A different way of thinking about orphanages in Africa

Thanks to Rich for the link. From the New York Times, an article about an innovative and different way of dealing with orphans in Tanzania.

“In less wealthy nations, people are being very creative,” said Kathryn Whetten, an expert on orphan care from Duke University.
She had not seen the orphanage in Berega or encountered others like it.
But that did not surprise her. Little is known about orphan care in
Africa, she said, because little research has been done. On a recent
trip to Moshi, a Tanzanian city of about 150,000, she said, local
officials knew of three orphanages. She and her colleagues found 25
there, most with 10 to 25 children each.

The orphanage here, started in 1965 by United German Mission Aid, an
evangelical Christian mission, began recruiting relatives to move in
about five years ago. Ute Klatt, a German missionary and nurse who has
been director of the orphanage for 10 years, said she learned about the
practice from another orphanage in Tanzania. Now many of the children
at the orphanage are cared for by a teenage girl from the extended
family — a binti, in Swahili — often a sister, cousin or aunt, who
lives with them and learns how to take care of them.

The young women come to love the children, and will look after them
when they leave the orphanage, Ms. Klatt said. In addition, the bintis,
some of whom have never been to school, gain some education. Ms. Klatt
provides schoolbooks, she said, and the young women study and teach one
another in the evenings. Many arrive illiterate and leave knowing how
to read. She also teaches them the basics about health, and they learn
sewing and batik, and share the cooking in an outdoor kitchen.“Before
we had this system, the families weren’t visiting, and it was hard to
reintegrate the children,” Ms. Klatt said. “There were attachment
disorders.”

This last paragraph really struck a chord with me.

Ms. Klatt said it had been her dream since childhood to work as a
missionary in Africa, though she had never imagined running an
orphanage. She said one of her greatest rewards was when older children
who had been in her care came back to visit, and were obviously healthy
and happy, living with their families back in their home villages.

It would not surprise me at all if Ms. Klatt has been advised to begin an adoption program. I know that others who have gone to Africa to begin or work for orphanages in other countries have found that starting adoption programs have been one way to provide funding – then pretty soon the operations become about international adoptions. Especially since so many of these children are the high demand infants that people want to adopt.

You can read the entire article here.

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