God gave us a perfect facility!
That is right, God gave us rent-free facility with several ready buildings in an area of overwhelming need. I have been dying to make this announcement since November! We have had a verbal agreement and have been waiting on the official contract. How did this happen you ask? Well, here is the story:
This blog got a little bit wordy…if you are the type that just wants to jump to the heart of the matter, now is the time to check out the pictures and skip down to the ‘What is your plan and how can I help?’ section. You are welcome.
Way back in March we found out that we were not going to be able to renew our visas in Tanzania. We were devastated and searched for options that would allow us to stay, but eventually we conceded that our time in Arusha was ending. After several weeks of prayer, late-night talks and crazy internet searching, we decided to look towards Uganda as a possibility for relocation. We have a strong desire to be a part of the revolution that is transforming the framework of care of vulnerable children from an orphanage-dependent model to a family-based model in East Africa. We feel like we have a lot to offer this movement because we have been involved on both sides, and we can attest to how family-based care is the best option for children in 98% of the cases. Uganda is leading East Africa in the movement towards family-based care.
We planned a scouting trip in late April to determine if Uganda was right for our family. In early April I sent out an email to as many organizations as I could find that were involved in the work of family-based care. This email basically said, “Greetings, here is what we have done in Tanzania, we are thinking about moving to Uganda. In your experience, do you think our ministry would be a good fit for your area?” I included our website and blog info. Over the next week I received many encouraging responses. However, the response from Lucy, the founder and CEO an organization, called Child’s i Foundation (CiF), was different. She wanted to know about our plans and experience. It was more of an interview than encouragement. Even now I get choked up as I think about reading her email. It is difficult to clearly communicate the significance of this divine appointment. It was an intersection of their need, and our availability and experience.
Lucy, a native of England, has a story that is similar to ours. She came to Uganda as a volunteer and was so moved by the experience that she returned to open an orphanage. After a few years, she became convicted about the negative impact institutionalization has on children and the community. In 2017 Lucy and her team were able to close the orphanage after safely reintegrating all the children into either biological or foster families. They then started a NEW organization, Child’s i Foundation, where their goal is to work with the government on writing and implementing new policies for moving nationally towards family-based care.
CiF also works with existing orphanages to safely reintegrate kids back into families. In April, when I sent my email, CiF had just signed a contract with the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Kampala to facilitate the process of family reintegration for the kids in three of their orphanages.
The primary result of a successful orphanage reintegration process is healthier children and communities. Another outcome is an empty building full of potential. During our first skype call with Lucy, we started a preliminary interview of sorts. She told us about how CiF was working with orphanages to create families, and we told her our plans to relocate to Uganda and start a project similar to what we had done in Tanzania. Miraculously, our scouting trip just so happened to correspond to a visit she was making from the UK to Kampala. We agreed to meet up in April to discuss a possible partnership.
By the time we met with Lucy and the CiF country director (Fred) on the last day of our scouting trip, we were 90% decided on moving to Kampala. It was obvious that Kampala has a significant level of need with its rapid rate of urbanization, mostly refugees (Did you know that Uganda has the third-highest number of refugees in the world?!), contributing to a dense population with pockets of extreme poverty. During the course of our meeting we established a few things:
- CiF was beginning the process of child reintegration at a facility called St. Michael’s, an orphanage belonging to the Catholic Church.
- At the end of this process they would be left with a large empty facility.
- CiF does not have any real experience with starting a community center, and was looking to partner with an organization experienced in community outreach.
- They liked our work. It was a little unsettling because I could tell Lucy had read quite a bit of my blog, leaving me feeling a little exposed!
- They were not willing to sponsor us. We would need to be our own independent organization.
We left that meeting feeling… maybe good? There was not a definite plan, just a vague commitment to keep in touch. I am sure they wondered if we were serious. They were just beginning the delicate process of transitioning the kids from St. Michael’s into families. While we were embarking on the huge task of moving to Kampala. Through it all God has led us faithfully. We kept asking Him to show us the way, give us wisdom, and let us know. NOTHING has challenged or strengthened my faith more than walking through this transition. Someday I hope to be able to write about ALL the things that happened as we moved forward, inch by inch.
Between our meeting in April, we exchanged at most two or three emails with CiF. Several months went by without a single word. Matt and I were completely peaceful about this. We knew we were going to start up a new center, whether we joined with CiF or not, so the lack of communication did not have any impact on our plans. In August, a few weeks after arriving I received a text from Lucy that said, “Hey Kelly, what is your update? I want us to work together.” To which I replied, we are here, our NGO is finished, we are ready to go. And go we did, right into a million meetings! We met with the country director, and the CiF team responsible for the Catholic Church project. We met with board members of the Catholic church outreach team and saw the property for the first time (swoon). We met with the chairman of the board of directors of the Archdiocese outreach and made it verbally official that we would partner together.
FINALLY, on February 6th we got the official green light and were able to start our work as Walk In Love Uganda at the facility of St. Michael’s.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how GOD GAVE US A WHOLE FACILITY! I would like to introduce you to St. Michael’s, the future home of Walk In Love Uganda!
What is your plan and how can I help?
I am so glad you asked! Our first-year plan is to concurrently open a daycare for kids ages 0-3, and a nursery school for kids ages 3-6. Once those programs are running well, we will open an after-school project for elementary school kids. We are also praying about the possibility of starting a small business loan outreach. The facility of St. Michaels is located on the edge of a very densely populated slum. Words are not enough to explain how great the need for family-based care resources are in this area. Every time we go to the facility we can look into the slum and see toddlers running around unsupervised near the trash dump or water pump.
The plan is to have 30 kids in daycare and 30 kids in preschool, using the cute two-room preschool building.
To do this we need to first make some improvements to the facility. The agreement between Walk In Love Uganda, CiF and the Catholic Church puts 100% of the financial burden of the community center on Walk In Love Uganda. The Catholic Church provides the building, Child’s i Foundation gets it ready for repurposing, and Walk In Love Uganda does the program development. It is a great arrangement, but we need your help!
What do we NEED?
We need $5000 to do building repairs.
This includes some leveling work for a playground, a retaining wall, fencing for the playground, a new guard room, a total overhaul of the bathrooms, gutters for the building, draining and a sidewalk install, paint, window glass and flooring for the inside rooms.
We need $1000 to buy things like sleeping mats, curtains, wall art, and toys.
We need pledged monthly support of $700 for staffing.
This will cover a social worker, three childcare staff, a cook and a guard. This amount will increase as we enroll more kids. The ratio of caregivers to kids is 1:10 for kids over 2 and 1:5 for kids under 2. We will need to add additional staff as the enrollment grows.
We need pledged monthly support of $300 for operating costs.
This will include food, utilities, and miscellaneous costs.
We are ready to start. The community need is great. The facility is empty. All that is missing is your support! All of your donations are made through our 501c3 and are tax deductible. Join us in bringing the resource of daycare to Kampala.
To donate specifically to our new project in Uganda, please visit our donate page at www.walkinlovetz.org/donate and make sure to indicate Uganda in the memo line. You can also donate by check to:
Walk In Love International
12802 S Arapaho Drive
Olathe, KS 66062
Make sure to put Uganda in the memo line!
If you want to do a bank deposit or use Zelle (banking app that works great) please send me an email at Kelly@tzorphan.com for that information.