FRIENDS OF VULNERABLE CHILDREN (FVC)
MDMS participated in the implementation of the USAID Integrated Child and Youth Development (ICYD) Activity as a Sub-grantee, whose main goal was to achieve viral load suppression among children living with HIV in 7 Districts namely: Masaka, Bukomansimbi, Kalangala, Mpigi, Kalungu, Lwengo and Lyantonde. During the implementation, MDMS learnt more about the plight of the vulnerable children with health, social, emotional and economic challenges. Unfortunately, some of these challenges could not be addressed by the ICYD Activity except through referrals and linkages to other service providers or individuals.
Yet in some cases they required urgent attention to save lives. When MDMS was accepted into a consortium led by TPO to implement the USAID Keeping Children Healthy and Safe (KCHS) Activity in 6 districts for the next three years, the OVC programing did not change; programming continued to focus more on HIV viral load suppression among children living with HIV to ensure that the virus is undetectable and thus becoming untransmissible (UU). There are limited provisions in the current OVC funding to cater for material needs.
The current program, for example, does not cater for Viola (not real name), who is heading a family where her disabled mother is HIV positive, with an HIV positive baby of seven months, almost going out of school due to lack of school fees and with no means to feed her family.
Aware of the funding gap mentioned above, a new local initiative, ‘Friends of Vulnerable Children’, has been conceived by the staff at MDMS to complement efforts under the USAID KCHS Activity. The friends of vulnerable children are expected to be mobilized to create a “Friends of Vulnerable Children Fund” managed separately to supplement the KCHS funding. This Fund is principally to support households enrolled under the KCHS Activity.
This initiative comes at a time when local communities and other people of good will need to be engaged to make tangible contribution towards supporting the vulnerable children and other disadvantaged people within their neighborhood instead of waiting for external support. There is evidence to show that in Uganda and other African Countries, there so many people capable of sharing their resources to support the vulnerable to stand on their own, if well mobilized.
It is a known fact that the generous people in the western countries where we receive most of our donations and funding are not necessarily the richest people. It is the strong desire to assist other people out love for humanity that motivates them. Helping other people in need has become part of their culture and can become ours too. This is the kind of spirit that needs to be nurtured, which is also in line with the teaching of the Gospel Mt 25: 31-46, “when I was hungry, you gave me something to eat……. When I was thirty you gave something to drink”.
The good news is, there are already indications that some MDMS stakeholders are willing to render their support to the vulnerable children once they are mobilized and informed. During the implementation of the ICYD Activity, MDMS had identified generous individuals, especially from among the staff, who were willing to support the children failing to adhere to their HIV treatment (non-suppressors)in various forms under the “Know Your Child (KYC) model” to address challenges related to health, food security &nutrition, education, material support (clothing) and psycho-social support.
From different districts, Social Workers shared real life stories about challenges faced by some of the children under the OVC program. Such moving stories motivated some staff to begin supporting households and paying special attention to specific children with a preferential attention to the non-suppressors addressing barriers to their HIV viral load suppression.
Objectives of the FVC Association
- To create a fund to supplement PEPFAR funds for OVC programing
- To increase the number of people and institutions in various communities willing to support vulnerable people especially children infected and affected by HIV for better sustainability.
- To address the critical needs of the vulnerable children that are not catered for under the PEPFAR funding for OVC programing.
This initiative will be implemented in the six districts of Masaka, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, Ssembabule, Kalangala and Mpigi and later will be rolled out in other districts covered by the Diocese.
It targets mainly enrolled on the KCHS Activity with special focus on;
- Children living with HIV from households facing food insecurity.
- Non-suppressing Children with other critical needs that are not addressed under the PEPFAR OVC funding
- Households living in abject poverty (destitution)with HIV positive and negative children
Services to be offered: Without duplicating services already planned for under the KCHS mechanism, households under the program will get the additional services as per the care plan in consultation with the Para-social workers
- Education subsidy– Children will be supported with scholastic materials and in some cases school fees especially where families are headed by children.
- Food supply: Households with malnourished HIV positive and negative children under the OVC program, identified at the facility and community level will be supported with food supplements and caregivers will be trained in good nutrition.
- Treatment: Households with children under the program will be supported to access medical care in case of emergencies especially where the free services cannot be accessed.
- IGA booster to their caregivers: households with non-suppressors under the KCHS Activity, living in abject poverty will be supported with IGA boosters (small scale) to improve on their income and these shall be linked to Village Saving and Loan Associations in their locality to start saving.
- Shelter: for the households that lack shelter, the communities will be mobilised to construct dry and safe shelters were these children and other household members can stay. Where is necessary, MDMS will involve the District community Based services department, local councils and religious structures to raise funds.
- Basic material to include clothing, household items
Approach for mobilising resources
- The MDMS staff will take lead and they will also involve the para-social workers and other community structure to make an annual subscription for membership to the Association and make donations in cash or in kind to the children attached to them under Know Your Child model.
- Establishing a resource mobilization team and designing resource mobilization communication materials
- Use of existing Church structures, for orientation and mobilizing members to join the association.
- Creating social media fundraising platforms such as WhatsApp, Indiegogo, Global giving, twitter, face-book, and MDMS website.
- Selling branded MDMS FVC items such as pens, water bottles, T-shirts
- Sharing our campaign through the various symposia, conferences and workshops locally, nationally and globally.
- MDMS Friends of the vulnerable children’s run
- Mobilizing informal and formal groups such as Rotary, companies, Traders Association, Farmers Association, etc, to become group members of FVC
Method of identification and Selection of beneficiaries
- Use of community structures like the para social workers and community-based trainers who will share a story with the social workers. Once the story is documented and approved by the DPO, it will be approved by the Program Manager who will channel it to the designated Economic Strengthening Officer.
- Use of the facility the case workers/health workers will identify the children/household and share a story with Social workers who will document and share with the District Project Officer for approval. The story will later be shared with the PM and designated Economic strengthening Officer
- Each child identified in the community will have their information captured and entered into the database.
Membership to Friends of Vulnerable Children
- Each member pays an annual membership fee of 10,000/= and make any donation
- Each group or association pays an annual membership fee of 100,000/= and make any donations
- A member who will be willing to follow up a particular household under the Know Your Child model will raise an amount not less 100,000/= and free to make in-kind donations in presence of MDMS staff
MDMS believes it is a responsibility for all people to support the vulnerable children and the time is now. We should never be reduced to spectators watching our neighbors struggling without doing anything and only wait for support from the generous people of America. We should remember that no one in life is too poor to give something to another person. Even the poorest of the poor can also afford a smile to uplift another person.