Windhoek-Children without a family network are in danger of being isolated, abused, exploited and terrorised, the founder of the Acacia Children’s Trust (ACT), Juliana Ida Garises, believes. She says with their family-based form of childcare, ACT enables abandoned and orphaned children to once more become rooted within their own family units and the wider society.
Garises says they educate children on the importance of natural resources and how they can use it to generate an income for themselves and also take them on holiday to their farm in the South. “Our children are not just kept in the house, but also get the opportunity to go on holiday, just like children that stay with their family,” she says. ACT was founded as a grassroots effort to address the huge distress of orphaned children, and on the household groups raising them. It aimed to protect, promote and utilise their resources to strengthen the future generation. “ACT is one of the first organisations in Namibia to be put in place solely for AIDS orphans,” says Garises.
She adds that ACT believes that for any intervention to be effective in addressing the problems that orphans face, it must recognise and utilise the African cultural traditional context in which the care of orphans is accepted as a responsibility of the extended family and the community at large.
“In Namibia, it is tradition for the extended family to take care of children who have lost their parents. The crisis has, however, reached such dimensions that family networks can no longer cope. Grandparents, kinship, local leaders, educators, business owners, traditional medicinal practitioners, the clergy and many more community members founded ACT,”Garises noted.
ACT offers natural and agricultural resource management, vocational and community development training and supports foster parents, caregivers and community leaders in the provision of support to the children.
“We work closely with local schools to identify orphans and vulnerable children and their needs, [including] psycho-social support, Christian counseling and character development support. After completing our training all the children are ready to take on any challenge within the community,” Garises says.
ACT was founded in 2000 in Soweto in Windhoek and currently provides care for more than 80 orphaned and underprivileged children.