On Monday, February 22 BMS General Manager Andrew Le Roux and BMS Director of Orphan Care Vernon Puttkammer headed north to Uganda to spend ten days with the organization Watoto.
The name Watoto has become synonymous with the famous Children’s Choir but is actually indicative of a much larger organization – an organization that is very similar to Bulembu.
Watoto was birthed out of a local church in 1994 and according to its vision document the organization “provides holistic, residential care for orphaned and vulnerable children with the core vision to rescue a Child, raise a Leader and rebuild a Nation.”
Watoto is a set of two Villages of Hope - Bbira and Suubi. Each village has children's homes run by house mothers, schools and medical clinics to provide care for children. In addition to the children’s homes Watoto has also developed a vocational training school, a baby care program and have branched into programs that transform lives and restoring hope to those in war-torn Gulu in Northern Uganda. Like Bulembu, Watoto’s social workers partner with Ugandan social services to identify and admit vulnerable children into the Watoto homes.
“We visited Watoto because they’re doing what we want to do,” says Vernon. “We have a vision to take care of 2,000 orphaned children and to raise up future leaders and they are already doing this. They are a great resource for us as we look forward.”
Andrew and Vernon stayed in Watoto’s Guest House and spent their time in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, touring Watoto’s children’s villages, meeting with Team Leaders (upper management) and becoming inspired by the strong program Watoto has built.
“The experience was great to see people doing the big scale things out there,” Vernon says. “They face many similar challenges that we have even though they’ve been doing the childrens programs for so many years now. While they don’t have all the answers they are staying on vision and the pieces are falling into place.”
The Watoto vision includes plans to open a Watoto Hospital and a Watoto Univeristy and above all has a vision to empower 10,000 churches across Africa to replicate the Watoto model in their own communities, thus providing care for over 2 million of Africa’s orphaned and vulnerable children.
“We appreciated their transparency,” says Vernon. “The people who work for Watoto would share everything with us about their organization. They just really want to build God's Kingdom and help children. We are doing that too so they gave us a lot of help.”
One thing that Watoto’s story proves is that when it comes to a vision as big as theirs and as ambitious as Bulembu’s, the work is never finished.
“Many times you put a goal or a vision in front of yourself. Once you get there you think you’ll be able to rest but the people at Watoto showed us that once you achieve your vision everything increases ten-fold,” Vernon explains. “They started with children and now they’ve moved into widows and babies as well. There’s a constant increase – there are always more you can do to help.”