Thursday, May 14, 2009

Outreach projects focused on orphans and vulnerable children

In Zambia, like many other African countries, there is a long established tradition of the extended family looking after children who have been orphaned. In the vast majority of cases children who have lost both parents are then raised by their uncles and aunts or their grandparents. It is often said that there is no such thing as an orphan in Africa! To a large extent this old adage still rings true today despite the scourge of HIV and Aids, poverty and disease. Despite this many well meaning charities and NGO’s are setting up a plethora of orphanages across the African continent. This of course ensures that in some cases children who may be otherwise abandoned are cared for and looked after. However, unfortunately it may also lead to some families who otherwise may have taken responsibility for the children of their deceased relatives handing them over to the newly established orphanages. As part of our outreach programme we did consider establishing an orphanage as part of the ZIGS project but after conducting research in Zambia and seeking the opinions of local communities we concluded that this concept may not be as positives as it seems at face value. We have thus developed an outreach model that is designed to help the families of those children who have been orphaned.

It is an unfortunate truth that many of the children placed into orphanages by their extended families are victims of poverty. In most cases if finances permitted then the family would take care of the child(ren). In the light of this fact we aim to economically empower families to ensure that orphaned children do not become an economic millstone. As part of our outreach programmes the children from the wider community, whether in full time education or not, will be invited to attend our agricultural outreach scheme. As part of the scheme the children will be taught how to farm efficiently based upon the principles of environmental sustainability and organic farming. It is hoped that the skills that the children will learn and develop will be utilised on their own families land and thus ensure a greater level of self sufficiency. Moreover the children will grow their own crops whilst learning at ZIGS and will be allowed to take food and seeds home with them on a regular basis; after all it will be their hard work that has led to the crops growing! The beauty of this scheme is that the children will learn, develop skills and hopefully enjoy themselves whilst their families benefit in the short term from the food/seeds the children bring home and moreover in the long term due to the skills that the children will acquire and be able to apply on the homestead. We hope that when families recognise the value of the scheme they will want to be more involved and thus sign up for the adult education programmes….

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