The growth of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa began in Uganda in the 1990s. By 1996 its effects began to be apparent in the whole of East Africa especially along highways such as TanZam highway, between Tanzania and Zambia. Many parents died leaving behind their young children as orphans. Orphans had no home nor food, neither accommodation nor education.
These were the experiences Fr. Mgaya suffered as a child.
Father Bruno D. Mgaya became orphan at eight years old. With a hard work ethic instilled by his mother before she died, he supported himself through childhood with education and odd jobs found in his neighborhood, eventually became a Diocesan priest of the Catholic Diocese of Njombe.
Fr Mgaya wanted to do something about it. He worked on the idea and strategy of finding an alternative home to accommodate, feed, clothe and educate orphans. He donated his own house to host orphans and hired widows to take care of them. That was the start of the Familia Upendo model.
Twenty acres of land near a garden were purchased for this purpose and a mud house was built. That was the debut of the Familia Upendo model to care for some of these children. Later eight orphans were added from Makete, where the orphan crisis was acute.
A more modern brick house was built in 2003 and completed in 2004, with a capacity of more than 12 children. This house still stands there and currently has 18 orphans. In 2014 the house was remodeled to build in a kitchen and store and to install a solar panel for lights.
The idea of having several of these houses together to exploit the economies of scale started to emerge. The Upendo Village in Ibumila, 36 kms NE of Njombe is the product of these endeavors. Thanks to the Gift of God and donors who made the start possible. The village will consist of ten Familia Upendo units which will constitute this village of its kind in Tanzania.
The idea was to create a model that would imitate, adapt, maintain and promote the African community oriented culture in child care in which there were no children who were orphans as the latter were absorbed in the extended family and communities could then tout “It takes a whole village to raise a child” Changed circumstances call for an adaptation of this community care model of orphans while maintaining the quintessence of that traditional structure and value system.