A Tribute to Noreen Huni
“There continues to be concerns around children exposed to HIV and AIDS and their development in the region. Even though the jury is still out, emerging discourse is becoming more vocal on the need for early stimulation, care and support for these children. This includes, exposed but uninfected children. I think World Forum Foundation needs to keep the HIV and AIDS on the radar. ECD for exposed children is becoming a topical issue and practitioners need to find ways of supporting the children. Best. God bless.”
– Noreen Huni
World Forum Community joins advocates and organizations, families and children across Africa and around the world in mourning the passing of Noreen Huni. To all of us who had the blessing of knowing Noreen, we will forever hold on to the intensity of her connection, her passion for children, her commitment to her life’s mission no matter her physical crisis, and her deep and profound faith. Noreen has been a pillar of World Forum work for many years and was instrumental to calling attention to the impact of HIV/AIDS on young children and families. She worked with others to create Voices of Hope: HIV/AIDS Action Tank, an ongoing Working Group of the WFF.
“If you had the good fortune to meet Noreen – through her capacity as the founding Executive Director and CEO of the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), or in her role as the Co-Chair of the Coalition – you know well what it was to be graced with her warmth, passion, and humility. It is rare that you find a dedicated leader with such vision, compassion, and drive combined with a cheeky smile and the kindest of hearts.
From the beginning of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, Noreen played key roles, demanding that children and families hardest hit receive the support they need to not only survive but to foster the resilience needed to thrive. Her tireless efforts to mainstream psychosocial support into programs for children and youth have guided the work of numerous organizations and policy making bodies throughout Sub Saharan Africa, impacting the lives of countless children and families. The long-lasting impact of Noreen’s efforts goes far beyond the region of Sub Saharan Africa, shaping multiple fields and global processes.
Among her many well-deserved honors was the prestigious 2018 Klaus Jacobs prize for social innovation in the field of youth and child development. But Noreen needed no awards to prove her worth. Coalition member, Lorraine Sherr’s recollection of a recent meeting in Tanzania exemplifies Noreen’s passion for her work and for life itself:
‘Despite failing health, she chaired this groundbreaking meeting with the energy of a youth, finished up the business meeting promptly and went racing to the game park on the slopes of the Kilimanjaro mountain to feast her eyes on pink flamingos. We feasted our eyes on her happiness. The earth echoes hollow with Noreen’s death.'”
– members and friends of the Coalition for Children Affected by AIDS
Noreen was an inspiration to so many of us in the fields of pediatric HIV and early childhood development. She was a warrior in the fight to educate others about the emotional lives of children infected and affected by HIV, and she was unflinching in her advocacy for communities to build sustainable supports for vulnerable families and their children. Noreen understood that advances in access and treatment for HIV disease depended centrally on addressing psychological factors, social stigma, and discrimination. She called on us all, across the globe, to protect the humanity of HIV-involved children and to invest in their future well-being. Her enormous energy and gifts as a leader were matched, equally, by her uncommon warmth, positive spirit, and deep connections with colleagues— felt by so many of us. Rest in peace, Sister Noreen. We will miss you.
–World Forum Friend, Martha Vibbert