Sunday, September 12, 2010

Measly funding support saddles community feeding programs

A Friend of Tembari Children

AT A RECENT meeting of 14 carer-mothers who each receive a monthly grant of K400 from WeCare PNG for their respective feeding programs in their community, it became obvious that the Tembari children are well ahead of their counterparts.

Called by retired priest Fr John Glynn, who operates WeCare foundation, the meeting discussed how the 14 mothers had spent their K400 monthly grant on their respective facilities during the month of August.

Our own Penny Sagembo, the founder of the Tembari Children Care (TCC) day care and orphanage center, was among them.

There was one common grievance from the 14 mothers: The monthly K400 feeding grant was not enough to cover the food needs of their beneficiary children.

But Fr Glynn said his foundation does not have much funding for soup kitchens and that the carer facilities have to make do with what they are getting from WeCare.

The retired priest said the street children are a responsibility of the community where they belong and therefore should provide the assistance to bridge the funding gap.

Hearing this, the mothers were dismayed, saying Fr Glynn was asking for the moon, and accused him behind his back of allegedly “sitting on the money”.

Sometime in February, Fr Glynn emailed me to suggest that The Center “must give way to other carers who are in far worse circumstances than it is”.

In fact, Fr Glynn had advised Penny “to develop her own self-sustaining operation in the same way” that a carer in Morata was able to achieve.

Using a loan from WeCare, the Morata carer-mother was able to start off with a livelihood project that it is now giving sustainable profit, and enabling her to support their feeding program.

(With lack of electricity and water at The Center, any livelihood project, even the simplest one, would be impossible to start. In fact, we have one waiting to take off but cannot due to lack of electricity to run our sewing machines to make meri dresses and others.)

Because of the measly feeding assistance from WeCare, the said carer groups could only feed their children two or three times a week and the food being served is usually kaukau, sliced bread and cordial.

Many of them would only have a budget of K20 per day from the WeCare grant to feed more than 50 children.

WeCare PNG receives its funding from Digicel Foundation. This year, it received a substantial grant, which also went to pay for school fees of many schoolchildren looked after by carer groups in Port Moresby, according to Digicel Foundation chief exec Marina Vander Vlies.

This year, WeCare paid for the school fees of 42 Tembari schoolchildren who are enrolled in 11 schools in Port Moresby.

Likewise, it is supporting 14 community soup kitchens, including the Tembari Children’s Care day care-orphange center, with each one getting a monthly feeding assistance of K400 each.

However, with soaring food prices, each of the carer-facilities has to find ways to feed their wards with a budget of K20 a day.

The lack of fund for its feeding program was the same experience that The Center had until last February: our children were only being fed four times a week.

But they are able to get out of this rut, thanks to the continuing support from our benefactors, who put up stakes in the future of the Tembari children whose number has grown to 97 to date.

With the feeding consistency that we carry out at The Center, coupled with the quality of meals we serve them everyday, I believe that the health condition of our beneficiary children has improved a lot over the last seven months.

My next project is to get their individual weight and height and monitor it over the next three months. Have they gained weight? Have they gained height? That one I really have to find out.

Now suddenly, I got a new problem: To do this job, I need a weighing scale with height indicator, just like the one used at a health center.

Any donor of this item?

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