The Semonkong Sponsorship Project
Written by the Manager Timothy Tlooko with additions by Annette Samsom
In 2003 Dorcas Aid International (DAI) from the Netherlands began a Project to sponsor children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Semonkong, Lesotho. Jill Kinsey, an English missionary, was sent to Semonkong to start the project. Jill discovered that the orphans were often living with elderly grandparents who were finding it nearly impossible to find the means to look after so many grandchildren. Jill herself took some of the children into care (Semonkong Children’s Centre was born) and suggested to Dorcas that the grandparents should be sponsored to help them look after their grandchildren. Thus the ‘Adopt a Granny’ project from DAI took shape. However, DAI continued with sponsoring children and Timothy Tlooko joined the project in 2005.
DAI handed over the project to an NGO “Tabitha Care Association” (TCA) from 2007 – 2009 but the project did not go well and it was scheduled to be closed. However, when Michael Gendhi, the DAI’s International Director arrived from the Netherlands to close it down he found he could not because of the great need and the poor state of the children: “many a pair of shoes was worn-out!” He decided to continue with the project under one staff member (Timothy) as of January 2010.
The project was then closely monitored by Dorcas Aid International South Africa (DAISA) which was the Regional Field Office for DAI’s projects in Southern Africa. The project slightly changed its methods of operating; small sustainable projects were explored such as: poultry project for elderly, Parma-culture and handicrafts(mohair spinning) as well as recruiting staff members and volunteers. The poultry project was mainly meant to alleviate poverty through the utilization of eggs and organic meat consumption with comparatively low cost as opposed to buying from supermarkets. That small project existed for 3 consecutive years; but we had a feeling that some grannies slaughtered their chickens while other poultry died from poultry disease outbreak.
The introduction of keyhole farming gardens seemed to work well because elderly people do not need to do much physical hard work once this type of vegetable garden is set-up. However, during icy-cold winter months, they lacked nets to cover their crops. Which meant that their produce would completely freeze as the area temperatures sometimes became as low as minus 10°cto -15°c. Handicrafts enterprises were tried, too, but often failed due to the fact that spinning itself needs powerand already worn-out muscles did not have the strength. Long distance walkingto the training point contributed negatively to the health of the old people until the number declined from over 100 to zero trainees within a 3 months period.
The number of elderly people cared for and supported under DAI “Adopt a Granny” project increased from 56 in 2010 to 128 by the end of 2017. Each of these beneficiaries had an individual sponsor who made a contract with DAI to pay a monthly fee to cater for ‘their’ grandparent’s needs. The support was mainly given in kind – no money in cash would be provided except for special cases. Only needs would be provided by the project for the informed concerns of such beneficiaries. Collective and/or uninformed needs would be assessed as well as individual beneficiary’s needs. 15% of the total donation and/or funds would cater for the project Administration. Likewise, the children’s project also grew from 65 to 125 beneficiaries.
Since then, basic health training sessions for the elderly and their caretakers as well as collective Bible sessions seem to be working well. Psychosocial support services (counselling sessions on numerous topics, home visits by staff and other members of the community) are also successful. The group sessions are held to coincide with the monthly distribution of Aid packages (food, clothes, shoes, blankets & household basic commodities).
From 2015 to end 2017Timothy explored a collective Money Savings and Loans scheme amongst the project beneficiaries which would basically help elderly to save money and have an opportunity to borrow funds for personal errands. At the same time the little interest charged for borrowing from their pool would be shared among the members at the end of their scheduled term. The sharing ratio would be: the higher the savings invested the more interest accumulation would be awarded!
HOW DID DAISA WORK WITH SEMONKONG PROJECT?
Timothy opened a separate Bank Account into which DAISA would transfer funds on a monthly basis. Monthly finances reporting were required with supporting documents (bank statements, receipts, pictures of events conducted, quotations, requisitions and proof of purchases/payment). This method operated well for 6 consecutive years from 2010 to 2016 when DAISA closed down.
DAI LEAVES SOUTHERN AFRICA.
