Dare to Care is Mustard Seed Communities' program that is solely dedicated to providing compassionate support to abandoned children in Jamaica affected by HIV. Dare to Care was established in 2000 to address the urgent need for critical care of children who had been abandoned due to HIV. Today, the program operates three homes in Kingston, offering a nurturing environment where these children can thrive.
In response to the growing number of children impacted by HIV without a home, Mustard Seed Communities extended the Dare to Care program to Zimbabwe. This expansion provides much-needed care to children affected by HIV — ensuring that these children in vulnerable circumstances receive comprehensive support to meet their social, medical, educational, and spiritual needs.
At Mustard Seed Communities, we are unwavering in our commitment to care for abandoned children affected by HIV. Through Dare to Care, we offer holistic support that addresses physical, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being —we are dedicated to creating a safe and empowering environment where children who were once abandoned can flourish.
Philosophy of Care
Dare to Care was established with the firm belief that all persons are entitled to live worthy lives. In the early stages of the program, we focused on providing hospice care to children at the end stages of AIDS. As treatment has improved, our focus has shifted to empowering these children to live a full life.
In both Jamaica and Zimbabwe, the Dare to Care program emphasizes education and spirituality. Most children in the program attend MSC's Little Angels Learning Center and some of the older children attend school in the surrounding communities. It is the aim of Dare to Care to foster residents' education in the local school system. Integrating the residents into societal norms presents a challenge due to the stigmas associated with the disease. The children participate in regular church services through the Mustard Seed Communities' Catholic programs.
As they grow older, residents of the Dare to Care program become increasingly aware of the challenges associated with living with HIV. The program provides counseling sessions and other therapeutic activities to assist with the integration process. Psychosocial support can be a significant challenge in terms of resources; therefore, MSC hopes to obtain a full-time counselor and pursue additional support systems such as a mentoring program.
Saving & Prolonging Lives
Dare to Care's biggest success is saving or prolonging the lives of children who are HIV-positive. Oftentimes, the children placed in the Dare to Care program are visibly affected by the disease; however, with the intervention of medication and love that the home provides, the majority of the children make notable strides in overall health. Approximately 85% of residents at Dare to Care are living longer and relatively healthy lives. One resident, who came to the home three months pregnant, was immediately placed on the HIV program at the University Hospital and treated with proper medication prior to delivery. Once born, the baby was also treated for six weeks after his birth. Miraculously, tests revealed that the baby is HIV-negative!
The Dare to Care program assists children who have contracted HIV through sexual abuse. For example, two teenage residents who came to us after such abuse have grown immensely. In addition to physical healing and antiretroviral medication, they have received counseling, skills, training, and education to help them process the reality of the impact of the virus in the safe environment of Dare to Care.
Providing Access to Treatment
Dare to Care receives free antiretroviral drugs for all of the children on medication from the Global Fund which distributes aid from the US government for persons infected with HIV in the Caribbean. Dare to Care strives to provide worthwhile and sufficient care for children affected by HIV by consistently learning more about medical treatment and the socio-emotional effect on the residents. In order to gain further knowledge, Dare to Care works as closely as possible with the relevant state bodies, such as the Ministry of Health, National AIDS Committee, and the Child Development Agency.
Lasco Pharmaceutical initiated the supply of generic drugs at an affordable cost and donates about 20% of these important drugs to the Dare to Care Jamaica program. As a result, 32 of the children who were not doing well clinically were placed on treatment.
Increasing Awareness & Sensitivity
The stigmatization of individuals infected with HIV remains a central issue to Mustard Seed Communities and the Dare to Care program. Children living with HIV can be mistreated and isolated from society: they are barred from schools if their status is known. Often, children with HIV are treated with disdain and disregard by their communities and even by family. They are frequently left without a home because their parents have died from AIDS or they are abandoned by relatives who do not want to have any association with them. As a result, these children often suffer from developmental delays and psychological trauma.
At Dare to Care, the children are treated with respect and dignity. Their education goes beyond academia to help with the developmental aspects of their lives. Most importantly, they are cherished — Mustard Seed caregivers, volunteers, and visitors shower these children with love and attention. Children who were once withdrawn and dejected now strive to live their lives with vigor and purpose — knowing their future is filled with possibilities. Dare to Care helps to break down barriers created against children with HIV by society by exemplifying to the community that they are loving, smart, caring children who have plans to live a full, successful life!