small foundation with a big impact

interview with Mary Kasale

How do you find the addresses of children who might benefit from our school?
Some parents, grandparents or other family members write to us asking if we can take the child into our care. In addition, we work closely with municipal social care department, and with the church. They also point out children who would be better off living at Kikatiti.

How do you select the children?
We first visit the child at home, and meet the person who is responsible for the child’s care. That may be the mother, but it could also be a grandmother or aunt. If they agree that it would be better for the child to come to Kikatiti, then we register the child. We return to test the child. It is a simple test using blocks, colours and a conversation aimed at determining whether the child is capable of completing primary school. We do not have the capacity to accommodate mentally handicapped children, whom we refer to other organisations. The same is true of children with HIV/AIDS. We look for an alternative for them outside Happy Watoto.

What are your selection criteria?
Children come to Kikatiti when they are approximately three years old. They come from very deprived situations; sometimes they get only one meal a day, cannot go to the doctor when they are sick, and have only one set of tattered clothes. But we also see situations in which the child is completely neglected, and receives no attention whatsoever. No love. Children in need, who have no future prospects: those are our selection criteria.
Is it sometimes difficult to determine whether a child belongs with us?

Certainly. That is why there are always two of us on a house call, so that we can discuss matters afterwards. The difference in culture and background are particularly evident when a volunteer accompanies us. A European volunteer is quick to assume that a child is poor enough for Kikatiti. Then I point out that the father has a job, there are a few chickens on the property, and the child is fed every day. In Africa, that is not poverty.

Mary, do you find your job terribly difficult?
No, I think it is a fantastic job. I am so happy to help. To be in a position to help.
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