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Rebuild the lives and give new opportunities for health, growth and sustainable progress to children and child headed families who have lost parents to disease and poverty and now face futures of continued poverty, neglect, and struggle with little or no opportunity for change.
The mission of this program is to work with the orphans and orphan headed families in Western Kenya.
After their parents die the orphaned children are usually left with very little to sustain them as most of the families resources have been exhausted during their parents’ illness. Often times five to eight or more children ranging in age from toddlers to 16 years of age, are left to provide and care for themselves and each other as their living conditions deteriorate.
The traditional social fabric and social/familial safety nets found in Kenyan culture have broken down and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of orphans left behind by parents dying of AIDS and other poverty related diseases. Prior to the HIV/AIDS epidemic Kenyan families and communities had the potential to provide a safety net to families suddenly stricken by parental death. The orphaned children could be support or absorbed into the families of the parents brothers, sisters or close community members when tragedy struck. Children were able to recover from their lose through the support of their extended families and communities. The unprecedented scale and scope of the AIDS epidemic and the basic poverty found in Western Kenya has left so many families affected that traditional familial support systems have been overwhelmed for a decade and are no longer giving support to orphaned and vulnerable families.
The resulting situation in Western Kenya is that orphans find themselves having to scavenge for food, shelter and struggle by every desperate means possible to meet the needs of themselves and their siblings. The goal of Omwabini’s Orphan Program is to meet the immediate nutrition requirements and basic living condition needs of these families. After food, clothing and shelter needs are met, we provide these families with the skills, tools, education and the other resources necessary to begin on a path towards a sustainable, healthy, and hopeful lives. Omwabini has helped construct more than 200 homes for impoverished families over the past 10 years. Omwabini has also established a pre-school, primary school, high school, vocational school and hostels/orphanage all benefiting over 400 vulnerable children and youths. Omwabini has own land on which food crops are grown for orphans’ food security.
This program seeks to sustainably rebuild the lives of our target population of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) through a process of, 1.) Rebuilding the children’s homes and basic living conditions through a participatory process of home building, house wares support, and small animal husbandry, 2.) Agricultural support through training, farm input support, and marketing support, 3.) Educational support for specific members of the OVC household depending on age and needs, 4.) Orphanage and/or dormitory living for OVC where living circumstances indicate a need for a child to change living environments, 5.) Income generating activities (IGA) will be initiated for OVC families or family members depending on the initial needs assessment and the appropriateness of such activities given the ages and circumstances facing the OVC family.
The first task of Omwabini Orphaned and Vulnerable Child Program begins with initial relief efforts. We target orphan families who are living on their own in poor and deteriorating living and health conditions. Omwabini’s Project Implementation Committees (PIC)* have organized and trained in each of our current 8 project areas. PIC begin building trusting and caring relationships with orphan family as they help build or repair a home so that the children can have adequate shelter. This gives the children a sound and healthy place to live and begin rehabilitation. The PICs’ use materials mobilized by the community and funds and supplies donated by Omwabini in the home preparation stage. Approximately half the cost of home construction has been and will continue to be mobilized by the community including labor.
The initial relief stage of our program also provides orphans with food, strengthening their health and continuing the creation of a trusting caring relationship between the orphans, their PIC, and Omwabini. Orphan families are supplemented with basic foodstuff during the programs initial relief. The combination of improved living conditions and food security lay a foundation of trust and hope between the orphans and Omwabini. With their basic needs secure in the short-run, the orphans have the motivation and encouragement to learn new skills, start new projects, and begin the process toward sustainably improved living and reintegration into the community around them.
OVC families are provided with counseling and emotional support. Orphans and orphan families are provided with counseling by Omwabini staff as they face the sadness of the death of their parents as well as their feelings of lost security, and fears about their future. Omwabini’s counseling staff help create new relationships of trust, support, and love. Omwabini staff work to bring orphans and orphan families back into a network of community based relationships and support.
Part of Omwabini’s counseling process is to create mentoring relationships between newly reached orphan families and orphan families that are successfully progressing and sustaining their development through the programs support. Individual members of the their local community are also asked to take on a support role in the orphans’ lives. Such community members can keep a parental eye on the children and families. As a result, orphans have an adult they can turn to in times sickness, fear, or struggle. The counseling aspect of our Orphan Program, through the use of community members and other strengthened orphan families, promotes and encourages the reintegration of orphans into their communities. The very fabric of the community and culture of Western Kenya is strengthened, and orphans are given an emotionally sustainable base from which to begin healing and growing in what can be a new life.
The second step or aspect of the program is agricultural training and support. Orphan families are trained in sustainable agriculture techniques including basic land preparation, planting, care, and harvesting knowledge for traditional crops. Additional techniques of crop rotation, water conservation, crop diversification/non-traditional crops, and organic fertilizers and pesticides are taught as the family progress with its agricultural activates. Orphans are then supported in their agricultural efforts with seed and land preparation.
