Church builds shelter for orphans in Congo

Key points:

  • Once housed in foster homes, children cared for at the United Methodist orphanage in Kindu now have a permanent shelter.
  • The Kindu orphanage oversees the care of 89 vulnerable children and youth.
  • Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda noted that orphans in Goma in the Kivu Conference also have received support from the church for more than eight years.

Orphans who once lived with foster families now have a safe shelter in Kindu.

With a $25,000 grant from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the church constructed an orphanage. Some children and youth formerly housed by United Methodist members will live in the new building.

“The orphanage started with 22 children,” said Furaha Tshoso, head of the orphanage. “Today we are supporting 89 of them.

“The new building, constructed of sustainable materials, is protection for these children. They will now receive good discipline, and it will be easy for us to ensure close control for their good growth and development.

“At the moment,” Tshoso explained, “only seven children have occupied the new building. Because the orphanage is not yet equipped, there is no way to take (additional) children. The building's capacity when equipped can only accommodate about 20 orphans.”

Children share lunch at the new United Methodist orphanage in Kindu, Congo. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UM News.
Children share lunch at the new United Methodist orphanage in Kindu, Congo. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UM News.

Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda of the East Congo Episcopal Area said caring for orphans is one of the contributions of the first American missionaries, who settled in Tunda in 1922.

He said the orphanage helps the church carry out the missionaries’ work, noting that the supervision of orphans is a biblical recommendation and a social obligation

“For several years, the orphans had been sheltered by the faithful of The United Methodist Church. It was, therefore, normal that we could build them a home within the mission so that they could grow up in the Christian missionary warmth,” the bishop said.

He said that orphans in Goma in the Kivu Conference also have received care from the church for more than eight years, and a similar building is planned in Kisangani in the Oriental and Equator Conference.

“From now on,” Unda said, “they will be gathered here after the total equipment of the house. The next step is the construction of a building of this kind in Kisangani,” the capital of the Tsopho Province.

Church leaders and government officials gather for the dedication of a United Methodist orphanage in Kindu, Congo. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UM News.
Church leaders and government officials gather for the dedication of a United Methodist orphanage in Kindu, Congo. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UM News.

The inauguration of the building was a highlight of the official opening of the East Congo Annual Conference in Kindu. Political, administrative and denominational authorities of Maniema Province attended.

Affani Idrissa Mangala, acting governor of the province, praised the church’s initiative in the supervision of abandoned children and those who have lost their parents.

“The role of The United Methodist Church on the social level is very important in the province of Maniema,” Mangala said. “The church helps us on several levels, and we express our deep gratitude in this action of … providing the children with a shelter.”

Since 2012, the church has cared for orphaned children in Kindu.

Philomène Nyande, who supervises the children, said financial constraints prevent the orphanage from providing full care for all 89 orphans in one place.

“Health and education (school fees) are provided by the orphanage,” Nyande said, “even though many of these children are in foster families, supervised by United Methodist lay and clergy.”

Members of First United Methodist Church in Martin, Tennessee, helped provide more than 100 orphan scholarships between 2014 and 2020. The congregation in the Memphis Conference has a partnership with the East Congo Episcopal Area.

The orphans are between ages 5 and 25 years old. The younger ones go to school, while the youth learn vocational skills such as sewing, baking, soap making and carpentry.

Young women learn trades at the Mama Lynn Center, a United Methodist retreat for survivors of sexual violence in Kindu, and young men learn carpentry skills at local workshops.

Nyande said teaching trades is a way for the church to prepare orphans for adulthood and financial independence.

“By learning a few trades,” she said, “adult orphan children have managed to become financially independent and support their (younger) brothers and sisters.”

Londe is a French news editor for UM News in the Congo Central Conference.

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