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Mission Spotlight: AIDS Orphans

Photos courtesy AIDS Orphans and Street Children

Bob Bland never intended to work in African orphan relief. But when he saw the plight of AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, he knew he had to do something to help with the problem.

Bland was experienced in mission work, having served as a Youth for Christ and a Christian Service Corps staffer and as a local church pastor. In 1970, he and his wife formed Teen Missions International, an organization that has helped more than 54,000 young people take short-term mission trips to more than 25 countries around the world. It was during the course of this work that Bland came face to face with the AIDS epidemic in Africa and started a sister organization, AIDS Orphans and Street Children.

Since the 1970s, some 17 million people have died of AIDS in the region, leaving behind 13 million orphans. AIDS Orphans has established a base in Zimbabwe and village outposts in 10 other countries, where staffers work to pass out medication and care for the needs of those orphans.

Student and adult groups that join a mission trip with AIDS Orphans are in for a serious adventure. The trips start with two weeks of training at a base in Florida that is followed by deployments to African villages, where the group members will often sleep in the open air and live with the locals. While there, teams help construct schools and church buildings, and some travel from village to village with local evangelists to put on dramas, puppet shows and bible schools.

Many groups that make the trip to Africa bring donated shoes and socks for “foot-washing” missions among the orphans. Adult teams with some construction experience can also help with well-drilling projects, which provide critical clean water to the villages.

AIDS Orphans and Street Children

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.