As crops are harvested and orphans are able to sustainably meet their basic needs, Omwabini helps orphans and communities to organize their surplus harvests for transport to larger area markets for sale and income generation. Omwabini provides OVC families with two seasons of free input support. After two harvests families are encouraged to "bank" a portion of their harvest or the income from sales with Omwabini in order that Omwabini can provide them with farm inputs each planting season. As OVC families progress they are welcome to save their own profits from their harvests in order to purchase farm inputs each planting season, but they are also welcome to simply give Omwabini a portion of their harvest when their maize is plentiful as payment for the next seasons inputs, this way assuring that they are prepared for the next planting season.
The third aspect of our program focuses on appropriate educational opportunities. Depending on the circumstances of each individual child and the needs their families face as a group, these children can be supported through primary, secondary, college or vocational training education opportunities. Younger children are supported and placed in local primary schools, while older teen-age children can be supported to return secondary schools if their efforts are not needed at the home. Orphans who have been out of school for to long or for whom vocational training is deemed to be their best opportunity, are able to attend certificate courses at Omwabini’s vocation training center. At the center children can be trained in either tailoring and computer courses. Omwabini’s courses and certificates are government accredited.
The forth aspect of our program is education. In early 2009 Omwabini built an orphanage for children age three to thirteen and dormitories for children ages fourteen to seventeen. Omwabini has girls and boys dormitories for adolescents at our center. These dormitories are for both orphans and for the siblings of orphan headed homes or vulnerable children form extremely impoverished families. These dormitories function much like the dormitories at boarding schools. It has been found to be more cost effect to have donors support the dormitories at the Omwabini center while supported children attend Omwabini primary school, Omwabini high school or Vocational school rather than pay the higher fees of full public boarding schools. With a sustainable plan for the long-term support of these facilities, Omwabini has the desire, land and energy to expand these facilities.
The orphanage is home to 400 children who are either complete orphans or children from such impoverished homes that it was considered to be in the child’s and the family’s best interest to place him or her in our orphanage. Many of the children have come from the streets while others are the smallest and most vulnerable siblings in some of orphan headed households we are working with. Omwabini has grown to establish a primary school, a high school and a vocational school all based at the orphanage to support the 400 children living at the orphanage. The schools also support some children from the immediate communities.
Though careful evaluation and resource management is necessary, there remains desire and potential on the part of Omwabini to expand these facilities in order to meet the needs and address the suffering the smallest children face when their families are lost or broken.
The final element our program is focused economic empowerment through income generation (IGA). Economic empowerment is the last element of our work because IGA projects stand such a high probability of complication, disappointment and failure. IGA programs often fail because an IGA opportunity’s profitability or demand was exaggerated, the priorities of the family or individual were not in line with efforts or commitments of the specific IGA opportunity, while it also possible the income generated from the project is consumed to quickly and not reinvested, saved, and used to maintain the business in the long-run. Despite these challenges Omwabini as a well integrated local NGO and as a NGO working very closely with it targets is in a prime position to identify families and individuals that show high potential for successfully implementing IGA opportunities.
Omwabini has worked with families to establish IGA projects including fishponds, bee keeping projects, and chicken projects for meat and egg sales. We have supported orphans with bicycles to start boda-boda businesses (bike taxis). We have supported orphans who live in areas where there has been found to be an unmet demand for seamstress work to start their own business by supporting them with their own sowing machine. Omwabini has provided members of OVC families with start up capital to begin buying and selling vegetables and other market wares.
The needs assessment evaluates each families based on their need Home Construction, Home wares, food support, farm input support, health care, ARV support, IGA potential, small animal husbandry support, educational support, and vocational training. These categories are indicated with as Needed, Unneeded, Occurring, and Complete.
Using Omwabini’s needs assessment data base families for this program have been identified. This database is updated as families’ progress. Finally the database will the key monitoring system for ensuring each family progresses and has each of their individual needs addressed as indicated by the initial needs assessment data.
Sustainability will be managed and measured through the family’s ability to take full responsibility for meeting their own needs regarding the indicators of Food Support and Farm Inputs. Sustainable rehabilitation will be indicated by families being able to manage their own progress in order to provide and plan for their own food and farm input needs.
With time and support Omwabini has been able to expand the scope of our work to include general community mobilization and support for projects that would impact the problems and needs of the community as a whole. Integrating what had been individual family-by-family projects with our approach and efforts in larger community mobilization and development projects, Omwabini has implemented a process that roots and sustains the betterment of previously marginalized families of AIDS orphans into the development and improvement of the community as a whole.
- James Bunyasi
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