Community Care pediatrician Dr. Emanuel Cirenza, FAAP, completed his first medical humanitarian mission in Bugembe, Uganda. It was only the beginning of his passionate work abroad with the Aids Orphan Education Trust (AOET), a Christian non-profit organization. AOET's mission is to engage supporters and acquire financial resources to provide education, training, health care, and spiritual development to children and families in Uganda who were made vulnerable due to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Since AOET was established in the early 2000s, the organization has grown with the support of people like Dr. Cirenza. "It has two schools (primary and secondary) that educate children from age four until nineteen," he explains. Additionally, AOET has established what they call "a children's village" – a series of homes in a village where sponsored families live at a reduced rent, and AIDS orphans are adopted to live with the families. They receive support and training so that after three years, the families graduate and start businesses to help support themselves.
"My main interest has been in the medical clinic, though," Dr. Cirenza said, adding that the AOET medical clinic serves the needs of the community as well as the sponsored families, providing urgent care, general care, HIV care, midwifery, and immunizations to the village. A member of the Medical Board for AOET-USA, Dr. Cirenza, has led two teams on medical missions in Uganda, completing five missions himself. Inspired by his work, Dr. Cirenza's wife and children have joined him on missions, instilling a legacy of compassion and philanthropy in his family's next generation. "It is truly the most fulfilling thing I have ever known," he said. "The folks there are so grateful, and the children, although poor and dressed in rags with so little, are so incredibly vibrant and energetic."
When asked about where the need was greatest for the organization, he shared that a recent decrease in funding from the US government has amplified the need for support to the impoverished community. Now, the pandemic has crippled Uganda and the already vulnerable clinic. "They're in desperate need of support. Harsh restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus have left many without work. Most people live day to day using the money they've earned by working to feed themselves and pay for healthcare. Without work, there is no money to buy food or healthcare," said Dr. Cirenza. "When teams like mine go over, we often bring medical supplies (needles, gloves, etc.). But right now, we can't go due to COVID restrictions."
How can you help? With travel and other restrictions due to the pandemic, medical missions are not possible, but there are ways to support the AIDS Orphan Education Trust. Donations can be made directly to the medical clinic by visiting the AOET website (click on the "AOET Health Centre").
When the time comes to resume medical missions, Dr. Cirenza welcomes newcomers interested in joining him. "Everyone has a skill that can be used during a mission!"
Dr. Emanuel Cirenza, FAAP, has been board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics since 1998, and he is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. His practice, Community Care Pediatrics Saratoga, has office locations in Gansevoort and Malta.