Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Divorcing the orphanage centre syndrome
At every corner, at every junction in most districts in the country there is an orphanage centre. It is said that the country has over 1 million children orphaned at different ages mostly of them due to the HIV and Aids pandemic which has ravaged the country’s citizens the past 23 years.
As a quick response to the emerging problem of orphans orphanage centres sprouted almost everywhere in the country. It is fashionable for every church, every Jim and Jack opening an orphanage centre with a sounding number of its occupants as a sign of good will.
Good will it is, however the intervention has its own shortfalls surpassing the strength. Apart from some unscrupulous benefactors cashing on the less fortunate children’s misery, there are other disadvantages surrounding the orphanage centre system.
However, a Blantyre based Safe Hope has come up with a greenhorn way of addressing or looking at the problem of orphans and orphanages. The Safe House is a family of nine people with a mother and eight children.
The children of ages between nine and 15 are not of the same mother neither they are of the same father but nevertheless they are brothers since they now share the mother.
Located in the suburb area of CI in Blantyre eight children, the first entrant to the home, reside with a woman they call a mother and of course the motherly love they get from the woman they call mother.
The woman claims the children, all of them graduating from the streets of Blantyre mastering begging, she loves them like her own children. The woman, Lefa Mahonga said it was not easy to keep children under one roof who have spent their life living in the street.
“During the first weeks, they have been fighting among themselves, these children had harsh life in the street and two of them were practising witchcraft, but with patience and motherly love they have changed to become good children,” she said.
Mahonga said she is partially blind following the spell the two witches casted on her in their earlier days at the Safe Home when they were still practising witchcraft.
“I have forgiven them,” she said.
She said she managed to transform the children from delinquency, which they were to school going God fearing children.
One of the children, now attaining secondary education at one of the private schools in Blantyre Boniface Chitsulo, 17, described life in the street as harsh and abusive.
Chitsulo said street life is a dangerous world as children, male and female, are sexually molested, forced to participate in dangerous activities like stealing by either the watchmen guarding shops or gangs that terrorise people, all these in the name of protection.
“Young boys are being molested homosexually. I am glad that I left the street. I look at my new home as a real home with my mother and brothers,” he said.
The Safe Home system would be described as a perfect intervention on rehabilitating children who have been in the street as it gives them the needed family love, sense of belonging and values, according to the Social Welfare Officer Judith Zulu.
Zulu said most of the orphanage centres spouted, purportedly, trying to assist orphans or less fortunate children have missing vital components in their quest to rehabilitate the children.
“Orphanage Centres are more like boarding schools where children are just bundled together in one place; there are specific attentions to particular children’s needs, no family love and values. This does not help much in terms of making the children good citizens,” she said.
Most of the time, Zulu said many orphanage centres concentrate on the physical needs of the children than their spiritual, moral and emotional needs.
“The safe home is best model because children are given a home not a house for shelter.
The Safe Home was founded four years ago with the aim of giving street children and orphans a normal home and proper education.
The Founder Audrey Mwala said the Home is run by a board which source money from the well wishers and money which she realise leasing her house for wedding photo sessions.
She said she decided to establish a home not an orphanage with the aim of giving children a real family values and encourage them to be able to create relationships with other people.
“We face two challenges feeding the children as well as modelling them to become good citizens. These children, while looking innocent when begging in the street, are very angry and in dire need of behaviour change,” she said.
Mwala said so far she is satisfied with what the children are turning to be, now that all of them are at school with two doing their secondary education.
“We look forward to open a village with each home having not more than eight children, the idea is to encourage them to realise and understand brotherhood,” she said.