Topaza Children’s Home
‘This isn’t an orphanage. It’s one big family!’
There is plenty of space for the children to play around the building, and it is surrounded by a wall with locking gates to ensure their safety. The children are cared for by team of 12 staff members, lead by Tantely Rakotoarivony, who has been in charge of the home since 2004. Although FJKM is responsible for Topaza, children are sent there by the state via the courts. Some are orphans, in other cases the court has ruled that their parents cannot care for them, e.g. for mental health reasons, and there are also several children who have been abandoned by their parents. Madagascar’s communities are very traditional, and unmarried girls who become pregnant are in danger of being rejected by their families and excluded by society. Very often, therefore, single mothers choose to abandon their children, rather than risking survival without the support of family and community.
Tantely is licensed by the state to be the children’s guardian and tutor. Technically, all children are there on a temporary basis, since the licence is renewed every 6 months, but very few leave before they become adults.
The children attend the local school, and several have gone on to study at university. Every effort is made to create a sense of belonging, and to develop a relationship between the children and each other, and with the staff. They eat together and take part in joint activities. Every year, they have a fortnight’s holiday together at the seaside.
Children who have left the home keep in touch regularly, and make sure they return for birthdays and other celebrations. Tantely mentioned one girl who came back to the home for her wedding reception, and several return for Church festivals, such as Christmas, Easter and of course Mothering Sunday.
As Tantely says, ‘This isn’t an orphanage. It’s one big family!’
The home is supposed to receive 1,000 Ariary a day, worth around 22p, for each child sent there by the courts, but it hasn’t received any funding from the state for several years, and neither does it receive funding from other organisations in Madagascar. FJKM is also in a precarious financial position, so the food they supply to the home only arrives occasionally. Topaza relies on gifts from individuals, churches and foreign organisations to keep the home open, and several of the children are sponsored. It costs around 5,000 Ariary (around £1.10) a day, to care for a child in the home.
Malnutrition is a huge problem in Madagascar, affecting over half the population, so ensuring that the children at Topaza get plenty of nutritious food is a challenge. The food supplied by FJKM helps, but is not sufficient. Recently, with the help of Orlando Presbyterian Church, a quail farming project was set up. The eggs provide the necessary nutrition, and the project is sustainable.
Topaza Children’s Home will receive a grant of approx. £30k from the appeal. To find out more about how this will be spent click here…
Caring for 1 child for a day: £1.10
The price of a quail: £2.20
A loaf of bread: 10p
A litre of milk: 45p
A kilo of rice: 37p