The COHAD (Children of Hope and Dignity) village is, in essence, a small community where children receive the care and education that they need. The village is a secure, safe and open environment for children to dwell and interact with one another, and is modeled after the traditional African village style.
Based on the Watoto model, COHAD is focused on meeting the physical, educational, health and spiritual needs of the children. An education prepares children for life by developing character and career, and the family model of COHAD means that they are able to learn how to respect and love their “mothers”, “brothers” and “sisters” – this is vital so that as they grow up they will understand the value of a healthy, functional family. Each “family” has 8 children, who are cared for by a house “mummy”.
COHAD is a partnership between local people in the Kumi District of Uganda and people from around the world. Mission Direct came to Kumi in 2010 to work alongside Children of Hope and Dignity, building the homes for orphans of AIDS and civil war. To date 10 houses have been completed allowing for the accommodation of 80 orphans. The really challenging issue is that there is only enough funding currently to support 24 orphans! So the houses are there, the children are waiting for a home, but the funding is not in place!
Seeds of Hope first visited COHAD in 2011 on our first trip to Kumi with Mission Direct. We took part in the building of house number 10. Four of the houses were vibrant with children, and it all felt warm and loving, with a sense of peace throughout. The children and the house mummies captured our hearts. This led to our spending time there whenever we headed back to Kumi.
On our return visit in April 2016, walking around the orphanage, we grasped a real sense of things being stagnant with no forward movement, which was disappointing. The older orphan children were at boarding school, so the houses had only 4 children in each, and there was an overall sense of despondency about the place.
However, during our time in Kumi, we were able to be a part of something that we hope will bring new life to COHAD – the first new children entering the project for five years!
Linda writes, following the April 2016 trip:
“This trip was our first experience of seeing any street orphan children in Kumi and the 3 we met were wonderful characters, William, John, and Victor. Their stories were tough, and caused more than a few tears amongst us, their personalities cheeky, yet strong, (which they need to be to survive on the streets) and within a day they were hanging around the hotel morning noon and night waiting for us Muzungu’s (the local word for white people) to arrive. Like all boys, they loved football, and were keen for us to join in!
Again, one those quirky things in Uganda you just never know who you may end up talking to. We had gone to the local eating establishment (don’t imagine one of our restaurants) for dinner of local chicken and rice, and after an hour the Pastor we work with turned up with the local Bishop of the PAG church, John Michael to join us. Chatting about COHAD, and introducing the idea of the boys being allowed to move there, guess who then arrived? Yep, the boys themselves, to come and sit with us for a cup of tea. First hand with no effort on our behalf, a relationship had been created.
The result? That same evening it was agreed that subject to their stories checking out, they could be move into COHAD that very week, along with two other boys from the community. Yes!!!
Our promise? We would fund the 5 boys, plus 3 more with immediate effect. Yikes, this was no small commitment, and we knew it was still a drop in the ocean. With 5 more empty houses, (which in our opinion should be full to bursting,) COHAD orphanage was about to become our long term project, as we offered to partner with them, with the probability of becoming a member on their board.”
Without sponsors, COHAD cannot fulfill the mission to give the children a hope and a future. Having committed sponsors means that COHAD can give a more holistic kind of care to orphaned and vulnerable children and help them to grow to become independent and self-sufficient.
Sponsorship enables COHAD to feed, clothe, provide access to medical and spiritual care, provide access to education and vocational training, and ensure that each child is supported by loving house “mummies” who nurture the children at COHAD.