Small Business Development Helps AIDS Orphans

Tanzania business

In April 2009, 45 caretakers of orphans and vulnerable children graduated from a two-week program in food processing, sponsored by CRS’ partner the Catholic Diocese of Tanga and funded by an PEPFAR project. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

When the women break into song as we enter the room, it’s not just a welcoming greeting. It’s a song of thanks for the help they are receiving starting small businesses.

Up in Tanga, on Tanzania’s northern coast, scores of children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, leaving them to face enormous challenges:

• When one parent dies, the other is left as the sole earner and is rarely able to cover the family’s food and schooling expenses.

• When both parents die, the children are often taken in by relatives whose resources are already stretched exceedingly thin to support their own families.

• When no relatives are available or willing to assist, the eldest orphan can end up caring for his or her younger siblings, becoming the head of their household even when as young as 14—and likely dropping out of school to do so.

Catholic Relief Services through funding through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is helping to support thousands of orphans across Africa. A key aspect of supporting these children is helping their caregivers earn a better living.

Recently, 45 women in Tanga graduated from a two-week program in food processing. They learned how to make and package multiple products, including sauces, juices and jam. These single parents and guardians of orphans can now use these skills to earn additional money.

Individual grants of about $40 are also giving the women needed capital to purchase initial supplies and equipment for small businesses of their choosing. The grants and training, along with significant educational support for the orphans in each household, are enabling families to escape daily hunger and keep children in school—changing their lives in ways most Americans simply can’t imagine.

— Debbie DeVoe, CRS regional information officer, East Africa

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