Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd is one of those souls who reach out to fellow humans in need of urgent help. The worldwide Missionary Director for the Filippini Religious Teachers since 1995, she has been working to provide food and shelter to as well as make possible the education of scores of AIDS orphans in different countries – children who have lost their parents to the epidemic of AIDS and are now on their own. Sister Mary Beth published a book AIDS Orphans Rising (Loving Healing Press, 2007) that tells about the situation of AIDS orphans in Africa and what her charity is doing to help and empower these children. I am deeply thankful to Sister for taking her precious time for the following e-conversation.
Ernest: How long have you been working on helping AIDS Orphans in Africa and what countries have you worked in?
Sister: We have been here, working since 1994, not only in Africa – where we have been working in Ethiopia and Eritrea – but also in India, Brazil, and Albania.
Ernest: Where are you working now and what’s the ground reality there?
Sister: I continue to work in Ethiopia, Eritrea, India, Brazil and Albania. We are opening 2 new missions in India and that is a good thing as they have more orphans than one could imagine – predicted to be 4 million new orphans for 2010! In Brazil besides the orphans the biggest problem is the trafficking of the young girls. On the books they say that the average age of a young girl sold to a man is about 11 years old. Most of the girls we rescue are between the ages of 6 to 9 years old. The men go on vacation to Brazil just to rent the young girls for a week or two! Pray for them.
Ernest: What is the situation there with respect to the number of AIDS orphans and the sources of living available to them?
Sister: To illustrate with an example, where we are in Adigrat, Ethiopia, we have 700 orphans and in the diocese, there are 77,000! Lots of kids to feed and educate; and this year in the world, there will be 25 million orphans from Aids! India has many, many AIDS orphans, almost 4 million new ones this year alone!
Ernest: This is alarming! Are many children homeless, meaning without shelter and living in the open, in the area where you are currently working?
Sister: Most become homeless when the last parent dies. Searching for numbers on children living in sewers on Google will give you an estimate! We try to give them a small cement house we rent for $3 a month. The greatest gift to the children is a blanket! Some children live with extended family members, though in most cases, they are dead too. Lots of kids are living out on the streets. The situation is particularly appalling in India.
Ernest: How does your charity help the children?
Sister: We feed lots of children. But our main focus is really the education of women and children. Our schools are free and our classrooms are filled to overflowing, and we pay for many children to go to public schools. Many of our schools help the girls to learn to sew, cook, raise chickens, bees, and like, so that upon graduation, they might either join a cooperative or open their own microenterprise.
Ernest: Do you get enough donations to help a significant part of the AIDS orphans?
Sister: You see children eat every day; we really need funding to feed them; some people will give me money for buildings, which is good; but we really need money to feed the children. We do the best we can with all that we receive and at our missions, we are helping thousands of them survive.
Ernest: Is the government there doing anything to address this issue?
Sister: Not much, from what I can see; the numbers are overwhelming; with children becoming orphans every 14 seconds, you can imagine how swamped the governments are, not to mention drug-resistant TB. America is lucky to have foster care.
Ernest: And what about non-governmental organizations? Are they helping?
Sister: They are doing lots of good but it is hard to get funding; most of our missions are far out in the rural areas while the big cities get more funding.
Ernest: How can people who care to help the AIDS orphans donate to your charity?
Sister: They may send a check to the Religious Teachers Filippini Mission Fund — Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lloyd, MPF-455 Western Ave. Morristown, NJ 07960; they can email me for more information at [email protected], and of course, they can buy the book Aids Orphans Rising.
Ernest: And how can they be sure of transparency in the use of their donations. Are they allowed some kind of verification?
Sister: Yes of course, 100% of their money gets to the children. I am the one who spends it and I will send them pictures and tell them exactly how I have used their gift. We are a 501 c 3 Tax Deductible organization.
Ernest: Thank you very much Sister for your precious time!
Sister: Thank you for helping.
Learn more about Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd’s humanitarian work and her book at http://aidsorphansrising.org.