Reforming Nkoaranga Orphanage – what’s changed?

“We’ve given the Orphanage Reform Project a lot of thought, research and planning – in fact, it’s been ongoing for almost a year!  The best part is, once the project is completed, the benefits for the Mamas and children continue to grow.  The welfare of the children and Mamas is central to our work at TST, and the Orphanage Reform plan is one of many steps TST is taking to ensure the health and wellbeing of all our children and their Mamas!
Jess, Child Welfare Director

Why did we need a change?

Behind every improvement lies inefficiencies of a particular system. Although the orphanage has been running well for many years now, problems still arose. Issues included:

  • Too few Mamas per shift
  • Mamas and volunteers not doing their work properly due to lack of knowledge and a lack of evaluation systems
  • Information not passed on from Mamas leaving for the day to incoming Mamas due to a lack of a handover process, for example, information about sick kids or food habits
  • The children not having consistent routines during the day, resulting in eating/playing/sleeping habits being altered, making the kids unhappy and cranky
  • Mamas not addressing the specific developmental needs of each child, since they had no information or system to share information, aside from day to day observation
  • Kids not developing proper bonds with the Mamas due to staffing problems
The orphanage reform aims to address the above listed issues, and ultimately make life easier and better for our kids and Mamas!

We made four main changes to the way Nkoaranga Orphanage and TST is run.  These changes provide the structure through which other important issues and topics can be effectively addressed. We researched them thoroughly, discussed them at length with the Mamas, and we are proud to tell you about…

1. A daily schedule for different age groups
…creates a stable routine, and ensures that no tooth goes unbrushed, no mosquito net unused!

  • We have developed a ‘Big Kid Schedule’ and a ‘Little Kid Schedule’
  • Schedules establish a stable routine for the children and Mamas
  • Schedules ensure that children consistently receive a high level of care, preventing children feeling stressed due to an irregular routine, and teaching the children healthy habits such as hand washing and teeth brushing
  • Schedules ensure that the developmental needs of children are met
  • ‘Learning Playtime’ is quality time for the Mamas and kids to play together
  • ‘Development Time’ is a space for Mamas and volunteers to help the little kids work on age-appropriate skills such as standing, crawling, walking, and talking, and the bigger kids with reading, writing, and drawing etc.
  • ‘Activity Time’ will usually be art or music related and led by a volunteer, encouraging creativity within the kids
  • ‘Story Time’ give the big kids time to listen to a book or traditional story told by a Mama(s), and have some calm time before bed!

2. Our first Child Welfare Director

…implements the reform and provides oversight, expertise, and advice

  • Jessica, our new Child Welfare director, has extensive experience in child development and is working on getting her Master’s in Social Work.  We are extremely lucky to have her!
  • Her position involves ensuring that the Orphanage Reform Plan is implemented as planned and monitoring the health and development of all of the children under TST care
  • In addition, Jess is the point of contact if any of the Mamas has immediate concerns about whether a child should be taken to the hospital, and will take care of any other child-welfare related issues
  • Finally, our Child Welfare Director will provide an on-the-ground point of contact for the Child Welfare sub-committee of the main board, a committee she feels lucky to have! The experienced team assists with advice if there are any serious issues with the children

3. Mama-kids teams

…promote secure attachments, and ensure that each child gets the attention they need

  • Mamas will care for the same group of children (wherever possible)
  • Providing each child with one constant primary caregiver is important for fostering secure attachments in children, and helps to tackle attachment disorders which some children may develop when a primary caretaker is lacking in their lives
  • Mama-kid teams also allow Mamas to keep track of and promote each child’s development and wellbeing more easily. This ensures that each child gets exactly the care they need since each team Mama is fully responsible for her team kids
  • An important aspect of the teams is that when each team’s shift is over, the Mamas do not simply go home. They have to make sure that the handover is made properly; leaving no mess behind and updating the incoming Mamas on any issues with the kids. This makes life easier and better for the Mamas and the kids. 
  • Colour coded uniforms / child clothes helps everyone keep track of who is in which team!

4. Staff training

…supplements existing experience in important areas, increasing confidence and competence

  • We are extremely lucky to already have such experienced and committed Mamas working at Nkoaranga Orphanage – the dedication they show each child is truly humbling (and their chai (tea) tastes delicious!).
  • The hygiene area is a big, but very well received, change. Each child has their own toothbrush in a cup with their name, as shown above. Although brushing your teeth may seem like an obvious habit for many, it is not for many people in Tanzania. The Mamas are very excited to use this closed off area for washing the kids’ hands and brushing their teeth – and so are the kids! 
  • Staff training focused on important areas and was designed to supplement existing knowledge
  • Training in child welfare, including: child development, attachment disorders and positive discipline methods (a time-out chair and saying sorry) provided the Mamas with the theory behind good practice
  • Training on family welcoming and volunteer procedures helped the Mamas to improve their interpersonal skills when dealing with relatives visiting their child for the first (or one of many) time, and in advising and guiding volunteers to help them in the most effective way, increasing the confidence and enjoyment of all parties
  • The Mamas really enjoyed the training!

These changes are already allowing us to address topics which are integral to the wellbeing of the children at Nkoaranga.  We want to say a huuuge thank you for being a part of The Orphanage Reform Project, and making all of this possible!

If you have any questions at all about any aspect of the reform, or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]