OUR STORY | beginnings
Written by Sharon Clack (founder/president of the love organization)
About a week before my daughter Tirsha and embarked on a trip to South Africa to visit family and friends in 2004 it became apparent that God was directing me to contact some people I had not spoken to for many years. This call, and subsequent events, culminated in a relationship with Lily of the Valley, a struggling little AIDS orphanage in KwaZulu south Africa. Immediately evident, was the quality of this incredible place, administered with great integrity but also their great need. A vision was born that it might well become a way of directly responding to the AIDS crisis. Certainly we saw it as a way... for Americans to become involved and know that every penny of every dollar would reach its specified destination.
Within one week of that initial phone call to the Carpenters (a doctor and RN, who live and work in KwaZulu, the very heart of the AIDS pandemic), $10,000 was raised from a small handful of people at Conejo Valley Community Church. That was the very beginning and a confirmation that we were on the right track! With God's help and the exchange rate, this has been multiplied beyond our wildest imagination. Because of the obvious huge need, on our return we gathered a small group of people committed to this vision, and became a 501c3 (Lily of the Valley AIDS Foundation, DBA as LoVE USA) in the hopes of community and national involvement. Love is run on Christian principles but widely supported by Jewish Foundations and many others who support the incredible work being done. There is a need for all of us from every walk of life, to work together in the fight against this devastating pandemic to save the next generation!
In 2005 the first mission trip of thirty five Californians went to Lily. Hundreds have gone since from all over the US, both long and short term, on mission, vision and educational trips. We soon purchased a neighboring 200 acre farm and a journey began to rehabilitate an entire devastated rural Community through local enterprise and in the hopes of sustainability for the children's village. This has been a more difficult journey with many ups and downs. But the hope remains....! One of the many successes has been the building and staffing of the Lily Medical Center which has enabled our children to get medication and the critical medical care they need.
From early on our hope was to 'plant more lilies'! So we ventured, with God's direction, into taking on an existing institution then called Makaphutu about 50 miles from Lily which had to be rebuilt in every sense. In July 2006, this work
began and, modeled on Lily of the Valley, has developed into an amazing place though still greatly dependent on LoVE USA for survival. They now have a new name iKhethelo (which means the Chosen Ones) as per the children's request:) This second AIDS orphanage is situated in the exquisitely beautiful Valley of a Thousand Hills which sadly, is also known also as the Valley of Despair. In this area, 150,000 people suffer from AIDS (without medication) and live in abject poverty and hunger. As with Lily, outreach into the surrounding community has begun.
Recently, we have expanded our reach to include yet a third wonderful children's village known as LIV (Lungisisa Indlela Village).
Our story is one of hurt to enormous hope - both in the lives of our children and our villages - incorporating huge struggles and successes and ever changing needs. We dream big and are never disappointed.
LoVE USA continues to grow. Always our directive to care for widows and orphans found in Js 1v 27 remains a priority as we serve many thousands of people. We value every partnership, new old and yet to come and thank you for making a difference. Every effort, large and small is much appreciated. There really ‘is a way'!