When the late Father Angelo D’Agostino, an American Jesuit and medical doctor, discovered that orphanages in Kenya were turning away HIV-infected infants, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Alongside Sister Mary Owens, an Irish nun with a background in education and counseling, he established the Nyumbani Children’s Home in 1992 to serve children impacted by HIV/AIDS in Kenya. Today, with Sister Mary as executive director, Nyumbani (“home” in Kiswahili) programs reach more than 4,000 children infected and affected by HIV.
In addition to direct medical care, Nyumbani programs provide a sustainable, child-focused approach that includes education, stigma reduction, workforce training, and community integration. Four Nyumbani programs in Kenya combine medical and diagnostic facilities with a family-centered model of care and support:
- Nyumbani Children’s Home: Provides care for 120 HIV-positive children from infancy to age 23
- Lea Toto Community Outreach Centers: Serve nearly 3,000 HIV-positive children and their families at eight sites in Nairobi slums
- Nyumbani Diagnostic Laboratory: Offers quality testing and counseling for children and adults affected by HIV in addition to generating income through serving the broader community
- Nyumbani Village: Houses 1,000 children and 100 grandparents affected by HIV/AIDS
Despite the progress made, Sister Mary knows much is left to do. “The stigma has to be eradicated,” she said. “HIV is a medical condition – that’s all it is. But I am afraid that a high percentage of people don’t see it like that.”