On Friday afternoons, in a yard in Gabane (just outside Gaborone, Botswana) you will hear the laughter and singing of some 60 to 70 children aged 3 to 14 years. They come voluntarily each week to have fun, receive good teaching on skills for life and from the bible, and refreshments. These children are all from the local community and from a variety of backgrounds and situations; many are orphans (have lost one or both parents) or vulnerable children (defined as, ‘living in an abusive environment, a poverty stricken family unable to access basic services, a child headed household with sick parents, are outside family care, or a child who is HIV positive’).
Mma Mogapi started the project, ‘Sedibeng Sa Lerato’ (a Setswana phrase that translates to ‘Well of Love’) in 2009 whilst she was working as a ‘Senior Community Family Welfare Educator’ in the Home Based Care Department at the Ministry of Health. In her role she was able to see how the government was helping orphaned and vulnerable children through provision of some food and clothing but she was aware that these children were not being helped to live in a good way. They were lacking input that would help them develop lives of good character, that would equip them to make good life choices, that would lead them on a path of good health and empower them, that would teach them to resist peer pressure, and help them to know themselves and Jesus. Mma Mogapi says, “I’m trying to teach the children to know themselves when they are on the street because some of them are orphans and people often abuse them. We teach them how to protect their bodies; no one should treat them badly. Also we teach them that they should behave for their guardians and parents. We teach them to behave in a good manner, to know themselves and that they are the children of God. The community leaders, school teachers and the parents appreciate this.”
Mma Mogapi and her husband (both retirees), have been running the programme from their own yard; providing food, water, and cooking for the programme at their own expense. The project which started with only 10 children quickly grew and now has over 80 children on its registers, with 65 regular attendees. Each session starts with games and activities that encourage the children to burn off energy and to get physical exercise. This is followed by life-skills and Bible teaching and ends with the children receiving food; usually close to its expiry purchased at a discount from local supermarkets.
The project is supported by volunteers, some mobilised by Flying Mission Care Ministries, who help run the programme from time to time and support the bible teaching. It receives regular help from Timothy Beesimgomwe who has worked with the project since 2010 and was connected to it through Flying Mission volunteers working with the project at the time. He says this project is important “… so the children know they are loved and are helped to make good life decisions.”
As well as running the programme Mma Mogapi provides counselling to the children and their parents as required. She is often called in to help minister to issues in families and the schools related to the children. She says, “Family is the nucleus of a society and must be cherished and upheld. The aim of ‘Sedibeng Sa Lerato’ is to share love, impart knowledge that enhances good behaviour and social skills. It also aims to guide orphans and vulnerable children in decision making.” She continues, “It prepares children to become responsible, participating citizens and the leaders of tomorrow who are guided by good principles.”
Since retiring as a health care professional in 2011 her ministry has increasingly focused on children and the family unit. Prior to this Mma Mogapi and her husband have been, and continue to be, very involved in marriage counselling. They are passionate about ministering to the spiritual needs and foundations of families and those who require counselling and support in the community. Mma Mogapi has also run support groups for those living with HIV for many years. She says, “I am trying to help them with bible studies because some of them are giving up; they are starting to sell themselves and some are passing on HIV to other people. I meet with them most Saturdays (attendance is voluntary) and we read the bible looking at what God says about our bodies and how passing the virus onto another person knowingly is sin.”
At the moment ‘Sedibeng Sa Lorato’ is being registered as a trust (with help from Flying Mission Care Ministries); this will enable the project to meet social services requirements as well as to access greater support from government ministries and potential donor organisations. One of the hopes is this would also enable them to be assigned a plot of land that could be developed into a centre which would provide shade and shelter for the children’s activities, a meeting place for the HIV and AIDS support groups, a room for marriage and family counselling, space for out-doors activities with the children and a centre for use in other community development activities (e.g. a gathering place for Ministry of Health education sessions and health screening).
‘Sedibeng Sa Lorato’ is an associate of Flying Mission Care Ministries which has helped them in the past by mobilising short-term volunteers to help run the programme, assisted them with the trust application process, is providing teaching materials and training (SIM’s ‘Today for Tomorrow’ life-skills and discipleship curriculum for children aged under 14 years), providing bibles, and mobilising donations of other required items from time to time. Flying Mission Care Ministries’ relationship with Mma Mogapi goes back to 2001 where she was involved with our home based care activities up until her retirement in 2010. Flying Mission Care Ministries looks forward to continuing its association with Mma Mogapi and this project; to see the project grow and make an even greater impact in the lives of those it serves in the community of Gabane.