Helping ‘Aids Orphans’
to Stand on Their Own

DUBAI - Conservationist Andrew Muir couldn’t bear to think that South Africa has more than 88,000 children who carry out household chores because their parents were victims to poverty and HIV/Aids.

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Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sat 22 Nov 2008, 1:31 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 7:22 PM

South Africa has the biggest number of HIV/Aids affected people in the world with the number touching 5.5 million and the orphans on account of this is around 2.2 million in the country

The brainchild of Andrew Muir — Uzmi Wethu — is a training academy for displaced youth and orphans who have lost their parents to HIV/Aids and poverty.

Andrew has been nominated for the Rolex Entrepreneurship Award 2008, for his initiatives with Uzmi Wethu.

Forty-two-year-old Muir realised the enormity of the situation in 2004 when he read a UN report which stated that 80 per cent of the world’s orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This is a massive issue not from a social perspective alone but from an environmental angle as well.

“Considering the vulnerability of orphaned children, they are prone to go to any extent to survive, like poaching and, chopping trees for firewood and shelter,” said Muir.

He added that besides environmental concerns, orphan children can develop a dependence on alcohol or drugs, or turn to crime or prostitution to survive.

The Uzmi Wethu programme primarily targets orphans from the poorest communities.

The organisation intends providing secure shelters for its resident students to develop.

Sixty per cent of the youth attending the programme are Aids ‘affected’ orphans not necessarily by infection.

Muir stressed that the Uzmi Wethu is not an orphanage or a state institution, but a training facility that teaches teenage orphans to cook and possibly train to be rangers — the two sectors in the tourism industry with the highest potential for employment.

“We cooperate with various non governmental institutions (NGO), government organisations and childhood welfare institutions to identify potential candidates and the organisation takes them through job skills and a learning experience.

“We concentrate more on the psychological aspect of the training because the students that come to us are severely traumatised” said Muir.

The programme has a high success rate so far with 48 out of the 50 graduate’s already securing jobs in the eco-tourism sector.

“South Africa has a recent history of reaching out to those in need and I take inspiration from leaders like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu who are some of the greatest South Africans the world has ever seen. I dream of spreading the programme to all parts of Africa,” said Muir.

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