Kids who run away from home or who are orphaned are among the most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. They are also the least likely to be in school which means their chance of building a better future for themselves is slim, to say the least.
In many poor countries, there isn’t a welfare state or any ‘social services’ as we’d recognise them. There’s no safety net to catch and help these vulnerable children and state run orphanages or foster care systems are usually very low quality, underfunded places where abuse can be rife.
They are also usually overwhelmed by the sheer number of orphans and vulnerable children, especially in places like Uganda or Rwanda where conflict and HIV have killed hundreds of thousands of parents.
With all this in mind, we believe that there is a better alternative to formal, institutional care in these countries.
Family bonds in Sub-Saharan Africa tend to be strong and it’s common for extended family to take care of each other and live together. As good as this sounds, this can cause problems – for example, if poor parents suddenly finds themselves having to look after nieces and nephews when they already struggle to put food on the table for their own children, they may not treat their new arrivals so well or may decide not to send them to school but get them to find work instead.
We believe that family and community-based systems of care are the best so we work hard to promote and strengthen these. We support Child-headed households in Rwanda and Uganda, and reunite street children and former child soldiers with their families in Kenya and Uganda and we work closely with them to ensure that everyone’s needs are met.
We also help extended families to earn a better income so that orphans aren’t seen as a drain on a family’s very limited resources and help them to bond as new family unit.