The worldwide AIDS epidemic has left millions of children orphaned and their numbers are rising at a staggering rate. Many of these children have lost both parents to this dreaded disease and often extended family members are either unable or unwilling to care for them. In order for siblings to remain together in such circumstances, they must form what has become known as a child-headed household, one in which the older children, some of whom are barely old enough to take care of themselves, must work and take responsibility for the younger ones. Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd has worked with the Religious Teachers Filippini for twelve years helping children such as these, and through her book AIDS Orphans Rising, tries to shed light on their plight and what the average person might be able to do to help.
I received a copy of AIDS Orphans Rising from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program quite a while ago and had never gotten around to reading it until recently. I believe that perhaps I was expecting more from this book and in the end felt somewhat let down. I thought that it might have more personal narratives of the children who have been orphaned by this terrible epidemic, but there was very little in the way of individual stories, only a few brief accountings to illustrate a particular point. I had also expected it to focus on the orphans of Africa, but the author randomly threw in information and statistics on AIDS orphans in other countries as well. In my opinion, it made the topic feel a bit too broad. What the book does cover is just the basics of what a child-headed household is and what life is like for them. Chapter topics include: Where do they live?, What do they eat?, How do they survive?, and What's best for them?. For me, it was rather dry reading, and simplistic information, most of which probably could have been found easily online. In my opinion, the entire book had the feel of a college research paper.
I realize it may not be the fault of the author, but some of the photos are very dark and difficult to make out. At least one photo mentioned a color in the caption, but since all of them are printed in black and white, there is no way to tell for sure what was meant. In general, I thought the pictures could have been better organized. Often the text would refer to a photo, but I would them have to turn the page to find it. Also, in my experience with language mechanics, exclamation marks should be used pretty sparingly, but Sr. MaryBeth uses them a lot in her book, often to end sentences which didn't really need them.
Each chapter wraps up with suggestions for things that the reader can do right now to help. Some of the ideas such as praying for them, giving money to organizations that specifically help child-headed households, or giving of your time to travel with a charitable organization to a country where child-headed households are prevalent to assist them were things I could have easily come up with on my own. Some of the other suggestions, such as contracting a local real estate agency to see what they could do, were a bit confusing to me, and still others talked of personally taking/giving items to the children. In this case, I wasn't sure if she was saying to ship them overseas or take them to local children in need. There were a few good ideas I hadn't thought of, but in my opinion, some of them were too open-ended, needing more guidance and clarification.
I hope that my review doesn't make me sound cold-hearted, because I do feel deeply for these children and their plight. In fact, that is what drove me to request the book in the first place. It just didn't turn out to be a huge inspiration to me personally. I could tell however, that Sr. MaryBeth has a big heart for the orphans especially those in child-headed households, and I wish her and all the others who are working for their well-being all the best in their endeavors. I'm sure there are other readers who may be more invigorated and motivated by AIDS Orphans Rising than I was. However, I couldn't help coming away from reading it feeling rather underwhelmed, and can't say that I learned much anything new or surprising.
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