Orphans are an asset
While it is true that most of the orphans are most of the time care-receivers in their struggle to grow safely, it usually does not take long before they become the caregivers of their caregivers. Hence it is our understanding that these orphans are neither a liability nor a burden as often portrayed in the media. The temporal care they need is like a sickness which can befall anyone and force them to be dependent for some time. Among the Bena in southern Tanzania, typical of African positive attitude towards children, express it in maxims that honor and value every child born. Maxims like “Ye ikana uloloho muhavi”(anyone who refuses to bear children is a witch); again “Uhwibabila mugoda” (bearing or having a child is medicine); or “umwana hilyo”(a child is food). It is African to see children as an essential investment and valued asset in one’s earthly existence. But modern parlance and literature on children and orphans in particular view them as a liability and a burden. TOUCO considers children as an asset and hence worth anyone’s valued long term investment in them.
Pairing of Orphans and Widows for Empowerment and Resilience: TOUCO firmly believes that empowered widows, acting like surrogate mothers, are able to a great extent to repair the psychosocial and emotional damage incurred by these orphans through orphanhood and thereby enhance these children’s psychosocial wellbeing. P.O.W.E.R. is a survival strategy for prosperity of the stakeholders; the widows and the orphans. Together they stand. They mutually need each other and both need TOUCO’s attention and care to jumpstart their present social and economic status. The orphans care crisis in Tanzania is hence a wonderful opportunity for human development and not mere crisis management strategy.
Anyone who does not work should not eat: Each one has the ability to contribute to the family wellbeing. Children should neither be exploited nor should they be wasted and abused. They must be encouraged relative to their age, to help themselves and to learn the hard realities of life that nothing comes for free. Nobody should be a benefactor of anyone for life. Help must always be for self help. No one should do what one can do for themselves. This is what all African children did and do in rural areas and the orphans should not be an exception. If orphans are to be an asset, self reliance must be their motto in praxis. Anything less than this will create a bunch of disgruntled people who conceptualize orphanhood as victimhood and any help they receive from society as entitlement based on human rights. The final product of such a care can be nothing but a failed humanity.
The orphans’ ‘turbo-effect’
TOUCO believes that a well raised orphan is one who is able to return care to the caregivers and society that raised him/her. Orphans start as care recipients but may exit the system of care as care-givers to their caregivers and society at large. This is the ‘turbo effect’ that erases the idea that orphans are always a burden to their caregivers and society. Humans start life as care recipients and mature to become care givers to their families and society. Child labor is exploitation and abuse but children’s work and productivity are empowerment and noble. This ‘turbo effect’ must be inbuilt in the orphan care system and be used as a measure of the quality and success of the orphans raised by this model of orphan care.
As Kiswahili proverb has it “Mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo” (The way you raise the kid is the way she will be in life). Children need families to grow in. They need to learn not only how to read, write and do mathematics but also to relate and develop social and economic skills. They also need a significant other to show them the way and peers to share their stories in a give and take manner. They need to be valued to learn how to value others and situations as individuals with human dignity and self respect. Children need their autonomy and independence before they are social and interdependent. Their individuation and uniqueness forces them to seek their basic needs as self reliant as they foster and promote interdependence within family settings. Such complex processes can only be nurtured in a child who grows in settings that always resemble a biological family where security and creativity are possible and where learning is more by seeing and doing within safe social environmental contexts.