Loving hands for Arushan children

Mama Happiness Wambura, founder of Lohada Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania
Mama Happiness Wambura, founder of Lohada Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania

Being a mother comes naturally to Mama Happiness Wambura, who has taken on 352 children.

Well, to be specific, she has 5 children by blood and 347 children that she has taken under her wing.

Mama Wambura never thought she would found an orphanage. “I thought it was just going to be a small project. Maybe 1, 2 or 3 kids. From there, the whole thing grew up,” she said.

A few of the children at Lohada co-opted my camera.

The Lohada Orphanage was founded in 2000. It takes in children whose family is unable to care for them. The name stands for Loving Hands for the Disadvantaged and Aged. While some of the children are orphans, others have parents who are abusive or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Mama Wambura feeds all of these children, pays her 30 staff and herself with 6 million Tanzanian shillings a month (just under $4000 CAD). The money is raised through child sponsorships as well as volunteer fees. Volunteers come from North America and Europe to volunteer at Lohada.

Lohada relies on volunteers from all over the world for funding.

As the orphanage has grown, so has the diversity of the children in it. Now Lohada has a mentally handicapped child as well as a girl who is unable to walk. Mama Wambura tries to care for these children, but she struggles to find the funds and the resources.

Now that her organization is older, Mama Wambura is also having trouble sending teenagers off to live on their own. Mama Wambura had hoped that if she took some children in for a few years, gave them a home and fed them, eventually their families would stabilize and they would be able to go back home. That has not been the case.

“This rehabilitation is not working as I planned. It’s very, very difficult to work with adults. That is the biggest problem I have encountered. You think that it’s easy to shape the child according to your dream, but it is quite different to shape the family,” Mama Wambura reflected.

Mama Wambura hopes to build a vocational centre and hostel where the teenagers could stay when they are too old for secondary school. However, the land she would like to buy costs 250 billion Tanzanian shillings (about $164,000 CAD), an exorbitant cost for an orphanage that runs on 6 million a month.

The orphanage’s eldest children are still in secondary school for now and Mama Wambura can look after them with loving hands.

Learn more at http://www.lohada.org

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