TOUCO — Love in Action
Tanzania Orphans Upendo Community (TOUCO) is a non-profit organization aimed at bringing abundant life for orphans and vulnerable children in Tanzania. Guided by Christ’s commandment to love and care for the needy, TOUCO intends to facilitate community orphan care crisis awareness into the formation of Familia Upendo and Upendo Villages as basic alternative orphan care units to the biological extended families, currently overwhelmed by the magnitude of the orphan care crisis in Tanzania and Africa at large. This TOUCO model can be easily adapted by villages and districts, regions and countries to raise their orphans in safe and loving environments. The model weaves pertinent African traditions and customs in caring for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) within a broad spectrum of African cultures. The model, though initially capital intensive, matures as an inexpensive and appropriate within the African rural context.
TOUCO intends to facilitate community leadership awareness to the orphans care crisis especially in Tanzania where in a population of just 45 million, there are 3.5 million orphans aged below 15. A relevant model should purport to address the quantitative magnitude of the crisis including but not limited to, the social, economic, political and environmental challenges facing our societies. This calls for a model that is both sustainable and resilient as it garners local and international support in caring for orphans and vulnerable children in Tanzania and Africa at large but always bearing in mind that African or Tanzanian problems require African or Tanzanian solutions. The old adage ‘African problems European answers’ must be seen as obsolete and at times outright counterproductive.
Helping the Most Needy Children
Only those children who are between 3 and 12; who have lost mother, father, elder siblings and close relatives or are living with a helpless grandma are eligible for the upendo care. Upendo family takes care of the most destitute children in our communities and we work with village governments to identify these children and make sure that the village communities know what is going on with their child in the Upendo family. The Village OVC committees are stakeholders in the TOUCO project.
Usually women who are widows, single moms or never married aged 24 to 55 are recruited through direct persuasion or village leadership. Currently, they have no fixed wages but are assisted just as the orphans themselves. These women may not have more than two children of their own. These women are advised to be permanent matrons but can serve for a number of years and leave. When we will have a constant source of income they will have a fixed monthly allowance as a way of motivating and retaining them for the task.
Sources of Upendo Family Support
The primary source has always been self-reliance. Land is cultivated and we keep chicken and whatever can be raised to support with the necessities of life. As for the clothing and building, support from people of good will has been very important. Educational and health costs have been challenges. Elementary education is government subsidized but secondary education is not and is expensive (400 US $ per year min.). Our houses are still incomplete and once the roof is on top, life goes on. We currently have no external source of funding for this project. We build as we go.