At The Small Things, we do everything that we can to keep kids at home with their family, to provide a family-style home when no other is available, and to reunify kids with their families as soon as safely possible. Though we understand why children do sometimes require residential care, it doesn’t make us happy when kids are referred by local social services, and walk through the gate of Happy Family Children’s Village for the first time.
The Francis family were no exception. Ndetaulwa, Pendo, Glory and Happiness were referred to TST in early 2019 after local social welfare became aware that their home life was unsafe. Though their parents loved them immensely, illness prevented them from caring for their children and keeping them safe at home.
It wasn’t easy for the kids initially, with the transition into an unfamiliar place without their parents causing some understandable struggles, but with the help of our child welfare team and mamas (childcare staff) they adjusted quickly. The two youngest – Ndetaulwa and Pendo – entered our TST daycare and quickly started picking up English, while Glory and Happiness attended the local government primary school in Nkoaranga.
As hard as we try though, we know that life at TST isn’t enough, and our team have worked tirelessly to find and remove the barriers keeping the Francis kids from their family. While our usual focus is on supporting families to become self-sustainable, it isn’t viable in this case, so our team have focused the next best outcome. Monthly support with medical expenses and food have greatly improved the quality of life for the Francis kids’ parents and two older siblings who remained at home.
But one obstacle remained. While it’s unlikely due to other factors that the Francis kids can return home full-time for the foreseeable future, a safe and healthy house was the only barrier preventing short term visits with their parents in the school breaks – a vital connection with community and family that we try to promote with all of our residential children. Building houses is not something that falls within the scope of what we do at TST, but our Outreach team – who are all from the local area – knew something had to be done.
After collecting donations from TST staff, which were then matched from a special fund, and with the incredibly generous support of our supporter Adiana Ross and her nonprofit Project Rose, enough funds were gathered to buy materials for a safe and study house – the vital last piece of the puzzle. With TST staff providing labor, in collaboration with a local fundi (builder), the home is nearing completion, and the Francis kids will finally return to spend time with their family during school breaks
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges faced by many families living in the communities in which we work. Unique challenges require innovative solutions, and we’re grateful to have staff that go above and beyond their duty to do best for the children in our care. And we’re grateful for the families that we work with, who – with a little support – work so hard to provide the best future for their children.
School breaks for two weeks next month, and first the first time since entering care, Ndetaulwa, Pendo, Glory and Happiness will be walking back out the gates of Happy Family Children’s Village to spend their holiday with family, where they belong.