In Uganda, Africa, it is far too common for children to grow up impoverished, malnourished, and lacking the basic necessities of life. Many have been orphaned or abandoned. Many are literally starving for love. In last week’s article, “Caritas: The Need for Love”, we examined the plight of these children and the sad future that awaits them. This week we will discuss what Caritas for Children is doing to bring light and love into these children’s lives.
Caritas is unique among child sponsorship organizations in that it works directly with Catholic religious orders that minister to needy children. This allows for the greatest benefit from donated dollars. There is no need to train new people to go in and work. These religious orders are part of the community. They come from the same background and understand the needs of the people. They are eager to serve. In Uganda, Caritas partners with the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Stella Maris Caritas program began in 2004. Founded in the mid 1960s, Stella Maris, located in Nkokonjeru, is one of the top three boarding schools in all of Uganda. The majority of the students that attend are from well-to-do families who come to learn and then leave the small village. The idea behind the Stella Maris Caritas program is to take impoverished girls from the village of .Nkokonjeru and provide them access to this education so that they would then be able to create better lives for themselves and their families. This program caters to orphaned or partially orphaned children who need a place to live and learn 24/7. In Africa, there are no orphanages or foster programs. Children who have been orphaned or abandoned are taken in by extended families. Sometimes these families are trying to support 12 – 15 children in the most meager circumstances. Given cultural prejudices, girls are even more likely to suffer from poverty and lack of education. At Stella Maris, the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi provide for all the needs of these young girls: education, transportation, medical services, clothing and much more.
They could not do it, however, without the help of Caritas. The cost of care for each child is $1000 per year. Sr. Immaculate Nabukalu, LSOSF, headmistress of the Stella Maris Primary School states, “We are on the ground, we see what is to be done but we lack the resources and facilitation to be able to do it. . . .Without Caritas we never would have been able to get the sponsors. Nobody would have brought our cause to this side of the world. The world has become so small. The children are in close touch with their “parents” as they call them. . . However, the struggle is only beginning. There are thousands of these children still in the villages. . . . They keep coming to me to tell me their stories.” It is heartbreaking, but without a sponsor, Sr. Immaculate cannot invite these girls to stay.
In the Summer of 2006, the Mother Kevin Caritas program began. Unlike the Stella Maris program, this is a day program and is opened to both boys and girls. It is designed to minister to a larger number of Ugandan children. Education is provided through existing Catholic schools run by the Little Sisters of St. Francis. For just $30 per month, this program is able to provide children with an education, two meals per day, school uniform and other clothing, books and educational supplies, basic medical support and counseling and religious instruction. In Uganda, $1 / day is the price for hope.
In next week’s article, we will profile the children whose lives have been changed by Caritas. To find out more about Caritas, please visit www.caritas.us or call toll-free 1-888-227-4827.