After the wars of rebellion that swept through the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996, orphaned children were living on the streets, especially in the city of Goma.
Mother Adolphine Olela Okako, a United Methodist widow, felt called to help the abandoned children. She started the Goma Orphanage, welcoming many into her own home and caring for them with support from The United Methodist Church, which provided food and clothing.
Today, many of those orphans are living productive lives in their communities thanks to professional skills training provided by the orphanage.
“The training started in 2009 and it was important to those orphans,” said Okako, adding that the young adults have been trained as carpenters, joiners, masons, mechanics and tailors. She said the three-year training is supported by the church.
Mother Adolphine Olela Okako (back row, second from right) has been taking care of orphans for more than 20 years with support from The United Methodist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here, she poses with some of the orphans in her care. Photo by Philippe Kituka Lolonga, UMNS.
HOW TO HELP
Advance #3021399 provides continued support to the Goma Orphanage. To donate, visit www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/3021399.
The Goma Orphanage moved into its own building in 2016 and now has a home for girls and boys, a refectory, kitchen, bathrooms and an office for the headmistress. There are currently 25 orphans at the center, with seven of those participating in vocational training. The rest attend primary and secondary school or universities.
Celestin Kasereka Buhendwa came to the orphanage when he was 5 years old after his parents died during the rebellion led by Laurent Kabila. Buhendwa was taken in and mentored by Okako. When he turned 18, he began training in auto mechanics.
“After my training … I was able to create my own workshop where I’m working till now,” Buhendwa said.
The married father of two is thankful to The United Methodist Church for its support of the orphanage.
“I thank the Lord God and the Methodist Church for their financial support within the Goma Orphanage and I will always be willing to serve my God because if I am as I am today, it is thanks to God,” he said.
Buhendwa continues to attend Katindo United Methodist Church in Goma, where he is president of the choir.
Delphin Mukandira Nduba began living at the orphanage in 1997. Today, he is a carpenter.
“It is for me the occasion to express my gratitude to Mother Adolphine Okako and The United Methodist Church for their blessings in my life.”
He said the schooling he received has helped him to be able to educate his three children.
“My life is the work of God and I ask others not to neglect the orphans. God bless the Mother Adolphine Okako for her work to this orphanage ministry,” Nduba said.
While skills training such as knitting and sewing begins during primary and secondary school, vocational training like auto mechanics and carpentry happens later.
Some orphans, like Paul Olongo, attend local universities. He is the third from the orphanage to graduate from the Higher Institute of Rural Development in Goma.
Once the vocational training is complete and the orphans decide to leave the center to make a living, the church helps with integration, often giving them something of value, such as a sewing machine or other tools that will allow them to start their own lives.
The Rev. Clement Kingombe, district superintendent of the Goma District, said he is thankful for the support of United Methodists and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, which helped establish the new building for the Goma Orphanage through The Advance, the designated giving arm of The United Methodist Church.
“This center will provide accommodation for orphaned children until their integration into social life,” he said. “I ask any man of good will to continue helping these orphans because they are living by donation.”
Helene Ekanga, a United Methodist who visited the orphanage last month, brought clothes and shoes for the orphans.
“I’m also an orphan and I will continue to help these orphans,” she said.
Okako also is committed to caring for the orphans and continuing the ministry she started more than two decades ago.
“I’ll continue to serve my God in this orphanage ministry,” she said. “During the volcanic eruption in 2001 in Goma, I saw the hand of the Lord. I should die with all my family but God had saved me. I am committed to working on behalf of the orphans and this I will do until my death.”
Kituka Lolonga is a communicator in the Kivu Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.