What do you mean that you are a home? I thought you were a school?
When we began a.k.a. HOPE, we were a program that helped pair children from the streets with guardians and foster families within the community of Naguru. We operated a school that provided two free meals a day, free education, healthcare, and a garden of our own. However, the land on which the slums sit was sold for demolition. The majority of our guardians, who are themselves displaced and live under the poverty line, expressed that they were unable to continue caring for the children placed in their charge when they move away from Naguru. Rather than giving up on our kiddos, we shifted focus and at the beginning of 2016 moved 60+ kiddos and 6 mamas onto our campus in Fort Portal. We are not an orphanage as there is no recruitment nor adoption opportunities - this is not a program for any vulnerable child within Uganda but rather for a very specific population, a very particular group of children.
What does daily life look like at the home?
Our staff does their utmost to ensure a family-like atmosphere. We never want to be an institution, but rather to create a home environment for these kiddos. Weekdays include the children going to either school, vocational training, or apprenticeships. When they return home after school, there’s plenty of time for homework, chores, and play time before bathing and going to sleep. Weekends are times for chores, resting, playing soccer or netball, church, and fun activities arranged by our staff.
Why do you call it a.k.a. HOPE?
Because we have many refugee and displaced kiddos in our home, we have about 15 first languages and countless others flying about! English is the primary language, but no matter how you pronounce "hope", it all means the same thing. This versatile name also provides the opportunity to easily expand to other countries in the future if we find ourselves in possession of the resources and the ambition to do so.
How do you deal with sickness?
As one might imagine, living on the streets is tough, and, as a result, many kids have contracted some very serious sicknesses and diseases. We have a partnership with our local clinic so that any child needing immediate or ongoing healthcare can access it. We also have a sick-room at the home where any child who is acutely contagious can rest up under the care of a sweet mama until he or she is better.
Tell me a bit more about these mamas.
Creating a home environment can be difficult without a mom! We hire women who are fluent in the languages that are represented in the school, that have a heart towards hurting children, and who bring fun and a sense of joy to the job. These fabulous women live on the campus and are assigned as mama to a group of children. She mentors and cares for them, making sure homework is completed, chores are done, and a hug is ready for a kid who just had a bad day.
While we don’t have any papas on site, we do have two fatherly figures, one who serves as a guard and ensures the safety and wellbeing of all our kiddos and the other an elderly man who serves as the cook for all these kiddos. We also invite local men from the community who have a heart for mentoring to come and spend some time showing the kiddos what a good dad looks like.
A few more plans that are in the works as of now include:
Growing and tending our own garden to cut costs and take a step towards self-sufficiency
Inspiring individuals to “pay it forward”, to give back the love and respect they have received
Provide continued education for our mamas so that they are also given opportunities to thrive