Founded in Uganda in 1995 by Sam Tushabe, AOET (AIDS Orphan Education Trust) is an independent, grassroots response to the suffering Sam witnessed in his own community. AOET is a Christian organization compelled by these words in Scripture: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27). AOET seeks to empower communities to be able to care and provide for the many children who live there and who have been orphaned or made vulnerable as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Ginger Damron, an American who met Sam Tushabe during her travels in Uganda, returned to the United States and founded AOET~USA in 2006. Her vision to support the work of AOET began with a child sponsorship program. Over 80% of funds raised by AOET~USA are sent to Africa. This means more than $.80 of every dollar goes to the welfare of the children being supported and is used to fund the AOET~Africa programs. AOET~USA is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization.
About AOET Programs
At this time, AOET~USA primarily supports the AOET Child Sponsorship Program in Uganda. However, AOET operates in Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda and Botswana as well, and has four primary programs that aim to provide better health, increased stability in the communities where the children live, physical and spiritual development, and a lot of love, laughter, and joy.
Child Welfare Program
School fees, uniforms, books, and meals are just the starting point when AOET provides care for vulnerable children. Staffmembers of the Child Welfare Program are the eyes and ears finding out about children in need and getting them into the program. The counselors reach out to children who are experiencing hardship and the social workers seek workable solutions for families in need.
Medical Care Program
In Africa, people die every day from treatable infections. A simple cut left untreated can be fatal in unsanitary conditions. AIDS is still wreaking havoc throughout the population and many people, including children, require HIV screening and medication to live. The AOET Medical Clinic provides basic health care and immunizations for all the children in the program, and works to address the needs of the rest of community as well. AOET's Women’s Clinic provides health education and a safe place for mothers to give birth--greatly reducing the risk of transferring AIDS to the infant.
Finding work for the poor in Africa is an ongoing struggle. High jobless rates, little to no education or training, and no resources can leave the poor feeling completely hopeless in any effort to provide for their families. Without support and skills improvement, poverty becomes a generational cycle. AOET believes that empowerment happens when people learn to provide for themselves. AOET provides vocational training, assistance in animal husbandry, agricultural skills training, and business start-up funding.
It takes a lot of coordination both in Uganda and in the U.S. to maintain hundreds of child sponsorship relationships, process new applications from children and grow sponsorship, manage fiscal responsibility, and develop healthy infrastructure. Administration requires long-term support and commitment, yet is often one of the least-supported parts of non-profit organizations.