Operation Smiles’ goal is to build the capacity of the community of Nakuaabi and surrounding villages in the Northern Region to care for their children.
It started in 2005 when Sr Jane Naaglosegme who was AfriKids’ first partner back in 1997 was based at the Mother of Mercy Babies’ Home in Sirigu, she drew our attention to the needs of the Nakuuabi community.
Having been placed in Nakuuabi by the church Sr Jane was intending to work as a midwife but was so moved by the desperate situation of many children and young mothers in the area that she wanted to take a more holistic approach to helping the community. AfriKids funded the establishment of the Nakuuabi Young Mothers’ centre where Sr Jane is working with the communities around her to help some of the most vulnerable women and children. There are an unusually high number of young single mothers due to male out migration, poverty which makes dowries impossible to attain and traditional festivals and practices which expose young girls to sexual abuse. Sr Jane’s focus is to help families live together and find a sustainable means of living, rather than just removing vulnerable children from their homes. She has developed a three pronged programme which involves direct childcare, education and healthcare.
Direct Childcare is delivered at the small centre AfriKids built for Sr Jane in Nakuaabi and where she now lives full time. Sr Jane has established a good working system for vulnerable young mothers and children. She takes in the child and a family member who is committed to caring for them, feeds, houses and supports them and passes on parenting skills for three months, then resettles them at home and monitors them closely.
Education involves both the mothers and their children. The project helps children to enter school and for their mothers to develop skills to find employment or start their own businesses; this support comes in the form of vocational training and micro-finance.
Healthcare is delivered by improving access to and understanding of what is available to the local community and women and children in particular. The project supports its direct beneficiaries to enrol on Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme which covers the vast majority of their healthcare needs and Sr Jane runs a programme of community workshops on healthcare and smaller more intimate sessions for the women on family planning and children’s health.