This has been hard work! We first set out to develop training for our staff in Bukavu since this was new work for them. We contracted with a highly skilled social worker from Kigali named Souvenir to help us through this process. Last fall, our staff from Bukavu received training in Kigali, Rwanda on how to assess children and families and how to create care plans toward reintegration. It’s our great desire to see Congolese families rise up and care for the vulnerable children in their communities, and we want to walk beside them. Our staff returned to Bukavu excited to begin.
The truth is that Congolese families have been caring for orphans long before orphanages ever existed. Churches and organizations in the West – with the best of intentions – continue to build and support orphanages. Unfortunately, some of the unintended consequences of these efforts have resulted in families choosing orphanages as options for children who are not truly orphans but only in response to poverty.
So our first task was to asses the children to determine the details of their stories – where did they come from, who are their families, and would they be good candidates for immediate reintegration. Our staff began the long process of assessing 81 children.
As expected, many of the children do have biological family members who chose to place the children in orphanages due to the death of a parent or extreme poverty. Others are not able to return to their biological families, and so it was necessary to begin to identify Christian families in Eastern DRC who would volunteer to add a child to their existing family.
Our staff met with many families to discuss the challenges, both financial and cultural. It’s our desire to identify families who are willing and able to lovingly welcome children as their own.
We are excited to report that 10 children have been placed in 9 families. Five children were placed with a member of their biological family, and volunteer families took in five children.
To ensure that the children are receiving adequate care, we will continue to meet with the families weekly, provide social support, facilitate group therapy, and determine long-term care plans for the children. In some cases, we will want to provide financial support to the families in order to reduce the likelihood that the child will again be placed in an orphanage due to poverty. We want to provide sustainable help, like farm animals or job training. Reeds of Hope will continue to sponsor these children so that they can attend school.
You can partner in this work to keep children in families! The proceeds from our Christmas fundraising will go toward more training for our staff as well as support for these ten families. We believe that continuing to develop this program will have lasting impact on children and families in Eastern DRC!