We moved into our last house with two children just before Christmas. Now we are going to try moving out of our project house just after Christmas, this time with sixteen children. We don't have Pickfords but there is a local cart we can have the use of.
This is a change of direction for the project and in the past couple of weeks we have been getting everything ready for the next phase. For ten months now we have been looking after these children because either they have no home at all or the home that they come from is too poor to feed them. Our solution is to help these families start earning an income so that they can look after their own children.
Between our sixteen children we have twelve mothers (or mamas as they are known around here). The fun started last week when we brought them all together for the first time and explained our plan. We have a mixed bunch, from mama Marc who does the talking for everyone to Mama Seth who sits quietly and says her piece when she has to. Some have sold things before and for others this is the first time. Two of the children were being looked after by older siblings, one of whom is a brother. Other than this, the men are noticeable by their absence. The are all either dead, in prison or simply absent.
The women have divided into three groups. My favourite is the banana juice production. The operation involves burying a bunch of bananas in the ground for a few days, mixing them in a hollowed-out wooden canoe called a muvuri then boiling the mash up in a large pan. This wonder-juice is sold by the jerry-can around the local shops. With a four day production cycle we are hoping they will be able to have a batch ready for the Christmas market. Guess what the children will be getting on Christmas day.
The second group are a little less adventurous and are going to trade bags of charcoal down at Nyamirambo market. There is an annual tax that we have had to pay on top of an initial stock to get them going, but this includes a secure shelter inside the market itself which is good. Charcoal is the cooking fuel of choice in these parts so there should be a steady demand.
The third group are going to try their hands at making amandazis, a heavy fried bun, reminiscent of stale doughnut. These are a staple in all the small shops and should find a ready market.
This is an experiment never tried before as far as we know. Instead of running a feeding program for the children, we will give the mamas an amount each month to feed each child they have. This money will decrease gradually over six months. They (and we) have that long to get their income generation up to a level that will support their families. If we succeed, we will have brought the families back together again and they will be self-sufficient. Please pray for us, and watch this space.