Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk about AIDS

by Deborah Ellis

There are 11.5 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who have been orphaned because... read more

There are 11.5 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who have been orphaned because of AIDS. Deborah Ellis traveled to Malawi and Zambia to talk to some of them, and the 50 or so voices presented here—of children, teens, and several adults who have stepped in to care for orphaned children—put faces and stories to that staggering number. Through their words so much is revealed: fear and pain and suffering, but also hope and courage and resilience. Many of these children and teens have been managing adult responsibilities for much of their lives—taking care of sick or dying parents, responsible for younger siblings, or completely on their own. Most have benefited from the work of organizations and individuals in their communities who have taken on the overwhelming challenge of tackling some of the issues that go hand in hand with the AIDS crisis: they provide meals or a safe place to sleep for kids who would otherwise be on the street, or they run support groups and provide AIDS education to battle ignorance and the stigma associated with the disease—a stigma reflected in the comments of many of the children and teens, who often don’t know what their parents died from. The children and teens dream of becoming nurses, doctors, teachers, accountants, or actors in the future. They dream of being good people. The clarity and strength of their voices makes this a heartening book, even as the picture it paints of the world in which they live is sobering. Each section of interviews opens with one or more quotes—from politicians, activists, poets, and others—that underscore how this crisis is one that requires not only compassion, but also resources and cooperation on a scale that has yet to be seen. (Ages 11–18)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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