By Fr. Benedict Mayaki SJ
Across the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has created disruptions to families. Though not the face of the health crisis, children in many societies risk being among its worst victims as they are also affected by the socio-economic impacts of the crisis.
In light of this, the Social Communications Department of the Conference of Eastern African Bishops (AMECEA) is partnering with Catholic Care for Children (CCC) to create awareness for care for vulnerable children amid these trying times of the Covid-19 crisis.
The objective of the collaboration, is “to help bring understanding to the people on the importance of having a holistic family and community-based care for the vulnerable children,” said Project Manager of CCC-Kenya, Sr. Delvin Mukhwana, during an interview on 6 August.
Catholic Care for Children is an initiative of the Association of the Religious in Uganda (ARU), the Zambian Association of Sisterhoods (ZAS) and the Association of Sisterhoods in Kenya (AOSK).
Under their umbrella bodies, the religious associations manage several Child Care Institutions (CCIs) with the aim of “becoming champions of child care reform and improving outcomes for children living outside of family care” according to a statement on ARU website.
The initiative will be carried out in the CCCs of three AMECEA member countries: Zambia, Uganda and Kenya.
Collaboration for awareness
Sr. Mukhwana explained that the purpose of the collaboration between the AMECEA Social Communications Department and the CCC is to “support communication functions of the CCC projects in AMECEA region towards improved service delivery during the Covid-19 period.”
This will be achieved through “creating awareness within the mainstream Church safeguarding structures at national, diocese and parish levels,” as well as “conducting a rapid assessment of communication needs for CCC projects,” she added.
In addition, the AMECEA Social Communications Department will ensure “that Bishops, pastoral coordinators and national Child Safeguarding Officers are informed on the CCC holistic approach to child care and family strengthening.”
The proposed collaboration is supported by the GHR Foundation (Gerald A. and Henrietta Rauenhorst Foundation) which has partnered with the AMECEA Social Communications Department to strengthen communication on Covid-19 and care for children in the region.
Child Care Institutions in service of the vulnerable
Shedding more light on CCC, Sr. Mukhwana said one of its pillars is it is "rooted in the Catholic faith which mandates us to care for children and other vulnerable persons.”
Another pillar for CCC, according to the nun, is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates the child’s right to a family.
“We are also informed by social sciences that are clear about the importance of nurturing family bonds for holistic, healthy development across life span and understanding the risks associated with separation from family care, especially in institutional settings,” she said.
As regards their services, Sr. Mukhwana explained that Catholic Care Institutions include homes which care for the physically challenged; rescue centers for children victims of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as victims of trafficking and abusive cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages.
Other categories include rehabilitation centers for the physically and mentally challenged, street children, homes for orphans and abandoned children, and centers for those in the transition back into society from juvenile institutions. The CCIs also care for children with other vulnerabilities including those who are HIV positive, among others.