Editor's note: This month is the five-year anniversary of the World Vision U.S. Caregiver Kits program -- an initiative that equips volunteers with kits containing simple items that assist in caring for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
To honor the outstanding difference this program has made in the lives of caregivers and their clients, we asked Miyon to describe how World Vision volunteer caregivers are an asset to their communities.
The thing I love most about Zambia is the people. Sure, the landscape is beautiful -- big open land dotted with crops and thatched roof huts, blue skies with fluffy clouds. The wildlife is fantastic -- lions, giraffes, leopards, hippos. But it’s the spirit of the people who call this poverty-ridden country home that has truly captured my heart.
This spirit is especially evident in the volunteer community caregivers whom I have the privilege of working with every day as part of a World Vision program. These men and women are living out Christ’s command to love their neighbor in very tangible ways. And they do it willingly and with joy.
They visit those who are HIV-positive and those dying of AIDS, using Caregiver Kits to clean sores. They care for orphaned children by providing parental counseling. They gather firewood and water, and they clean homes. They support grandmothers -- praying with them, helping with house chores and being a listening ear to women who are struggling to care for their grandchildren.
And they are not the wealthy in their community, doing their “charitable duty” by helping their poor neighbors. They, too, are poor -- yet what little they have, they share with their clients who are sick and in need of much more.
Volunteer caregiver Monica visits with a few of her clients. © World Vision/Miyon Kautz
I met Raphael when he was 12. He is HIV-positive, as is his mother. His caregiver provided the simple relief he needed to cope. “My caregiver, Mr. Mulenga, is like a father to me," he says. "He was the one who took me in when I was sick. Without Mr. Mulenga, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Perhaps one of the most amazing assets of the caregivers is that when I ask them why they do what they do, they almost always reply, “because God called me.” The way they meet and greet their clients is also a beautiful representation of the strong, loving relationships they've built. Caregiver Monica says it best: “Without love, you can’t be a caregiver; with love, everything is possible. For my clients, they are loved and cared for; hence, their lives are prolonged."
Living out Christ’s call to love their neighbors and pressing ahead despite the crippling challenges that surround them -- all in a day's work for these God-given volunteers.
Miyon Kautz currently works for World Vision in Zambia as a communications and marketing advisor. She has spent most of her 15 years working for World Vision in Federal Way, Wash., managing various marketing programs and new initiatives.
Five-year "Caregiver Kits" highlights:
- There are more than 80,000 volunteer caregivers around the world who have used 285,392 kits to care for their neighbors.
- Menlo Park Presybterian Church, where the first Caregiver Kits assembly event took place in April 2006, has assembled 42,015 kits in the past five years.
- In the past five years, 285,392 kits have been assembled during 1,232 events in 49 different states as well as Washington, D.C. (The only state where we haven't had a kit build is Wyoming.)
- Caregiver Kits have been assembled everywhere from the Republican National Convention to an 8-year-old's birthday party at the park; from an Eagle Scout troop to a happy hour at Microsoft.
- The largest corporate kit build was 10,000 kits assembled by McKesson Medical-Surgical at its 2010 annual sales meeting.
Visit www.worldvision.org/carekits to find out more about the caregivers, kit assembly events, and other ways to become involved.