It’s quiet here at St. Philip’s Mission as all the children are presently on their homesteads for the school break time. They were in school until the last week of August. The school-year here is a year long, and the children have 3 breaks in the year: two three-week breaks and one six-week break.
We are very concerned about maintaining a connection between the children and their homesteads and remaining family members, and homestead visits reinforce those connections. We work with heads of households within local chiefdoms, gaining social acceptance for the Ministries as a “co-parent,” caring for children with the permission of each orphan’s extended family. Also, in order for a male child to keep his legal rights as a member of a tribal group, he needs to return to his homeland and extended family several times a year, and we help arrange those visits.
When the kids go home, they take their clothes, they usually take food parcels (assessed on a family by family need, but probably 3/4s of our families need food, especially in the face of the current drought), if they need to take bedding, or medications, they do, but whatever they need we try to help them so that they are not a burden on their caretakers, and it reduces their risk of vulnerability. We help them pack up and drive them home. Once a week or so during breaks they come back to the Mission and check in and get supplementary food to take home to their families.
The staff also visits some of the children’s homesteads to check in – sometimes five or six times to each homestead of the most vulnerable who live in shebeens (huts that brew and serve beer), or without adults, or who are in need of food.
While the children are away, the staff sometimes use the time to clean or make repairs around the hostel. The hostel staff all took one week off when the children left in late August. Our staff often work long 14 hour days, as there is always work to do, so they really deserve some time off! This week two staff teams will again begin home visits of the most vulnerable children.
When the children return, all are given an examination to make sure they have returned healthy and safe. Thanks to the Vitamin Angels organization (www.vitaminangels.org), we have a year’s supply of deworming medication, which we give to the children when they return from school breaks.
Blessings & thanks,
Srs. Barbara & Diane