Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa

AIDS continues to be a global epidemic, particularly in Africa. According to the foreward of the book Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa, 22 million people living in the sub-Saharan African have HIV. 12 million children who live here have lost one or both parents to the epidemic. And they rarely get the help that they need.

Photographer Karen Ande stumbled upon the issue of children being affected by AIDS when she was already in Kenya on assignment. She quickly became involved in raising awareness and money to help the young children, visiting nonprofit organizations in the Bay area and grassroots organizations in Africa. Reaching out to friend and former roommate Ruthann Richter, a medical writer, she hoped to expand her reach. The result was this collaboration.

Ande and Richter spent time meeting people around Kenya, taking pictures and getting to know them. Each one shares his or her story about the virus, and how it has affected them. Focus is placed on the places that specifically help children, such as Mama Darlene Children's Centre, and Saidia Children's Home.

You can't help but be emotionally moved as you read the stories of these beautiful people who have loved and lost so much. Yet, they carry on day to day. I was particularly moved by stories, such as the young boy named Kevin. He was rescued by a man he called "Daddy", after his mother was murdered. Daddy gave Kevin a green jacket. Daddy also passed away, from AIDS. Kevin couldn't be persuaded to take the coat off for weeks, as he hoped wearing it would bring Daddy back. Accompanying this story is the somber, angry face of the young boy wearing the coat, followed by the smile of a boy who is adjusting to his new life.

The innocence shown on the faces of these children compel you to want to reach out and hug them, and do whatever it takes to help them. The happiness and joy captured as they settle into their new lives makes you grateful for every gift that you have. But you also have to wonder how, when faced with such tragedy and misery, they can still seem so happy. Many people who "have it all" cannot express such true joy. The creators wish to create emotions within the readers, and in this they have truly succeeded.

At the end of the book, contact information for each organization profiled throughout the book is provided. Also included are other organizations who can provide help. It is the hope of Ande and Richter that people will be moved to do something to help.

Find more information by visiting their website at

Purchase Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa

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