Without any pre warning the International director of DAI announced during the grandparents’ Christmas party in December 2017 that the project would be closed down with immediate effect. However the director was persuaded to keep the project going for at least 6 more months. There was much distress and unrest both in Semonkong and in the Netherlands. Since the second half of 2018 several beneficiaries (elderly) passed away owing to severe developed hypertension probably caused because of the stress arising from the sudden changes.
ALL FOR AFRICA’S CHILDREN TODAY IN LESOTHO
A new partner called All for Africa’s Children Today in Lesotho(AFACTL) has offered to oversee any funds which can be found for the Semonkong Project. The Trust was set up for Pulane Children’s Centre (PCC) which was founded by Jill Kinsey and Grant Strugnell in 2008. Jill is now semi-retired and living in Pulane and Grant is the director of PCC and also flies as a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).
The grandparents are no longer individually sponsored but through AFACTL they have been supported with at least basic food packages and pastoral care monthly via a Netherlands good hearted individual by the name of Annette Samson and other persons, including Christ Church Anglican Church in Heiloo the Netherlands. The project facilitator Timothy Tlooko remains at his post accepting a smaller salary than that which he was receiving from DAI. It is thanks to Timothy that the project is still running so well.
There are currently 98(14m, 84f) elderly being cared for who live in Semonkong and various villages around a 25km radius. Monitoring the elderlies monthly is a bit of a struggle due to lack of transportation. A quad bike is available, but needs major repair due to its electrical system fault. There are not enough funds for its maintenance. “It’s kind of like a white elephant” because, as it is imported from China, the parts have to be imported from abroad and the local mechanics do not know how to repair it.
If some of our less mobile elderly are no longer able to come to the food distribution points they are always represented by somebody else. Some are challenged with blurred vision while at the same time, most are challenged with old age health constraints such as backaches, painful knees and extreme forgetfulness (dementia).
Under DAI many children were sponsored under the project “Adopt a Child”.
When DAI abandoned the project in 2018 all these sponsors were lost apart from one.
Every sponsored child had his/her respective sponsor. The main aim was to improve the child’s life holistically through education to some certain level, health aspects and improve their standard of living. Sponsoring would stop after the young person finished secondary school education. The government would take it from there to tertiary level via provision of an educational bursary according to the ability of the child. Without the sponsors, the orphans are now struggling to make ends meet – not only at school but also with their basic needs of food + clothing. It is a battle!
As with the elderly, Timothy also explored the savings and loans idea with the guardians of the sponsored Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs). Since the adoption of this idea, guardians have been able to buy school-shoes for 125 children with the raised funds from their group, once a year. Even after the DAI project phased out, a few of the guardians (38) still continue their project under Timothy’s supervision.
This group (m+f) seem to be dedicated to what they are doing, but they lack resources. They did obtain funds from AFACTL via Mrs. Annette’s support to buy potato seeds in September 2018. Timothy offered them land free of charge and guided them in planting, maintaining and harvesting the crop. Any benefit from the sale is to be used for the children’s school-requirements!
Their combined OVCs’ financial School-requirements currently triple their expected fundraising.
More crops can be grown as an added sustainable project (provided that they are able to get seeds). Animal feed (barley) and root vegetables such as beetroot, potatoes, carrots etc. are examples of comparatively better climate resistance crops. A greenhouse could be a solution during winter months when all the plants die in the area.
Alternatively, animal husbandry especially laying chickens can be a sure way to go. (Eggs are in short supply locally as eggs are imported from outside Semonkong.)
Timothy has attended training sessions and acquired diverse skills and knowledge on the following topics during DAI’s time;
1. Office Administration
2. Computer Literacy
3. Strategic Planning
4. Proposal Writing
5. Improved Agricultural techniques
6. Disaster & Risks Management
7. Leadership Skills
8. Needs Assessment Survey
9. Project End Evaluation Skills
10. Children’s Rights
11. Internal Finances Management
12. Spiritual Reinforcement Skills
13. Counselling Approaches