Watoto Foundation - Child in the Sky Project
Watoto Foundation is an NGO that works with street children from all around Tanzania. They have three projects: Child in the Stars, Child in the Sky, and Kiboko Lodge. These are social enterprise projects, meaning that they do not base on donations alone. Rather, they help themselves by being a self-sustained entity, which provides valuable services to society. We were lucky enough to experience first hand the work they do and would love to share with you the experience.
If you have time to read just one article from our Tanzanian adventure, we hope that it would be this one!
During our stay at Kiboko Lodge, we were lucky enough to visit the Child in the Sky project. Unfortunately since we were tight with time we had to skip the one we would have loved to visit most, Child in the Stars.
On the afternoon of our full day in Ngurdoto Village, our driver and new found friend Japhet, drove us from the lodge to the Child in the Sky project. As we entered the gates, we immediately heard the cheery sound of children who were in the communal hall during their break time. A boy was assigned to each one of us and they gave us a tour of the project for the next hour or so. What struck us immediately about these three boys, was the smile on their faces, their perfect English and the respect that they showed us.
Children participating in this project have academic training in the morning and hands on technical training in the afternoon. They learn to be disciplined, as they have strict rules on what they can possess and the timings they need to adhere to. They also receive un-measurable care and love from the founding members, as well as the staff who hold their hand for a while, until they are ready to leave the nest. Child in the Sky Project is a self-sustained entity and children graduate when they have a job in hand and are ready to take on the roles that their mature lives, at 18 years of age have to offer.
Our tour involved a visit to the:
Classrooms, where children learn academic subjects in the morning, with a result chart showing the progress of every child
Farming project, where amongst other produce they grow carrots, sunflowers, eggplants, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes and maize, whilst every child has a tree of their own
Animal husbandry, where children were taking care of pigs, chicken, rabbits, cows, pigeons and a couple of pet guinea pigs. Dung from animals is used to make gas and fuel on premise electricity
Kitchen, which had the menu and a list of holidays at the entrance door. There, a lovely group of young men were preparing dinner for the whole lot. These children were already professional chefs, cooking for 40+ kids every day!
Silos, for storing maize
Dorms and bathrooms
Workshops for crafts, where the boys learn to be mechanics, welders or wood workers
The day after our visit, as we were leaving for Arusha, we also had the opportunity to meet Noud, the founding father of the Foundation. Although we would have loved to linger on and get to know him better, we had to head to our next destination. Yet, in the brief minutes we managed to talk to him, we got to know a person who left the Netherlands for good in 2003. He still visits the Netherlands occasionally, but his heart beats in Africa. He lives for the foundation which he has set up, and for the 900 and counting boys he has managed to build into responsible men, giving them a future to look forward to.
Child in the Stars Project is the first port of call for children who are rescued directly from the streets or received through broken or poor families. Here children are very young, still traumatised from their experiences and mostly trying to quit alcohol, drugs and glue addictions.
Child in the Sky is the next step. From Child in the Stars, boys move on to the Child in the Sky project, and we’ll tell you all about our experience on this one soon.
Kiboko Lodge is the third initiative of Watoto Foundation. It is a beautiful lodge which caters for tourists, and some of the craftsmanship of the children in the Child in the Sky project goes towards furnishing this lodge. The lodge itself is largely run by men who graduated from the Child in the Sky project in previous years. Read all about our adventure at Kiboko Lodge, to get a feel of what we experienced first hand.
We left this place with a feeling of deep respect for these children who have already been through so much in life. They teach us the meaning of being happy with what they have and they never expected nor asked for money. They live together, care for each other and look forward to a future, even if with a hint of fear of what getting out of their comfort zone will bring along. These boys join the project as street children but they leave as young men equipped with skills and abilities to become responsible society members, with a bright future in life.