Since the time of our last blog so much has happened. For starters, right after the blog about leaving Neema was released, our family moved across town to our new home in Kisongo, a village right outside of Arusha. Five days after that move we left for our three-month furlough in the States. We have now been in Texas for almost a month. The outpouring of love and support we have received, through social media, email, and in person, has been tremendous. However, the big question has been: what are we going to do now?? When I wrote that Goodbye blog, we were just in the initial planning stages of our new ministry. We are so excited to finally be announcing what we will be doing next!
Establishing the Need
God has a funny way of bringing needs to light. When we arrived in Arusha in 2013, we were completely committed to the framework of orphan care through orphanages. Over the last three years, we worked our hardest to turn Neema House into the one of the best orphanages in Tanzania. The last year that we were there, we received an award for being the best childcare facility in the Arusha region. Neema House was also honored by being invited to participate in social welfare’s five-year planning committee. Matt and I feel a lot of pride over these accomplishments. However, we slowly started to see that even the best orphanage is missing something important in the raising of children, and that something important is FAMILY. We learned that most orphanages are filled with children that have at least one living parent, and as we worked at Neema House, we would see parents sacrifice time and money to make the trip to visit their children every week. Most of these were working fathers doubly grieving the loss of their wife and the separation from their child.
UNICEF reports that 80% of children living in orphanages worldwide have a living parent. Our personal experience and the reports of other orphanage directors in Tanzaia, is that 80% is LOW for our area! This statistic broke our hearts. We could see that families desperately wanted to be reunited with their children. We started working our hardest to address this need. At Neema House we developed a social work program with the specific focus of getting kids back with their families. As we worked with families, we came to realize that the single biggest limiting factor for kids moving back to their families was….. DAYCARE! In Tanzanian, if a single parent does not have family members to provide child care, there is literally no safe place to leave young children while the parent goes to work.
Stop and think about what would happen in the States if every daycare suddenly disappeared. It would be a catastrophe on a grand scale for the family unit and for the economy. In Tanzania, there are no daycares available for the average working person and no government support of any kind. If you do not have a family member who can take care of your child, you either do not work, take them to work with you, or leave them in an unsafe situation. This single factor prevents thousands of families from being reunited and keeps those kids in institutionalized care. You might think, as I have also thought in the past, that growing up in an orphanage where you could get a good education is better than living with an impoverished family. That is a dirty sentence to write, because in our hearts we know that family is the best place for children, but in our minds, we think about the child and their needs and so we continue to support and perpetuate orphanages. Here are a few statistics that blew my mind: each DAY 38,493 children age out of orphan care worldwide. In a study of 15,000 kids who had aged out of orphanages, 70% ended up either in prison or working in the sex trade. 70%!!!!! There are many books written and studies conducted about the effects of institutionalized care on children. The reports are chilling and are the reason why America moved away from the orphanage model and embraced the family-based care model for vulnerable children.
There we were, with a huge unmet need on our hearts, more than three years of cultural experience, a blossoming plan about what to do to get families back together and kids out of orphanages, and suddenly we find ourselves jobless. I cry as I write, because I know that God opened our eyes to these needs. We see that an orphanage is not the only framework for taking care of vulnerable children. If a child has a family, our resources should first go to keeping the family together. If we can identify and address the hurdles keeping kids in orphanages and away from their families, should that not be our primary goal? God put this on our hearts, and then He allowed us to be separated from Neema House in His perfect timing.
Now that you understand the problem, let me (finally!) tell you about our plan. I would like to introduce you to “Walk In Love International”.
Walk In Love was started by Aubree McClelland Packard in 2012, with the goal of providing assistance to at-risk families to keep their children in their homes and out of orphanages. Walk In Love and has been at the forefront of the movement towards family-based orphan care, providing such things as daycare, school sponsorship, job training and foster care. Throughout Matt and my running conversation about how to get kids back with their families, we frequently mentioned Walk In Love as an organization with whom we might possibly partner. The day we went to say our final goodbye to Neema House, Aubree and her husband were there visiting. That very day we got together to see if a partnership was a possibility. As it turns out, Aubree was looking for someone to take over as the director so that she could take a step back and focus on her growing family. Our partnership was formed that day based on the shared belief that family is the first priority for all children. Walk In Love has both a 501c3 based in the States (so all donations are tax deductible) and a legally established organization in Tanzania. This allows us move forward with this partnership immediately without having to develop any new organizations.
So, what is the plan??!
Daycare. The plan is daycare. It sounds so simple, but the effect will be profound. We want to start a daycare specifically aimed at helping to get kids out of orphanages and back with their families. We want to reach out to single mothers who are not able to work to support their families because they do not have a safe place for their young children. We also want to be there for working fathers, who want their children to continue living in their home. Our foundational belief is that children belong in families and that 80% is too high a number for kids to be in institutionalized care when they have a loving family ready to raise them. God created children to be raised in family units. He patterned His church after the family. He sent His Son to die so that we could be a part of His family. Children thrive in families and our resources are best spent pursing that goal. We have identified that affordable daily childcare is the number one hurdle that limits the majority of young children from moving out of orphanages and back with their families.
A functional daycare is our only our first phase. The second phase of our program is to spread this vital resource throughout the Arusha region through a daycare planting program. Arusha is a huge city of over a million people and is divided into distinct areas. In phase 2 we will work with the local church to identify women who would be good candidates for running their own daycares. We will select one woman from each targeted area to do a six-month internship at our facility (daycare from phase 1). During this time, each woman will learn how to run a good daycare and also how to manage a successful business. After her six-month internship, we would work with her over the next six months to establish her own business. By doing this, we are putting resources in place to support the needs of families as well as providing jobs for women in the community. We will be increasing the ability of fathers and mothers in the community to work, knowing their young children were well cared for. We are so passionate and excited about this plan. We know that this is a vitally needed and missing resource in our community. We have already had multiple meetings with the Ministry of Social Welfare as well as community focus groups and they are very much in support and are eager to work with us on this effort.
Thank you so much for reading this and for following and supporting our family. In the next couple of days I will be posting a follow up blog about our immediate plan and needs to get our ministry started. Please be praying and thinking about if you might be someone who could help to change the face of orphan care in Tanzania. It is time to move away from institutions and towards family based care for vulnerable children. Walk In Love will be a leader in this movement, and you should be a part of that!
I would love to be able to meet with each of you to answer your questions. Please, if you have questions, email us at Kelly@tzorphan.com or leave a comment in Facebook or the blog. If you are ready to join us, please email or head over to our ‘Donate’ page to find out how to become a part of our team.
Sources: Human Rights Watch: “Abandoned to the State: Cruelty and Neglect in Orphanages” November 1998; www.hfgf.org/statistics.pdf ; www.unaids.org/epi/2005 ; UNICEF’s Childhood Under Threat: the State of the World’s Chidren, 2005, www.unicef.org/uniteforchildren/