A Charity on the move
Tanzania Orphans Upendo Community (TOUCO) is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) Federal Tax Exempt Idaho Nonprofit Corporation. It is an organization devoted to bringing life in abundance to the orphans and vulnerable children in Tanzania. By integrating the mission of Christ to love and care for the needy, TOUCO intends to empower villages and other local communities to promote culturally holistic and sustainable models of orphan care based on the wisdom of the traditional African extended family practice.
Empowering local communities means being inspired by a local leadership vision of orphan care that addresses bioecological challenges (social, economic, political and environmental). In light of this, it is essential to design sustainable interventions which affirm the age-old maxim that even with global assistance in Tanzanian orphan care the crux “Tanzanian problems need Tanzanian solutions”.
With TOUCO, we all have an ideal opportunity to be involved with fellow Christians in many facets of the orphans’ lives. Just knowing that this project is directed by a leader (Rev. Bruno Mgaya) who understands what it is to be an orphan and who has focused much of his life in seeking solutions to their problems and applying that understanding on current pilot projects, gives it a much greater chance of success.
It is important to note that 100% of all donor funds is spent in Tanzania on orphan housing, food, care and education. We are a 100% volunteer organization and all overhead expenses are covered. Remember that you are not limited to financial support; your encouragement, prayers and even physical participation in this project will make a difference into the future.
The rise of HIV in Sub Saharan Africa began in Uganda in the 1990s. By 1996 its effects were felt in the whole of East Africa especially along the major highways such as the Tanzania –Zambia highway and many people started dying leaving behind their little children as orphans. These destitute children would wander from place to place and beg and some had nowhere to sleep and so the idea began of how to provide them with a shelter and means of livelihood.
At the beginning, twenty acres of land were bought around a garden which had been a hobby place. A mud house was built, and the Mafinga Upendo family center started to cater some of the little children. Later a more modern cemented brick house were built and hosted more than 12 children. The quest has always been to create a natural family environment for the orphans that fosters a holistic upbringing, so they can have self-determination when they reach adulthood.
In this way; then, Tanzania Orphans Upendo Community emulates and updates the traditional African extended family care ethics in which none was an orphan, as orphanhood was subsumed by the extended family parenting.
About the “Upendo” Family
Upendo is a Kiswahili word which means ‘charity/love’. Orphans and vulnerable children need a loving family not an orphanage
Upendo Family is one which consists of 6 to 12 orphans or vulnerable children between 3 and 12 years, who live under the care of a loving volunteer adult woman (Mama Mkubwa) to help them grow to adulthood in a socially and psychologically safe and secure environment while acquiring social and economic survival skills. Once they finish elementary or higher education, these young adults are assisted to start their own independent life.
This model of OVC care though unique to Tanzania is not an absolute novelty. It is now used in many places in Malawi, S. Africa and most parts of Sub Saharan Africa with some modifications. It resembles a natural family in some aspects. The volunteer woman caring for them is known in Kiswahili as the ‘Mama Mkubwa’ or simple ‘Mama’ (Mother).
Recruitment of the 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. We do now have a modest monthly wage for the Matrons 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 have no governmental funding for this project, relying on donations made thru TOUCO. We build and grow as we are able.
“Upendo” Family Centers
Mafinga Upendo Family Center:
- It hosts 23 children, with 2 Matrons
- Most kids attend Kindergarten and Elementary
- Additional NEW house being built
- Continuation of small Vegetable farming
- A fish pond added
Ibumila NEW Upendo Family Center:
- NEW houses completed including the Chapel
- Up to 67 children, with 6 Matrons
- Three (3) NEW additional houses completed
- Fish Pond completed
- Four functional wells
- Chapel Completed
- Corn house storage under construction
- A shop and a corn-mill center construction completed
- Cows, goats and pigs have been added
- Additional of fulltime nuns added to lead the center
Madeke Farm Achievements
- The farm is producing Pineapples and Avocados
- New tractor arrived in July 2016
- Corn Mill House and Garage Completed
- NEW farm house was completed
- 25 new acres brought into cultivation
- Two (2) Matrons are living at the center, plus additional few people, as care taker of the property
- The Madeke Farm is producing pineapples. The challenge is transportation, and thus the need for a truck. We are shifting slightly to emphasize more avocado production. Avocados are less labor intensive and production costs are lower.
- This year we have planted some 400 seedlings which we hope will produce in three years .
Uwemba Center Achievements
- It hosts 20 children, as most kids attend Kindergarten, and Secondary Schools
- Relocation house was completed, includ-ing additional work in the past two years.
- Electricity, water-pump and water tank were installed
- Three acres used for vegetables