it’s much more than a bus! Read below to see what this means for our little community.
Nine years ago we opened AINA-Paolo Academy, a primary school serving the children of AINA-New Hope Children’s Home. We opened this school in response to need in the community – need for a school that treated HIV positive children with the same dignity and respect as all other children in the community. HIV and AIDS carry significant stigma in Kenya as a result of the high death rates and severe illness that swept the country in the nineteen-nineties. Although rates of infection have plummeted and anti-retroviral treatment is widespread, there is still significant fear of the disease. As a consequence, those infected suffer the stigma and discrimination of positive diagnosis. Our children at AINA-New Hope were subject to this discrimination in their schools where dilapidated classrooms, lack of resources, and unqualified teachers were common. In 2012 we built AINA-Paolo Academy to provide equal education to children effected by HIV. We opened the school to the community and offered reduced fees to encourage enrollment. Despite our fantastic resources and low admission costs, the children did not come, the stigma was too great. Over the past nine years we have worked in the community to reduce stigma through a variety of outreach and informational campaigns. Through our clinic, we provide a range of services that bring HIV positive and negative individuals to our campus. Stigma is a funny thing though, it is not overt and not easily overcome. It remains silent and is often immeasurable. Over the past nine years we have seen little change in behavior in our community, until now. In January 2021 we were overwhelmed by the number of children hoping to enroll at AINA-Paolo Academy. Hundreds of families brought their children to the center, a tremendous surprise for our students and staff. We were able to admit 124 new students and unfortunately, had to turn many others away. This was an absolute victory for our staff and students and meant that we had outgrown our little transport van. And so, we got a bus.