I received a letter last week from my best friend in Lesotho. Only a few months apart in age, we were inseparable when I was there in Peace Corps and we have stayed extremely close throughout the years. By the end of the letter I was in tears and the crisis in Lesotho hit home. My best friend is HIV positive and her four young children that I watched grow up are soon to become orphans.
We all know the statistics. Approximately 31% of the population is infected with HIV. By the end of 2005, an estimated 25% of all children under 15 being orphaned (the worst per capita orphanage rate in the world). If you have been in Lesotho recently, you have seen the signs and the funerals. Surprisingly life seems to carry on much as it always has, but it is becoming harder to hide the fact that HIV/AIDS is wiping out an entire generation of people. It is also leaving a generation of children to care for themselves.
When we were in Lesotho last March adopting our daughter we learned that there is no word in Sesotho for “adopt”. The concept is completely foreign. Families have always taken care of children in need, but never in such a formalized way. In March, 2004 there were only four official orphanages in the entire country, although many generous people throughout Lesotho are beginning their own safe houses for orphans every day. Although these orphanages are providing a tremendous service to many children in need, most can only hold up to 25 children. With an unprecedented number of orphans, it is impossible to place them all into caring orphanages.
Ray Haakonsen, one of the founders of Beautiful Gate Orphanage in Thetsane is currently working on a project that hopes to work with orphaned children in their villages. Haakonsen’s plan is to train local adults to work with child-headed households. Adults, in turn, would train responsible youths how to do everyday work, plant gardens, and attend school. Adult mentors would also keeping records of their children’s food supplies and medical needs while providing loving support for a range of needs.
While projects like Haakonsen’s are still working to get off the ground, the current orphanages have dire resource needs. Many of the orphanages have lists of needed supplies and volunteer opportunities. Peace Corps volunteers have been extremely involved in working with, founding and running many of these orphanages, including Maseru Children’s Village, Mantas’ase orphanage in Mohale’s Hoek, and Six Degrees of Love in Mokhotlang. The orphan crisis in Lesotho is like nothing the country has seen before. As friends of Lesotho it is up to us to help in any way we can by supporting and finding creative solutions to help the children and the people of Lesotho to survive.
Orphanages in Lesotho and Their Needs
Beautiful Gate, Thetsane, Lesotho
Ray and Sue Haakonsen
Beautiful Gate Lesotho
PO Box 13763
Tel/Fax (266) 321680
Cells: (266) 8774660 or 8774375
Beautiful Gate Lesotho
Standard Bank Acc. #240560558
Branch: Ladybrand (Code 055633)
Many staff and donation needs are listed on their website. This orphanages looks for loving adoptive families, Basotho and foreign.
SOS Children’s Village, Maseru, Lesotho
27 (0)11 80 10 100
Monthly contribution as a friend of SOS
Sponsorship of a specific project
Donations, large and small
The children are adopted by this orphanage.
Maseru Children’s Village, Maseru, Lesotho
Lesotho Save the Children
PO Box 151
Tel: (+266) 22322559
Fax: (+266) 22322543
Some children are able to be adopted by Basotho and foreigners.
Mants’ase Orphanage, Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho
Donations can be sent to: Nedbank (Lesotho Ltd), Mohale’s Hoek: branch code 390361, account number 067067760681
Six Degrees of Love, Mokhotlong, Lesotho
Donations may be sent to:
Near East Foundation
420 Lexington Ave., Suite 2516
New York, NY 10170
Please write Six Degrees of Love in the memo portion of the check.
www.sixdegreesof love.org or the foundation at http://www.nearest.org