Seeking Self-Sufficiency In Africa
On every training and outreach opportunity Reach|Teach|Love International has, we always endeavor to partner with a local agency who is doing fantastic ongoing work. This time we are working with the Ebenezer Children’s Home which is an orphanage in Africa but so much more. The home is located in a remote, rural region an hour north of the capital city, and about 15 miles from the nearest village. The home cares for 82 children, 54 girls and 28 boys. There are 15 full-time staff working at the home. The home prefers the term “street children” to “orphans” because many of the children have parents. However, for various reasons, the children encounter circumstances that leave them homeless and they are taken into the home. The home is at full capacity, though there are thousands of children living on the streets in the capital city and surrounding villages. The home would love the ability to expand its services in order to take in more children but are limited in buildings and funding.
The home sits on 40 acres. The land is lush and beautiful. About 30 acres are capable of sustaining crops, although at this time only 8 acres are being cultivated. The home desires to cultivate much more of the property but is limited because all farming work is done by hand. The children do much of the farming work under the supervision of one farmer. Food grown on the property provides 35% of the nutritional needs of the home. Crops grown include corn, beans, sweet potatoes, yams, bananas, and cassava. There is also at least one jack fruit tree on the property. The other 65% is provided by donations. The is a strong desire for a tractor. The tractor would allow them to cultivate more of the land, thus producing more of the nutritional needs of the home in-house at less cost. They also hope to one day grow crops beyond their needs so the excess can be sold to raise additional funds for the home.
In addition to growing crops, the children care for cows, goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. The cows provide milk, while the goats and pigs are slaughtered and the meat sold. Donors provides the home with 15 kgs (33 lbs) of meat per week to be divided among the children. This works out to roughly 6 ounces per child per week.
The children all attend school at the government schools in the nearest village. The girls’ school is a 30-minute walk from the home. The boys’ school is 40 minutes away. School is not free in the country. Even government schools, which provide very poor education, cost approximately $14 per month. This figure does not include school supplies or lunch. These cost more. Private schools cost $100-130 per month and are too expensive for most Ugandans. Donors provide funding to send the children to school. But the home would love to build and operate a school on the grounds to provide a higher quality education, to avoid the 30-40 minute walk each way, and to save the school fees so that the funds can be used elsewhere. However, they have no funds to build the school building or operate the school.
The children speak very basic conversational English which they learn at school. Ebenezer also has one young woman who also teaches them English. The staff responded enthusiastically to the possibility of holding short-term intensive English classes for the children.
During my visit, I talked with several of the girls to hear their stories. Two of the girls were brought to the home when their only parent, a mother, was sent to jail. She is due to be released in 2023. However, the staff told me that the prisons are so bad in the country that she will likely be released with both physical and mental disease. Whether the girls will be sent to live with her will be determined at the time.
Two girls and their mother were abandoned by the father. He sold the house out from under them, rendering them homeless and living on the streets. The police brought the girls to the home while the mother tries to find work and housing.
One girl was raped by her father. Her mother’s whereabouts is unknown.
Two girls were born to deaf and mute parents, who are also living in extreme poverty. The surrounding community feared the girls would never learn to talk and never be able to attend school and so they came to Ebenezer.
I also met a sweet little girl who was born to a mother with AIDS. She contracted AIDS at birth, and requires special medical treatment each day, as well as a special diet. These are provided by the orphanage.
Two of the teenage girls were also mothers themselves. There is a special room in the girl’s dorm where their children are cared for while the mothers go to school.
Because the number of street children who need care is so great, the law provides that the children can only stay in the home one year. The government strongly encourages the home to place the children with their family of origin, if possible, extended family, or a foster family. However, this is a very challenging task and is not often successful. When the home is able to place them, usually these families cannot afford school fees, so the children’s schooling ends. When they cannot place the children, it can petition the government for permission to keep the children in the home. My impression was that the government readily grants this permission.
In addition to school, the home provides job skills. For the boys, this is limited to learning to care for the crops and animals. The girls are taught to sew or do hairdressing. When the girls turn 18 and leave the home, the desire is to provide them with either a manual sewing machine or the essential hairdressing tools. The staff spoke of a “Sustainability Fund” to cover these costs. At some point in the past, there must have been some funding for this, because the staff said they require the recipients of the sewing machines to repay 10% of the cost of the machines from the profits of their work. However, there are currently no funds for this program. This is the area Reach|Teach|Love is hoping to support if we can raise funds.
There is no electricity on the property. Solar panels provide enough power for lighting and water comes from a well on the property.
After spending the day with them the home seems to be very well-run by a staff that is engaged and cares about the children. The children were the epitome of happiness and health and full of joy even in these circumstances. Our host church also strongly vouches for the legitimacy and trustworthiness of this orphanage as there are so many that are not.
1. A tractor
2. A school building
3. ESL classes
4. Skills training for the boys
5. Money for the Sustainability Fund
If you would like to help fund any of the projects go to https://www.reachteachlove.org/donate and we will send them 100% of the donation to go to the project of your choice. You donation is tax deductible through RTL. Or you may make a general one time or on-going donation to Reach|Teach|Love to aid us in all of our projects.