One of the first questions we're asked when people hear about Benjamin House Ministries is whether we're an orphanage.
Actually, we're not! Benjamin House Ministries is a family restoration non-profit.
There are over 2.6 million orphans in Uganda. To give you some comparison, the number of orphans in Uganda is equivalent to more than 50% of the population of South Carolina. Children are without parents for a multitude of reasons ranging from civil war, disease, abuse, and overwhelming poverty. The average Ugandan has a monthly income of $30. That's just $1 a day. For many Ugandans, being a "good mom" or a "good dad" just isn't on the radar. Survival is. Every day, Ugandan parents are faced with a choice: either I can keep my child and when they're older they'll struggle with life just like I do now, or I can take my child to an orphanage where they'll get 3 meals a day, an education, and a chance for a better life. We believe that's a choice no parent should ever have to make.
While the quick fix to the orphan care crisis in Uganda is to build orphanages and give kids the most comfortable life possible, in the long term it makes the situation exponentially worse. Kids need families! Our desire is to remove the barriers that might keep a child from their family or tribe of origin so they can grow up learning what family looks like.
For families that are already together, but are on the brink of falling apart with children who may soon become orphans, we created our Child Sponsorship program. BHM Child Sponsorship exists to preserve families. If the expense of school fees or providing enough food for the family is the challenge, we offer sponsorship for the child so that he can stay with his parents. Building another orphanage would essentially put a bandaid on the Ugandan orphan care crisis. We want to provide solutions at the root of the issue!
Then there are the families that have already fallen apart. The children who are already without parents, living on the streets of Kampala and sleeping on the sidewalks at night. Every child has a story and there are 7,000 children living on the streets of Kampala. A girl whose father abused her, causing her to run away. A boy whose mother got Malaria and passed away. A refugee who fled Northern Uganda during the civil wars. These children don't just need homes. They need a place to restore their hearts, souls, bodies, and minds. Seeing this overwhelming need in the heart of Uganda, we sought out to restore families through Transitional Homes. In these homes, orphans receive counseling and love from our social workers and House Parents. There are no more than 8 children in a home at one time and we aim to find a forever family for each child within 6 months. One of these sweet children is Hakim and after 4 years of living on the street, he is home! This is his story.
Hakim goes Home
When Hakim was young, his parents separated. After his mother got remarried, she and his step-father wouldn't let Hakim, his sister, or his brother visit. Their father took Hakim's siblings in and Hakim went to live with his Grandmother. After some time, Hakim's father and siblings visited. His father decided to take Hakim with him this time and leave his brother and sister with their Grandmother. She had no choice but to give Hakim to his father.
Hakim was 10 when he went to live with his father and step-mother. Immediately, his step-mother began mistreating him and eventually she influenced Hakim's father to abuse him, as well. When their abuse became more serious, Hakim fled to the streets of Kampala.
In February, Hakim moved into our Transitional Home and in just a month we found his Grandmother! She and Hakim's siblings have heard nothing about Hakim from their father since he took Hakim away, 4 years ago. Although his family was eager to have him return, our social workers felt that Hakim needed more time to recuperate. After 2 more months of counseling, rehabilitation, and adjustment Hakim, his siblings, and Grandmother were reunited!
Hakim is living with his Grandmother and siblings now and was given a "Welcome Home" present by our staff including a new mattress, mosquito net, pillow, clothes, food, and school supplies, and 2 pre-registered terms at the nearest school. Our social workers will continue to check up on Hakim and his family throughout the year as he adjusts to being a kid, again, in his forever family!