According to UNICEF, Uganda is home to an estimated 2.5 million orphans. In Kyarusozi sub-country where our programme takes place, 3,000 orphans were numbered in the 2014 census many of whom lost both parents to the deadly scourge of HIV/AIDS that ravaged this community. Truly, the scale of need is great. But each child has their own story and their own aspirations, orphaned or not, disabled or not, HIV positive or not. Having enough to eat, clean clothing and a family to live with is just the start. They also look to building a future. Education is the key to unlock the future but none of these orphans can afford to attend school. We are responding to these hopes and aspirations to see orphans and vulnerable children in Kyarusozi reach their fullest potential.
The Balinda Children’s Foundation Canada employs a holistic approach to the challenges faced by orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda. The holistic model involves physical care, medical intervention including HIV/AIDS treatment, education- formal and technical, spiritual and moral guidance and trauma counselling. Our programme addresses the poverty, education, health and livelihood constraints of these orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) and their families. By addressing these needs in a sustainable way, we hope to give orphans and vulnerable children the support they need to reach their fullest potential in order to become productive citizens
To relieve poverty by providing food, shelter, and other basic necessities of life to poor, and orphaned/vulnerable children (OVCs) and their families in Uganda
The average monthly income among orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) households in Kyarusozi is US $6 – US $9, in a family of four to seven people. The father is usually the main source of income. In Kyarusozi Sub-County 21% of households are headed by women. Many orphans have been left to fend for themselves or work odd jobs in the community to survive as they are cared for by elderly family members. Worse still, many orphans live in child-headed families.
With inadequate food, shelter and clothing, poverty relief begins with a view to assist children to meet these needs. Children are provided with food, clothing, kerosene and basic hygiene products. We also assist families to improve their housing/shelters by waterproofing their mud houses/wattles to withstand the elements.
Apart from meeting the children’s immediate needs, we also invest in their long-term self-sustenance. To improve livelihoods of each OVC family, we assist families of OVCs in the programme to establish income stability by diversifying their farming practice. The focus of this diversification is to (1) address the lack of protein in the local diet by raising pigs, goats and poultry and (2) offer the community a variety of new agricultural outputs through the planting of exotic (but ecologically non-invasive) seed varieties to increase family income. Training is provided for the proper care and feeding of livestock as well as bringing product to market as an association. It is our plan to see each family exit/graduate from the programme within five years.
To promote health by providing mosquito nets, seminars on HIV prevention, hygiene, and nutrition, and providing medical services to the poor and OVCs and their families in Uganda
Health is another major issue for orphans. Healthy children learn best and grow to reach their potential. Not only did 50% of our programme’s children lose their parents to HIV/AIDS or malaria, some children in our programme contracted HIV from their parents. For the orphans and disabled children we are assisting, health issues being addressed are HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, health facility access, malaria prevention and hygiene. Children who are HIV positive are receiving anti-retroviral treatments and nutritional supplements while all children in our programme are learning how to prevent HIV from spreading. Children are also provided with general hygiene products such as soap, tooth brush/toothpaste and skin cream.
Access to health clinics for check-ups, emergencies or medical diagnosis and treatment are usually on a pay-per-use basis as Uganda’s social health care system or insurance system is insufficient. We are working with local clinics to insure children in our programme with guaranteed health care throughout their time in our programme. Through this insurance, children will be able to access at least one general medical checkup per quarter and get treatment whenever they fall sick.
To address the risk of malaria, we are following the best practice of providing mosquito netting. It is proven that the proper use of mosquito nets significantly reduces the risk of malaria since bites usually take place at night when it is cooler. Each family member of the OVC programme receives a new mosquito net bi-annually since the nets wear down through use and get holes in them. Since malaria is highly communicable, the protection of the OVC requires all family members to also be protected. We are addressing the water and sanitation crisis by helping children and their families have access to clean pit latrines and safe water sources.
To advance education by providing school supplies and paying the school fees for the poor and OVCs in Uganda. Education is the key to unlocking their future.
Although Uganda provides schools and teachers, the pupil to teacher ratio in Kyarusozi is 71:1, classrooms are overcrowded requiring some to meet outside under trees, and teachers (40% untrained) receive little pay (often being paid six to 12 months late). As a result 43% of enrolled students do not finish primary school and 24% will never have attended due to the inability to pay fees. Most children in Uganda go through primary and secondary school without ever having access to a computer or a text book. Uganda still requires all primary and secondary school students to wear school uniforms. Majority of OVCs are faced with the dilemma of having to choose between feeding themselves and buying school uniforms. Most families choose the former which leaves many children not attending school
To address the issue of access to education, children in our programme have their school fees paid directly to the school, and receive school uniform, shoes and school supplies (books, pencils, pens, calculators etc.) as needed at the start of the school term. The supplies also include sanitary pads for girls who have started their menstruation. Another essential aspect of education that our programme emphasizes is access to technical/vocational education to give children practical skills to venture into self-employment to avoid the widespread unemployment that pervades Ugandan society. We are also putting emphasis on developing children’s skills and talents in sports, music, drama, and crafts, as a way to potentially be able to earn a living from them.