Six years after the first case of AIDS had been diagnosed in the Kagera region of Tanzania, a grassroots effort led to the establishment of UKIMWI Orphans Assistance (UOA) in 1989.
UOA was established to address the crisis created by the existence the orphaned children then numbering 46,000, and on the households of the kinship groups raising those orphans.
UOA's website says that it was "the first grassroots organization in the field of AIDS orphans in Tanzania, and one of the first, if not the first organization in the US to be put in place solely for the AIDS orphans." The organization takes the approach of encouraging kinship members to draw from the cultural strength and kinship resources and network of caring, to link up with local communities to address the concerns of orphans. Quoting that "The deep sense of kinship, with all it implies, has been one of the strongest forces in traditional Africa." UOA believes that given the enormity of the AIDS orphans crisis in Africa, the traditional African resources of the extended family and the community at large musts be fully utilized. This organization says that it was founded by grandparents, kinship and community members, local leaders, educators, business owners, traditional medical practitioners, the clergy and many more individuals.
UOA was born in 1989 when the attendees of a social gathering at Bwanjai village in Kagera region of Tanzania began discussing how to ease the distress of the growing number of orphans in the communities. The people at this gathering decided to pull their resources together and help each other to take care of the children affected by AIDS. UKIMWI is the Swahili word for AIDS and UKIMWI Orphans Assistance was designed to help the vulnerable AIDS orphans.
Since it began, UOA has initiated 90 more projects in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya helping villages and their kinship groups in raising more than 7,000 orphans and vulnerable children. (The UOA programs in Tanzania are now most often referred to as "UOA-T") Each of the programs is a legally constituted NGOs registered with their respective governments. And UOA is a Washington, D.C. based 501(c)(3) non-profit tax exempt corporation.
UOA works with local village volunteers who identify and define the needs or challenges that face their villages. Planning, decision-making and implementation are carried out on the grassroots level. This provides for the most accurate accounting creates a high trust factor.
The UOA program is built upon the strength of existing kinship institutions in assisting orphans to cope with daily life, growing and developing into socially and economically well-adjusted citizens. Each village program has its volunteer elders who provide leadership in the persons of the chairperson, secretary, treasurers, counselors and various committee members in order to address specific needs. The village leadership holds at least one monthly meeting and general meetings whenever required, with UOA members meeting at least once a week to work on the projects.
UOA also states at its website that: "Although external resources have been highly leveraged, the program has been sustainable in confirmation of UOA's tenet: A locally initiated sustainable program of assistance run by concerned capable extended family / community leaders and householders is more meaningful, effective and sustainable."
UOA's Mission is to provide "the necessities of life and basic services to enable (AIDS) orphans and vulnerable children in Africa to grow and develop into mature, responsible and self-dependent members of their communities and nations."
" It is also the mission of UOA to build, through socio-economic development, the capacity of the kinship groups/extended family members and communities in order to serve the needs of the children under their care."
UOA is committed to
1) alleviate hunger, provide shelter, clothing, and other necessities of life;
2) build each orphaned child's confidence and ability to rely upon themselves economically and socially;
3) assure orphans have access to necessary resources and micro-capital to succeed in UOA facilitated self-reliance programs. UOA-facilitated host families are given the choice of a Banana/Coffee Plantation or Kibanja land-based orphans support project, which are outlined on their web site.
In Tanzania, UOA has served orphans located in six wards in the three districts of Kagera region by helping the assisted villages to create about 65% of resources needed to raise the orphans. Household needs assessments were conducted in 1990 and 1991 and revealed two types of needs: (1) short term: provision of basic needs such as schooling, food, clothing and bedding, shelter and health care which required immediate attention, and (2) long-term needs of food and economic security including food production, income generation, and rehabilitation of orphans' houses. The long-term needs, especially food production and the economy were given priority. Consequently UOA-T undertook Food Production and Economic Development: The Banana / Coffee Farm-Based Development Program.
In addition to the food production program UOA provides Complementary Support Services to the Kibanja that include:
- Health and Well-being
- Skills Development and Vocational Training
- Maruku Youth Fishing Project
- Farm Implements: UOA-T provides various implements to support farming households including hauling truck, grain mill, thrashing knives, etc. to support the farmers
- HIV/AIDS Education & Prevention: a long-term effort to reduce the number of orphans.
With regard to this last matter, UOA says that its "activities reflect a community commitment to the sustainable reduction of the spread of HIV/AIDS through preventive health education, risk avoidance, parental/community involvement in education and training, in proper care of people affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. UOA-T activities include community education and sensitization about HIV/AIDS, peer education and information sharing, counseling, etc. Pending on the availability of funding, UOA-T is planning an unprecedented, full fledged, culturally appropriate community education campaign in Kagera Region and beyond, focusing on the young people between the ages of 14 - 25."
What I have given you is just the Very Briefest outline of what UOA is doing. You cannot get the full sense of what great work this group is undertaking unless you visit their web site at: http://ukimwiorphans.com/ . They have some very good ideas and seem to have a solid plan for achieving their goals.