Drs. Bill and Peg Hoffman send periodic reports of the work going on in Tanzania through the Adopt-a-Village program. This month, they share work with orphans in the city of Tabora.
In 2002 the Moravian Church of Western Tanzania’s orphan program started in the village of Sikonge. Mama Kimwaga and her three assistants began providing food, clothing, health care, school uniforms and supplies, as well as small personal items such as bars of soap, to the initial 34 children.
The following year the church’s provincial offices in Tabora asked that their city be included in the program. The request initially seemed unworkable; the two areas were separated by a four-hour drive on a road that is nearly impassible during the rainy season. After much consideration, a separate but similar program was constructed to meet the needs of orphans in Tabora; 70 children were registered in the city during the first month.
The two programs proved to be very different from the start. Villages are small and self-contained. People know one another and communicate continually. In this environment, enrolling orphans is relatively easy as all the children are well-known to the entire community.
Compared to a village in the bush, the city of Tabora is enormous; the total number of orphans there dwarfs the program’s capacity to care for them. Initially the ladies knew only a few of the potential registrants. Since it was usually impossible for them to be sure a child was truly an orphan, a note from the local community leader was required to document the individual’s status.
The needs of the city orphans were also far greater. There are no fields in the city where food may be grown. Housing is often woefully substandard, and sometimes lacking altogether. The social support system generated by tribal relations in the villages, imperfect as it may be, simply does not exist in the city; orphans and their caregivers have too often been left to fend for themselves.
The Tabora orphan team is supervised by Kefas Kabata, the only man in either program responsible for orphan care. While he lives in Sikonge with his family, the four orphan ladies live in different parts of the city; all are members of the Moravian church.
The one advantage Tabora’s children have is educational opportunity. Unlike their village counterparts, schools in the city have teachers in all subjects required by the government examinations. This enables a far greater percentage to pass their exams and proceed to secondary school, and beyond; it also results in significantly greater costs per child compared to the village program. The average cost per child, per year, for the entire program is $33 USD; in the villages this is $23 USD, while in the city of Tabora it exceeds $122 USD.
Although the cost of care in the city of Tabora is five times that in the villages, these children are no less deserving. Both programs therefore treat all orphans equivalently. However, due to financial constraints, the number of orphans registered in Tabora has been limited to 360; in the Sikonge program the number of villages, rather than the number of orphans, has been limited by Mama Kimwaga’s ability to supervise them.
Orphans account for over 15 percent of the Tanzanian youth population. Due to the country’s poverty, which is exacerbated within these broken families, these children rarely experience opportunities equal to those of their non-orphaned peers. By providing the financial resources necessary to remain in school, the orphan program gives them the chance to become productive citizens, advancing not only their own lives but contributing to their country as well. ■
The Drs. Bill and Peg Hoffman oversee the Adopt-a-Village program, an outreach ministry based at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem.