Why the project is needed
All children should grow up in a safe and loving home that is conducive to their development. For most children, this should be with their families, and we work with thousands of families living in poverty every year to help them overcome difficult circumstances and make this the reality for their children. There are, however, a small number of children that we support who do not have the option of a safe family home.
Children who may have been ostracised by their communities for being “spirits”; children who have lost their parents or whose parents have a permanent condition affecting their ability to care for their children; and children who have faced abuse, neglect or exploitation. Even in these cases, we work hard to counsel and resolve issues with families, but in the meantime, Operation Mango Tree provides a safety net.
How the project helps
Operation Mango Tree provides a clean, safe and supportive “family” home for vulnerable children, as long as they need it. Most of the children are referred by the police and Department of Social Welfare. For Ghana’s chronically under-resourced child protection system, this facility is often the only safe place for these children to be.
Operation Mango Tree is run by Mama Laadi (top, centre), a former street child herself who trained as a community nurse and has spent her life supporting children in grave circumstances. When AfriKids met her, she was providing shelter and care for 12 street children from the one room she rented and she has nursed hundreds of critically ill babies and children back to good health. The purpose-built facility AfriKids funded in 2009 is a happy and safe home to its residents, who Operation Mango Tree are insured on the National Health Insurance Scheme for free healthcare and supported through school. The buddy system at the home builds a sense of responsibility and connection between children, who regard each other as brothers and sisters. They are taught about good hygiene and have routines to ensure they do their homework and help out at home, just like other children their age.
Mama Laadi works closely with the Department of Social Welfare in Ghana, complying with their guidelines. She runs one of the few recognised foster homes in the north under the government’s Care Reform Initiative; a nation-wide strategy working to end unnecessary institutionalisation of children and to drive up standards at those facilities, like Operation Mango Tree, which are recognised as truly necessary.
Operation Mango Tree is home to around 30 children at a time, cared for by Mama Laadi and her small team. Children arrive at the home as young as a few days old and stay until they can be resettled with family, or until they pass onto AfriKids’ Young Entrepreneurs Programme which supports them as young adults to transition into independent adulthood.