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Memory Box Project {format} {format} {format} 3:40 Barrett Golding & Sandra Rattley

Parental keepsakes for African AIDS orphans.

Broadcast: Dec 2 2007 on HV PODCAST; Nov 13 2003 on NPR Day to Day Subjects: Health, International, Family

Profile: AIDS workers in Uganda share what's inside Memory Boxes

November 13, 2003 from Day to Day

MADELEINE BRAND, host: Children on another continent face a far more serious health crisis. The United Nations estimates that 15 million African children have already lost a parent to AIDS. In Uganda, community groups developed a simple way for AIDS orphans to remember their moms and dads. It's called a Memory Book.

Abiola Tilley-Gyado of Plan International and AIDS workers Jonathan Morgan and Kylie Thomas describe what's kept inside.

(Soundbite of children singing in foreign language)

Ms. ABIOLA TILLEY-GYADO (Plan International): The children that have been affected by this epidemic, their parents die at a young age. They don't even know sometimes what their parents stood for, what their parents would have wanted them to do at their waiting, what their parents' parents were like. All those things are recorded in a Memory Book, and I'll tell you, I've seen these Memory Books and those children guard them with their lives.

Mr. JONATHAN MORGAN (AIDS Worker): And a Memory Book was just any old, like, exercise book; whatever people wanted, they picked up. And typically HIV-positive mothers began entering information as a kind of journal into this book. They would also store these books in boxes. It could be a basket or a childhood suitcase or some family trunk, whatever they wanted.

Ms. KYLIE THOMAS (AIDS Worker): So this is one of them. This is a bright yellow box with red AIDS ribbons painted on the sides. And inside the box are little matchboxes hanging from red strings. Each one of the matchboxes has got a different title on it. There's `friend,' `time,' `life,' `soul' and `victim.' One of them says `condom.' Open it. So...

Mr. MORGAN: On `condom,' `Forget HIV-AIDS. Advertise and market me more. Don't forget to make me useful.' She really engaged with a whole lot of HIV-AIDS information in the form of pamphlets that were lying around in the workshop. It's a very psychedelic box--lots of colors, with lots of amazing information about, like, viral load and HIV attacks your immune cells and T-4 cells and CD-4 cells. And this box is--actually it's a bit of a resource in itself. Someone could read it and learn a lot about HIV and AIDS.

Now this one is interesting. It was made in Guguletu by the group. It has a picture of people running down the streets in New York. And, you know, it's a different kind of a fear. It's a different kind of disaster, but certainly it's quite interesting to juxtapose it to the huge pandemic which, in some ways, doesn't get the same kind of media attention. We go to townships every day and see people really dying and the world doesn't seem to care.

Sometimes when people hear about Memory Boxes, it sounds like a little bit morbid. It's like HIV equals AIDS equals death and, you know, get down your story before you die so you can leave a legacy for your children. But, you know, it's really an opportunity to get in touch with whatever story you want to through this book.

Ms. THOMAS: And you can do it as a celebration of life.

Mr. MORGAN: Sure. And inside it you could put an audiocassette of your own voice or you could sing a song, incorporate children's drawings and children's handprints. There's hardly anything that can't go into a Memory Box.

(Soundbite of woman singing in foreign language)

BRAND: That segment was produced by Barrett Golding of Hearing Voices. The interviews came courtesy of Bush Radio of South Africa and Sandra Rattley at the Africa Learning Channel.

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.