“Maman Olela” stands in the doorway of the girl’s house and looks out onto the large jagged rocks behind the shelter.
“If you climb over those you will fall into the airport,” she said.
Okako Okenge Adolphine, lovingly known as “Maman Olela,” knows what a temptation climbing on large rocks can be for the young children in her charge at the Goma Orphanage. She keeps them off both the rocks and the streets in this community where many children have no place to call home.
Decades-long wars have left many widows and orphans in this gritty region of the United Methodist Kivu Conference. The United Nations peacekeeping forces have been working to bring peace in this area since 1993.
Maman Olela is a tall, imposing woman. She oversees the orphanage, which provides shelter for six girls and five boys ranging in age from 7 to 18. The orphanage feeds those children and up to 30 more children one meal a day.
“This is the fruits of the faith, this orphanage,” Okako said. She is assisted by Josephine Efulantu and cooks Deborha Ange and Marie Ochinga.
Poline Yema, 18, has grown up in the orphanage and will graduate from secondary school later this year.
Two wooden shelters house the boys and girls. There is no running water or electricity. The girl’s dorm is built on pilings, but the boy’s dorm sits on the mud-packed ground. Water seeps through the wood planks and often floods their shelter.
Maman Olela is praying for additional funds to improve the shelters and feed more children in the community.
Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.