Vision to Reality

HIV/AIDS has killed millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa and has left over 13 million orphans. Some are taken in by relatives. Many are not. Born poor, these children lack the basic necessities of everyday life. With vision, leadership and well-targeted resources, their lives can change. The vision behind our story begins with Godfrey Mahenge, a medical student who planned to return to his village, Idweli, to care for its nearly 250 AIDS orphans. Tragically, Godfrey died in an accident before he could realize his dream. His friends and relatives took up the cause, and teamed up several non-profits, including the Lundy Foundation and a local Tanzanian nonprofit named after Godfrey.

The approach taken was unique.

Working together, the partnership began by asking the children to describe the greatest problems facing them in their daily lives. Drawing pictures to depict their thoughts, the children identified the loss of parents and other family members to HIV/AIDS. They envisioned a center where orphaned children could be sheltered and fed. In 2005 Godfrey’s Children Center was born from the children’s dreams. In partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, we convened a team of evaluation experts who designed and implemented a rigorous research program to measure the impact of the Children’s Center on the village’s orphaned and vulnerable children’s well-being. We have piloted a research methodology that can be used by other private and governmental entities working to improve the well-being of children worldwide. In addition, we advocated in Washington, D.C., for legislation that would require recipients of U.S. foreign aid to evaluate the impacts of the programs funded so we can determine whether America’s generosity is achieving the desired goals.