Image by Damian Patkowski

Working in the Community with Vulnerable Children

 

Working with children takes a lot of responsibility and part of that responsibility requires that we take part in protecting the children in the projects we are working with. 

 

What are our responsibilities as an organisation

 

We feel strongly that the projects we work with at the very least abide by the Tanzanian law based on the Children’s Act (2009):  

 

A person shall not deny a child the right to live with his parents, guardian or family and to grow up in a caring and peaceful environment unless it is decided by the court that living with his parents or family shall - 

(a) lead a significant harm to the child; 

(b) subject the child to serious abuse; or 

(c) not be in the best interest of the child. 

…with the laws and procedures applicable that it is in the best interests of the child to separate him from his parent, the best substitute care available shall be provided for the child. 

 

( 1)It shall be the duty of a parent, guardian or any other person having custody of a child to maintain that child in particular that duty gives the child the right to 

(a) food; 

(b) shelter; 

(c) clothing; 

(d) medical care including immunisation; 

(e) education and guidance;

(f) liberty; and 

(g) right to play and leisure. 

(2) A person shall not deprive a child access to education, immunisation, food, clothing, shelter, health and medical care or any other thing required for his development.

 

And the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

 

Therefore any children’s projects we are affiliated with should at the minimum be aimed at providing these basics for the children under their care. Any volunteers that we send to support the projects, will only be adding to what is already there such as volunteer teaching, care, playtime, donations or sponsorships. 

 

Anyone who chooses to be hosted by us to volunteer on a children’s project will be verified via:

  • Recent police/criminal background check to show no indication of previous criminal or indecent behaviour

  • Character references from verifiable people who can claim witness that our volunteers have excellent characteristics and behaviour to work with children

  • Face to face meeting (usually via video) with us

  • Detailed background information on qualifications and experience

Understanding the challenges:

 

Unlike many developed countries, Tanzania does not have a welfare public system that will take care of people when they struggle with poverty, poor education or face hard times. 

 

What does this mean? 

  • There is a huge amount of people who are unemployed or do not have a regular income.

    • Poverty means many families cannot afford to properly take care of their children or extra children that might be born.

    • Unstable incomes means consistent food and shelter becomes unreliable. Families not knowing how the next meal will be provided.

 

  • Abortion is illegal in Tanzania, but sexual assaults, harassments and exploitation against local women is very high. Therefore although the birth rate is high, serious issues for children under 5 also remain high.

    • Children born into these circumstances are at a higher risk of becoming abandoned, orphaned or abused.

    • Women left alone with children who were unplanned may be forced to leave them with family members while they work far away or abandon their children completely being unable to take care of them.

    • It is nearly impossible to force men who father children outside the traditional family unit to support their child without community intervention (family disputes) or legal process (family court).

    • Without affordable day care or enough support, children may be very neglected 

 

Children cannot gain entry into the public school system until the age of 7 years old and up. Children under this age will rely on extended family or local community projects to help with daycare and preschool early childhood education. If they have no extended family or have nowhere to go, many end up living on the streets, in orphanages or children’s homes. No government facilities exist that provide this care.

 

Challenges that can affect the community projects

 

  • No welfare support exists, therefore many people relying on personal donations from relatives or strangers and sponsor support to survive

  • There is a widespread lack of consistent money to provide basic equipment and facilities

  • Sometimes the time table/schedules of projects you are working with may be slow or not organised and in need of outside help to refocus the schedule for the children.

  • Not enough games and equipment to go around for the all the children

  • Children at the centres at ages 6/7 years old who are ready to go to start formal school are still waiting for sponsors or donations to go to good quality schools

  • Some children are not progressing enough with their development either in social development or education.

  • Many of the children coming from very poor homes with very little their families can provide in terms of money for better education or care.

  • The teaching staff doing their best but not always having the best training to push the children’s education forward

Working safely with children

 

It is important that careful consideration is taken into working with these children as they are amongst the most vulnerable in the world. They are at higher risk of exploitation, abuse and neglect than any other and it is important that their welfare is considered at every point.

 

  • All children should be protected from physical, emotional, mental and psychological harm at all times.

  • There should be consideration for their health and safety at all times

  • Their privacy and dignity should always be maintained and any information that can identify them protected

  • There should be strict guidelines on who can access these children i.e anyone having contact with them should always be verified and have a current background check.

  • Immediate action should be taken when children have become hurt or become sick

  • At all times, the children should have access to clean water, meals and shelter.

  • Their early education should be prioritised at all times


 

It is important to us that projects we work with meet these basic standards so the children under their care grow and flourish. It is also important that we work with volunteers who understand these issues and are able to manage their role as volunteers with compassion, care and professionalism.

 

Sponsorship and Donations

Unfortunately without long term commitment and community support, no real change will happen and we are all part of that community. The biggest goal is sustainability, however it is hard in an underdeveloped country where there is unreliable income  to make sure there is always funding to help support the people struggling the most. 

 

But fortunately there are solutions that we have seen change women and children’s lives over and over again. Sponsoring a child’s education is one of the most effective way to make a change.

 

How does this work? 

Sponsoring a child’s education

  • A school is chosen for the child to register and the fees are paid for an entire year. 

  • This can be done for as long as a child needs it. 

  • There are also costs such as school meals, uniform, books and equipment to ensure the child does not struggle at all. 

  • Many of the people we work with have had their education sponsored and are now working with children who are much like themselves and understand the impact it can have on their future.

 

Sponsor a teacher at a daycare centre

  • This has worked tremendously at various children’s centres and women’s shelters where good quality staff with excellent qualifications and experience are paid their salary through sponsorship

  • The reason for this is it is very difficult for many of these centres to keep staff due to lack of money. Staff with very good skills may leave for better salaries, leaving the project in the same issue again.

  • The more the team grows the better as it is then possible to include more children/women to the project and serve their needs.

 

Sponsoring a woman and her child/children

  • Alternatively you may feel more connected to women’s empowerment cause and want to help a woman who is struggling. 

  • It is possible to sponsor a woman’s rent and utilities, which has been done through several organisations we work with. One organisation currently pays the rent of 10 families through international sponsors. 

  • The idea is to allow space for the woman to build herself up and not worry about being homeless or without amenities and get back on their feet.

  • This is usually done for 6 months or up to 2 years or as long as people feel comfortable to support.

How would the sponsorship donations be paid?

The fees can be paid directly in person at the school or with the support of a registered NGO such as Siret Volunteers or another NGO can be made responsible in overseeing the donation.

 

How do I know where the money is going?

The local school information system in Tanzania is not digitalised (online) and most things are paper based, which means there must be someone physical in person handling things. You should receive a receipt or a confirmation letter with an official stamp which legitimises the payment and makes it a legal document in Tanzania. For example, if you have sponsored school fees, you will receive a copy of the confirmation from the school that confirms this payment has been made for the child. Simple things like books, uniform and equipment can also be confirmed or acknowledged.